By Victoria Dahlin—
Not only did the Viking girls basketball team set a new school record for scoring when it defeated St. Francis in three overtimes, but it came close to breaking the state record in free throw attempts.
North Branch scored 87 points in the game last Friday and shot 62 free throws. Red Wing holds the state record for free throw attempts with 75, while the Vikings now hold the second place position.
After losing earlier in the week, and despite having three starters injured, the Vikings were looking for a win at home.
St. Francis led most of the first half, but the Vikings kept working hard and finally pulled ahead 56-53 by the end of the second. But St. Francis made a three pointer with five seconds to go in regulation to force overtime.
In the first extra session North Branch was able to take a 63-60 lead, but St. Francis again hit a three pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 63.
In the second overtime, after trading free throws the Vikings led 73-71 with nine seconds left. North Branch went to the line and made one of two free throws to take a 74-71 lead. For a third time St. Francis hit a three pointer at the buzzer and sent the game into a third overtime.
In what turned out to be the finale, both teams kept battling until Jessica Merchant took over for North Branch. She scored six key points including four for four from the charity stripe to ice the 87-78 victory.
“It was definitely a game I will never forget,” said Coach Dan Schindler. “I have been coaching for 32 years, but never been involved in a three overtime game. Annette Olson had 13 points and 23 rebounds. Jessica Merchant was 7-7 from the free throw line and added 13 points. Haley Huset had a bad knee and led us with 20 points. Kallie Grote added 19 points and Sarah Lekson only played the second half and still had 15 points and 9 rebounds.
“I am really proud how our team bounced back and how hard our team played tonight. It was just a great high school basketball game,” Schindler added.
On Jan. 3 with three starters out with injuries, North Branch traveled and lost 61-17 to #10 state-ranked Robbinsdale Cooper.
The North Branch girls basketball team owns a 8-3 overall and 1-2 North Suburban Conference record. The Vikings will travel to Totino-Grace High School in Fridley to face the Eagles (6-5) at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 before traveling to Fridley to face the Tigers (4-8) at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17.