It was two tough losses for the North Branch girls basketball team last week, when the Vikings hosted Monticello on Tuesday and Cambridge-Isanti on Thursday.
The Magic came into Tuesday’s matchup with an overall record of 11-3 and Mississippi 8 Conference record of 2-0. Monticello proved too much for the Vikings as they cruised to a 66-53 victory.
Head coach Jerome Huselid said the girls had a tough start in the Monticello game, digging an 18-4 deficit early on against what the Vikings knew would be a talented opponent.
“We had a horrible start,” Huselid said. “We weren’t aggressive or even assertive to start, but after that opening, it was a good game. We cut their lead to seven or nine, but couldn’t quite (put) up enough points.”
Sophomore Courtney Selbitschka led North Branch on the offensive end with 21 points, followed by senior Haley Huset with 18 points. Sophomore Morgen Coleman added five points.
During Thursday’s game against the Bluejackets, the Vikings trailed by just one point following a low-scoring first half, 17-16. But despite North Branch posting 28 points in the second half to take the game to overtime, the Vikings would fall by just two points, 51-49, in their second conference loss of the season.
This time, Huselid said his girls battled from the get go.
“It was back-and-forth all game — just a battle,” Huselid said. “Cambridge did a great job putting pressure on us, but we only had eight turnovers and got a few steals of our own when we pressed.”
Huselid added that it was a physical matchup. The Vikings reached the charity stripe for 23 free throws, but sank just 11. North Branch was also short on numbers due to injury and illness. The head coach said his players put up a good fight, and their fatigue at the close of the overtime loss showed it.
“They were exhausted,” Huselid said. “Our goal was to keep it close, and we did that. We felt successful in a lot of ways, we just didn’t get the win. But we get them another time at their place, so we’ll see.”
And what a rematch it will be as North Branch faces the Bluejackets in their final regular-season matchup in late February.
During the game, Selbitschka again led the charge with 17 points, followed by 10 points by junior Taylor Gazda. Coleman tallied nine points while Huset and junior Sarah Davis recorded six points apiece. North Branch is now 8-4 overall and sits seventh in the 10-team conference. St. Michael-Albertville and Cambridge-Isanti remain the only undefeated teams in the Mississippi 8 Conference at 4-0 and 3-0, respectively. Monticello, Chisago Lakes, Buffalo and Rogers currently hold the spots ahead of the Vikings.
North Branch traveled to Chisago Lakes on Tuesday night and next host Proctor at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25. Former coach Dan Schindler will be recognized at Saturday’s Alumni Game, and former North Branch girls basketball players are invited to play in an alumni game directly following the varsity matchup against Proctor.