Last Friday No. 7 section seeded North Branch almost upset No. 2 seed Grand Rapids in the Section 7AAA boys basketball quarterfinals.
The Thunderhawks were up 36-29 at the half, but the Vikings came back to outscore Grand Rapids to tie the game 64-64 sending it into overtime.
Unfortunately, the Vikings season ended at Grand Rapids when in the end they lost 74-68 in overtime.
“We played our best game of the year at exactly the right time,” said coach David Anderson. “It’s a shame that we came up just short because our guys played their hearts out against Grand Rapids. We did not expect Illikainen to play because of the broken hand he suffered three weeks ago, and we were very surprised to see that he was suited up when we arrived at Grand Rapids.”
“The game was a back and forth battle with Grand Rapids making a run at the end of the first half to go into the locker room up seven points. We really kept pace in the first half with our three-point shooting; Cody Knobbe, Travis Van Elsberg, Matt Blomquist and Dylan Dahle all hit shots from long range to keep us within single digits.
“Then in the second half we made a strong run and took an eight point lead with about six minutes left in the game. We got great penetration and distribution to lead to easy shots and really had Grand Rapids on the ropes. However, they made a couple adjustments to try and pressure us in the full-court, and it led to a couple of turnovers and transition buckets for them.
“Illikanien was a monster inside scoring 24 points and grabbing 17 rebounds for them. It seemed like anytime they needed a big board, he was there to grab it right before our guys got to it.
“Down the stretch we held the lead all the way until the seven second mark when Travis fouled out and put No. 23 Gill on the line to shoot two shots with his team down one. He hit the second shot, and we couldn’t get a shot off to try and win the game at the end.
“In overtime they held a two point lead with about 10 seconds left when we committed a costly turnover and then had to foul to stop the clock. They hit their last four free throws and won by six.
“In spite of the loss I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They grew so much this year and really became a very good team by the end of the season. We had three great seniors in Jon Blomquist, Cody Knobbe and Isaac Lewis who provided great leadership for us throughout the year and really were the heart and soul of our team. They will be missed.”
The Vikings finished the season 11th in the North Suburban Conference with a 1-15 conference and a 4-22 overall record.