March 15, 2012 at 8:22 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 61, North Branch 44
Turnabout is fair play.
After the North Branch Vikings went 3-0 against Chisago Lakes last year and knocked them out of the playoffs in sections, the Wildcats returned the favor this year, winning the third match up between the two heated rivals and sending the Vikings packing for the off-season.
The two teams played a very similar game to their match-up three weeks ago. In that game, the Wildcats had a 26-24 advantage at halftime, but used a high-scoring second half to pull away from the Vikings.
In their playoff game, which pitted the eighth-seeded Wildcats against the ninth-seeded Vikings for the right to move on and play top-seeded Grand Rapids, the two squads were knotted at halftime 25-25.
A lack of ball movement was hindering North Branch in their upset bid, but the Vikings did take selective shots and were patient with their offense while the Wildcats couldn’t do much to separate themselves for North Branch outside of sophomore Mitch Berg knocking down his first four three pointers of the game. That allowed the game to be tied at halftime despite the Vikings getting the better of the play.
However, when the second half began, Chisago Lakes started capitalizing on North Branch’s mistakes, and it allowed them to begin to pull away.
Berg and junior Vinnie Gorski led the offensive attack as Chisago Lakes began to get in a groove shooting the basketball in the second half.
As CL started hitting, the Vikings began missing, going cold in the second half, leading the a sizeable lead. “We just didn’t get as goof of shots as we were in the first half,” North Branch Head Coach David Anderson said.
The Wildcats ended up winning 61-44 after outscoring the Vikings 36-19 in the second half.
North Branch got a bit sloppy in the second half and had 24 turnovers for the game and only two assists. They also had a tough night shooting, going 15-of-42 from the field, six-of-20 from behind the arc and eight-of-16 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Chisago Lakes was 21-of-38 from the field, nine-of-18 from the three point line and 10-of-15 from the free throw line.
Berg led all scorers with 18 points and Gorski added 14. Travis VanElsberg netted 14 points for the Vikings.
“It was a tough way to end our season, losing at Chisago Lakes,” Anderson said after his team’s third defeat at the hand of CL. “Our guys played their hearts out, but it just wasn't our night. Our two seniors Tyler Knobbe and Tom Kinsella gave us great efforts and we are going to miss having them next year. Our younger guys had great role models to look up to this season and they helped lay the foundation for the success we will have over the next few years.”
Grand Rapids 74, Chisago Lakes 35
With the win over North Branch, the Wildcats were then tasked with playing Grand Rapids, the top seed in Section 7AAA.
The Thunderhawks came into the game at 21-5 and ranked third in Class AAA, so CL had their work cut out for them. Plus, the Wildcats had to travel to Grand Rapids for the contest.
Things went from bad to worse when Grand Rapids inside-out combo of senior 6’1” guard Austin Pohlen and freshman 6’8” center Alex Illikainen started out hot.
Chisago Lakes just doesn’t have anyone big enough to defend Illikainen and Pohlen’s talent and quickness also gave their perimeter players problems.
Chisago Lakes was able to slow the game down enough in the first half to keep it within striking distance at 30-18, but even then, it seemed inevitable that Illikainen and Pohlen would really take over the game.
It didn’t take long. The two began battering Chisago Lakes from all different angles and quickly built the Thunderhawks a lead that they would not relinquish.
Grand Rapids wrapped up the section quarterfinal win by the score of 74-35. Illikainen and Pohlen combined for 49 of GR’s 74 points. Illikainen had 25 and Pohlen had 24.
Chisago Lakes only had one player in double figures and that was senior Per Gulbranson, who finished with 13 points.
The loss ended a tough season by Chisago Lakes. They battled through youth, inexperience, a rash of injuries and plenty of other hurdles en route to a 6-22 record on the season