February 22, 2019 at 10:10 a.m.
Will Tinjum, Zach Gazda and Rylen Nelson all fouled out of the game and multiple players on each side had three and four fouls a piece. Gazda also received a technical foul midway through the second half. It wasn’t the cleanest game, but both coaches rightfully had issues with officiating at different times in the game.
Chisago Lakes built an early lead off a three pointer from Seth Thompson, some fast break work from Ryan Sanvik and some crafty drives by Will Tinjum. It also helped that North Branch was ice cold early on, as the Vikings are prone to go through shooting slumps.
Gazda did his best early on to work North Branch out of the slump, getting looks down low, and even popping out for some three pointers, but not much was dropping. Even when he was fouled, the free throws weren’t coming easy on this night.
North Branch as a team struggled from the free throw line, and in a game with so many fouls called, this was very costly to them.
Carter Whitman and Conner Hartmann each hit a couple of big baskets to threaten early, but they never could overcome the early lead Chisago Lakes built.
In the second half, as time started to wind down, North Branch’s leading scorer Drew VanEerden started hitting some of his long distance shots, and that got the Vikings within striking distance of Chisago Lakes; but Gazda and Nelson both fouled out soon after, and both of those guys patrol the post for North Branch’s defense. Despite Tinjum on the brink of fouling out himself, bruising junior Beau Backes went to work down low and started to pile up points against NB’s suddenly undersized frontcourt.
Even as Chisago Lakes built their lead back up to a comfortable margin, the referees kept blowing the whistle on ticky-tack fouls, and the game ended up taking over two hours, which is a marathon in high school basketball. As the clock wound down, Chisago Lakes slowed the pace quite a bit as they eased into the 15 point win.
The ‘Cats were led by Tinjum’s 14 points, but Sanvik, Alex Paulsen, Thompson and Backes were all in double digits in the balanced effort. Sanvik had 12 and the other three had 11.
For North Branch, VanEerden scored a game-high 17 points, Gazda had 12, Whitman had nine and Hartmann had eight.