After beating Irondale earlier in the week, the North Branch girls basketball team put a scare into Robbinsdale Cooper, undefeated in the conference, last Friday.
On Feb. 19 the Vikings hosted and were victorious over the Knights 48-44.
“Irondale is one of those teams that is hard to prepare for as they shoot more three-pointers than two-pointers,” said coach Dan Schindler. “In the first game against us they made 13 three-pointers and in this one they added 10 more.”
“Irondale led 20-12 at halftime as we just didn’t shoot the basketball very well. We had some very good shots, but the basket seemed to have a cover on it for us. But we played great defense as we held Irondale to only 20 points, and that enabled us to still be in the game at halftime.
“At halftime we just talked about finishing some of the easy shots we were getting and that is what happened in the second half. The game was very close, and we were able to win it on the free throw line as we made 14 free throws to Irondale’s two.
“Haley Huset and Sarah Lekson both had really good offensive games as they led us with 19 and 17 points respectively. It was nice to see Sarah Lekson back in the line-up. But it was our overall team defense that was the difference.
“I thought Taylor Gazda and Annette Olson did a great job on the inside, and our guards were really active on the outside trying to defend the three pointer.”
Last Friday the Hawks came to town, and the Vikings finished off its regular season by almost upsetting the best team in the conference. In a close, hard fought game Robbinsdale Cooper took home a 54-49 win.
“I was really pleased with our effort against them,” said Schindler. “We played them as good as anyone has all season. We trailed at halftime 30-26, and the game was tied at 47-47 with four minutes remaining.”
He went on, “It was a very physical game, and I felt all nine of our players who played contributed to a great effort. We just kept working hard and tried to match them on every possession. Individually Jessica Merchant had her best game of the year scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Jessica has worked hard all year, and it was nice to see her rewarded for all that work.
“Even though we lost,” Schindler noted, “I felt it was a positive way to enter the tournament. We know if we can play that well against a quality team like Cooper we can play with anyone in our section.”
The North Branch girls basketball team finished the regular season fifth in the North Suburban Conference with a 9-7 conference and 19-7 overall record. The No. 3 section seeded Vikings will have faced No. 6 seed Princeton in the Section 7AAA quarterfinal Feb. 26. A win will send them to face the winner of the No. 2 Grand Rapids versus No. 7 Hermantown game in the section semifinals at Duluth Denfeld High School at 7:45 p.m. Friday, March 1. The championship game will be at Duluth Denfeld at 7 p.m. Thursday. March 7.