Three home games in a row for NB boys

Vikings defeat Zimmerman, fall in OT to Rogers

Senior Travis Van Elsberg lays in a left-handed layup during a fast break early in the first half against Zimmerman.  Photo by Kat Ladwig

Senior Travis Van Elsberg lays in a left-handed layup during a fast break early in the first half against Zimmerman. Photo by Kat Ladwig

The North Branch boys basketball team started on an even keel with Zimmerman during Saturday afternoon’s home game, but the Vikings would soon push the tempo and take the lead, cruising their way to a 54-42 victory.

Trailing 7-6 minutes into the game, junior Brandon Steffensen helped spark a Viking run with a drive through the lane for two points and one from the free-throw line. Senior Travis Van Elsberg followed up with a drive of his own on a fast break.

While the Thunder soon answered with an easy two points of their own, junior Kyle Burnside worked the blocks down low for an offensive rebound and put back, followed by a 3-pointer from senior Dylan Dahle from the right baseline to extend North Branch’s lead to 16-9.

Burnside and Dahle drove the dagger in further when Burnside blocked two consecutive shots in the lane, Van Elsberg recovered the ball and pushed it ahead to a breaking Dahle down the court for another two points.

North Branch maintained the upper hand, leading 36-23 at the half and winning by 12.

Dahle led the charge with 13 points, followed by Van Elsberg with 11. Steffensen and Burnside recorded seven points apiece while senior Brandon Thauwald and senior Aaron Biederman each added six.

Head coach David Anderson said he’s impressed with how players are coming off the bench to impact the game.

“We’ve been looking for some guys to step up, and we need depth heading toward the end of the year,” Anderson said. “Brandon (Steffensen) is playing really well and (doing) a really good job on defense against Rogers for us, and Aaron (Biederman) is coming off the bench aggressive and looking to score, which is huge for us and takes a lot of pressure off of Travis (Van Elsberg), since he’s usually the one driving the lane.”

The Vikings faced Rogers at home on Monday, falling in overtime, 80-71, and also faced St. Francis at home on Friday night, losing 78-50.

North Branch made a run late in regulation to close a deficit and take the lead with a minute remaining. Rogers hit a 3-pointer to go up two, but Van Elsberg hit a jumper to tie and carry his team to overtime.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Rogers came out with a hot hand and diminished hope of a North Branch comeback.

North Branch is 6-13 overall, having surpassed last season’s total win count of four, and sits ninth of 10 in the Mississippi 8 Conference. Buffalo leads at 9-0 and 15-5 overall, followed by St. Francis at 9-1 and 16-4 overall.

“We’re a much better team than last year,” Anderson said. “I think that the conference this year is tougher than the North Suburban last year, and our QRF ranking is the highest it’s ever been in my four years here. We’re definitely a better team, and when you watch us on the floor, we’re better than last year, but we’re not quite where we need to be in order to win the section.”

Next, the Vikings travel to Duluth Denfeld for a 7:15 p.m. game on Friday, Feb. 7.

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