Viking girls come up short in section semis

Haley Huset scored 16 points versus Princeton and 15 at Grand Rapids last week in the section playoff games. Photo by Victoria Dahlin
Haley Huset scored 16 points versus Princeton and 15 at Grand Rapids last week in the section playoff games. Photo by Victoria Dahlin

The season ended for Viking girls basketball last week when, after a win in the section quarterfinal over Princeton, North Branch fell to Grand Rapids in the semifinal.

On Feb. 26, the No. 3 section seeded Vikings hosted and tamed the No. 6 section seed Tigers 48-39 in the Section 7AAA quarterfinal.

“We had just played Princeton a couple of weeks ago, so we pretty much knew what to expect,” said coach Dan Schindler. “They have a really good inside post game, and I was really concerned about their offensive rebounding abilities. I thought our inside defense was good the whole game. Annette Olson, Taylor Gazda, Jessica Merchant, Emily Trunk and Sarah Lekson really worked hard to deny Princeton getting the ball on the inside.”

Added Schindler, “In the playoffs everybody plays with intensity, and it was a very hard fought game. We led at halftime 23-18 and were able to extend the lead up to 14 points midway through the second half. Princeton made a run at us, but we held on for a win. Our three leading scorers for the year led us again: Haley Huset, Courtney Selbitschka and Sarah Lekson.”

On Friday, it was off to Grand Rapids where the 2012-13 season ended for the Vikings when the No. 2 section seeded Thunderhawks beat North Branch 67-61 in the Section 7AAA semifinal.

“It was a great basketball game with both teams playing with great intensity,” said Schindler. “Grand Rapids jumped out to an early 11-0 lead only to see North Branch come back to take the lead by halftime (30-28).”

Schindler went on:

“Our team has come back from being behind many times this season, and they did it again. I know this team will never quit. Haley Huset made four big three-pointers in the first half to really get our offense going.

“I also thought Sarah Lekson played her best game of the year. Sarah is a veteran when it comes to playoff games, and she was doing everything for us. She brought the ball up on their press, was posting up inside and playing great defense blocking shots on the defensive end.

“We started the second half like we ended the first half, with great intensity and twice had five-point leads. But Grand Rapids is also a very good team, and they had some players step up their game. They made some big three-point shots to keep them close and ironically down the stretch won the game on the free throw line.

“They made 21-27 free throws while we were only 8-17. We usually win that stat, but tonight Grand Rapids did and that was the difference in the game.

“I felt our players left everything they had on the court, and that is all coach can ask of any team. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to coach such a great group of young ladies. Our three leading scorers led us again. I am really proud of this team and their effort all year. We ended the season with 20 wins, and I think we were a much better team late in the season.

“I want to thank my four seniors who have put countless hours into our program and have been very dedicated players. Sarah Lekson, Jessica Merchant, Annette Olson and Emily Trunk will all be missed. More than being good basketball players, they are better people.

“I also would like to thank my assistant coaches Jerome Huselid, Alison Trampe and Tom Kingsland. They do all the work behind the scenes and certainly don’t get the credit they deserve. And last I want to thank all the parents and fans for their tremendous support this year. It’s hard to believe the longest season in (high school) sports can go by so fast.

“We are already looking forward to next year. We had a deep bench this year and have many players returning that should help us next season. We will be joining the Mississippi 8 Conference so that should be exciting also.”

The Vikings finished the season fifth in the North Suburban Conference with a 9-7 conference and a 20-8 overall record.

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