By Victoria Dahlin—
The week started out great for the Vikings girls basketball team who earned wins against St. Louis Park and Spring Lake Park. It was a different story, however, when #3 ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s rolled into town.
The Vikings first traveled to St. Louis Park and battled the Orioles in a close game, with North Branch up 22-21 at the half. Sarah Lekson made some key shots aiding the team in getting a six point lead with about four minutes left in the game. Forcing their opponents to foul, the girls finished the game by making 11 of 12 free throws for the 53-34 win.
Kallie Grote was eight for eight from the free throw line and Erin Reber was four for four. For the game North Branch was 22 for 32 from the free throw line, while St. Louis Park was three for four.
“I thought we played a smart second half and kept our cool in a very physical game,” said Coach Dan Schindler. “We won the game on the free throw line and that’s the way I like to win games. It’s always tough in the conference to get a road win, but the girls have kept working hard and tonight it paid off. Sarah Lekson had a great game for us and led us.”
Next up was Spring Lake Park where once again the Vikings led at the half, this time 26-24. After that North Branch trailed by as much as six points. With about eight minutes left, the team stepped up. Grote and Reber both made three pointers to tie the game, and again the Vikings were able to get to the charity stripe to win the game and get the 61-51 victory.
“This was especially a nice win because Spring Lake Park had beaten us by 19 points back in December,” said Coach Schindler. “We certainly handled their physicality and size much better this time. I thought it was a great team effort as all nine girls in our rotation gave us good minutes. Haley Huset did a nice job of handling their pressure on the press, and we had four girls in double figures in scoring. Again we won the game on the free throw line going 27 for 40, while Spring Lake was 16 for 23. Hopefully this game will be a confidence builder for us as we play the conference teams second time around.”
The team then hosted and lost 66-40 to #3 state-ranked conference leader Benilde-St. Margaret’s last Saturday.
“Sometimes you just have to give the other team credit,” said Coach Schindler. “They have been in the state tournament the past two years, and it looks like they will probably go again this year. To start the game I thought we did OK, but they just shot the ball so well. We wanted to stop their inside game and we did. But they hit almost every outside shot, shooting 70 percent in the first half. When we made that adjustment they beat us on the inside.
“Eighth grader Courtney Selbitschka keeps showing signs of improvement and made a couple of three pointers for us. I also thought Emily Trunk, who works hard every day, came in and gave us some good minutes. So you just learn from the game and take the positives to the next game. Our goal it to continue to improve as a team for the tournament, and I think we’re on track.”
The North Branch girls basketball team has a 3-6 North Suburban Conference and 10-7 overall record. The Vikings will travel to Columbia Heights to face the Hylanders (4-13) at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, before hosting the #7 state-ranked Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (15-3) at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6.