February 3, 2023 at 12:46 p.m.
Walker is adept at setting up in the corner, and when the defense inevitably collapses down on slashing junior guard Patrick Rowe, Walker takes advantage, and that’s exactly how it played out in a 75-75 tie against the Vikings with 14 seconds left.
Rowe penetrated into the lane and as the defense moved to help there, Rowe kicked it out to his left, where Walker was waiting in front of his own bench. The senior swished the attempt and his teammates went wild behind him.
There were still some tense moments after that, culminating in NB’s Carson Klein launching a three pointer for the win just inside of half court that was very close to going in, but Chisago Lakes held on to break their three game losing skid and the loss for North Branch was their sixth in a row.
The two teams started out evenly matched. Rowe was a juggernaut for the Wildcats offensively while Walker found success from the three point line. Meanwhile, for North Branch, they were on fire from beyond the arc, and that kept them in the game early as they only trailed by three at halftime 32-29.
The Wildcats looked like they might run away with the game early in the second half after some nice inside work by Ian Larsen and some nice dribble-driving from Abe Olson. Eventually, they stretched the lead to double digits at 47-35, but that’s when North Branch’s three point shooting really got hot. Brody Beaver, Carson Klein, Tyler Minke and Noah Thorsen all hit important three point shots for the Vikings, and that brought them right back into the game as the team’s traded effective offensive possessions.
The high-scoring second half saw North Branch score 48 points and Chisago Lakes score 47, but the big difference came down to those last few seconds.
With the score at 75-75, Walker drilled the corner three pointer with 14 seconds left. The Wildcats then fouled Klein with seven seconds left and he made both baskets to trim the lead to one at 78-77.
North Branch instantly fouled Chisago Lakes on the inbounds pass, and they converted just one of two free throws, leading to the dramatic finish. The Vikings inbounded the ball to Klein and he raced down the court. The Wildcats played pretty loose defense, not wanting to foul him. Klein got the three point shot up for the win, but it clanked off the backboard, and then the rim for a heartbreaking loss for North Branch and a thrilling win for the Wildcats.
Rowe led all scorers with 31 points to go with six assists. Walker had 15 points, all on three pointers, and Larsen had 11 points and nine boards.
For North Branch, they got 19 points from Beaver, 16 points from Thorsen, 15 points from Minke, 11 from Klein and 10 from Mason Young.
“It was a tough loss at Chisago Lakes tonight,” North Branch Head Coach Todd Dufault said. “We will continue to battle and eventually break through now that we are full strength for the first time in two weeks. No quit. No excuses. Just back to work. Congratulations to Chisago Lakes.”