The North Branch girls basketball team felt the loss of one of it leading scorers and rebounders, Sarah Lekson, last week, but were still able to pull out a win in one of two games.
The team made the needed adjustments to compensate for the loss of Lekson—out 2-5 weeks with possible torn ligaments in her ankle—when it traveled to St. Louis Park and took down the Orioles 49-45.
“Many of our conference games are very physical and I was really proud of our intensity,” coach Dan Schindler said. “Our first half defense was very good and we led at halftime 24-12.”
He added, “Offensively we had nice balance and I thought all the girls stepped up their game with the absence of Sarah.”
The coach noted his team tailed off in the second half and let St. Louis Park make a run, but the Vikings were able to hold off the barrage and notch a win.
“I think we just got a little tired without Sarah and some people probably playing more minutes than they had been use to,” Schindler said. “But I like how we responded. Jessica Merchant hit some big baseline shots for us to keep the lead, and Annette Olson hit a free throw line jumper the last time they cut it to two points.”
He also lauded his team’s free throw shooting and defense.
“Haley Huset and Courtney Selbitschka made some big free throws …” he said. “We had nice balance scoring and all the girls did a nice job defensively.”
Last Friday, North Branch hosted Spring Lake Park with a different outcome.
“This was a very exciting and fast paced game,” Schindler said. “I thought our girls had energy all night and we played very well against a much bigger team. Spring Lake Park is a tough match-up for us, as their size and speed are a tough combination to defend.”
The Vikings tossed up a few bricks in the opening minutes, leading to a quick start by Spring Lake Park.
“We started the game a little slow offensively and Spring Lake jumped out to a 18-4 lead,” Schindler said. “We turned the basketball over too much right away and then we missed some shots. But the girls really then settled down and we were able to get some steals off our press and cut the lead to 31 to 21 at halftime.”
The Vikings even took the lead in the second half, 46-44, but weren’t able to fend off the swooping Orioles.
“The last four minutes went back and forth and Spring Lake missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime (50-50),” Schindler said.
“Both teams had a chance in overtime, but Spring Lake prevailed 55-52.”
The coach commended his players for their play.
“We are never happy with a loss, but I was really pleased with our team effort,” he said.
Individual stats are posted on Scoreboard Plus on the ECM Post Review’s website.
The North Branch girls basketball team is tied for fourth in the North Suburban Conference with a 6-4 conference and 13-4 overall record. The Vikings will travel to St. Francis to face the Fighting Saints (5-13) 7 p.m. Jan. 31. (The Viking boys game will be at St. Francis at 5:30 p.m.) The team will then host the Totino-Grace Eagles at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 5 with the Vikettes dance team scheduled to perform at the half.