The Viking boys basketball team lost two hard fought conference rival games last week.
North Branch hosted Irondale Jan. 15, and though they were knotted at 31 at the break, the boys fell 63-58 in the end.
“It was another hard fought game that we couldn’t seem to find our break in,” said coach David Anderson. “Irondale played very hard and deserves a lot of credit, but at the same time it feels like a missed opportunity for us to have gotten a good win.”
“Both teams came out pretty flat, and we didn’t show the energy we were hoping for right off the bat. Thankfully Cody Knobbe got hot right away and sparked our offense in the first half, scoring 14 of his 23 points before halftime.
“In the second half it was a back and forth battle, but Irondale built an eight point lead late in the second half. After cutting it to two with under a minute, we couldn’t get any closer, and Irondale hit their free throws to ice the win.
“Along with Knobbe, Jon Blomquist had a big game for us. He really played aggressively on both ends of the floor. Aaron Biederman and Isaac Lewis both gave gutty performances even though they were not feeling 100 percent.
“We have also been continuously surprised by the strong play of sophomore Brandon Steffensen. He has been giving us great minutes and is someone we can count on to play well whenever he is in the game.”
The Vikings on Friday traveled to take on No. 8 state-ranked Columbia Heights and kept the scoring close in the first half. The boys went into the locker room down by only two (28-26). But the Hylanders outscored the Vikings to send them home with a 68-59 loss.
Coach Anderson talked about the contest:
“We knew going into the game that Columbia Heights would look to push the ball up the floor and play at a fast pace. Our goal right from the start was to slow the game down and force them to play slower than they wanted to. However, we didn’t do that as well as we needed to.
“From an efficiency standpoint this was probably our poorest performance of the year. We had 26 turnovers and gave up 16 offensive rebounds, which gave Columbia Heights a huge advantage right off the bat. Fortunately for us we shot the ball very well and stayed in the game all the way until the end. We couldn’t quite close it out though and ended up losing another close one to a very good team.
“Our biggest surprise performance tonight came from Riley Jacobson who came off the bench to really give us a defensive spark in the second half. He played great composed defense and really attacked well at the right times on the offensive end. Dillon Harms also had a great game shooting the ball and has really become much more assertive on the offensive end of the floor. Aaron Biederman came off the bench and gave us great minutes in spite of still battling the flu.
“And of course we had very strong performances from both Brandon Thauwald and Travis Van Elsberg — both of whom are so consistently good that it can be easy to forget how vitally important they are for us.”
The North Branch boys basketball team is tied for eighth in the North Suburban Conference with a 1-5 conference and 2-11 overall record. The Vikings will travel to face the Spring Lake Park Panthers at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.