NB girls fall in second round

Vikings lose to second seed in Section 7AAA play

After edging out Princeton two weeks ago in the first round of Section 7AAA play, the North Branch girls basketball team traveled to Duluth last Wednesday to face second-seeded Grand Rapids.The Vikings got off to a slow start in the section semifinal and trailed 32-18 at halftime.

Head coach Jerome Huselid said nerves were a factor in the postseason matchup and that the Thunderhawks took North Branch by surprise with a change in defense.

“I think we were expecting more man-to-man, and they came out with a two-three zone and a press,” Huselid said. “We handled the press really well, but they slowed us down and our shots just didn’t fall.”

The Vikings came out firing in the second half, though, outscoring Grand Rapids 38-29 in round two. The Vikings came within one point with less than a minute to go, but were unable to surpass the physical Thunderhawk squad, losing 61-56, an improvement from North Branch’s double-digit loss earlier this season.

Huselid was pleased with the last-ditch effort by his girls and their attempt to up the tempo of the game in their favor.

“I think we came out and played with more urgency,” he said. “We had come out flat in the first half, didn’t move as well as we could have in the practice before and weren’t as energetic as usual, so that worried me. But we had a couple of good plays, got our energy up, shots started falling, so that was good to see.”

Sophomore Morgen Coleman led the Vikings with 18 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, followed by sophomore Courtney Selbitschka with 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Senior Haley Huset got in foul trouble early, but still contributed 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Senior Mikayla Carlson added six points and two steals.

North Branch will graduate four seniors: captains Huset and Carlson, and Kora Amunrud and Kadie Mattson.

Huselid had good things to say about all four.

“All of them were very good in their roles,” Huselid said. “Haley was our 1,000-point scorer and took a lot of responsibility — we will miss her a ton. Mikayla was a starter and is just a phenomenal kid in so many ways. She is a true team player. Kora improved so much these last few games and would come in off the bench and get us some big rebounds. And Kadie is a great athlete. She didn’t get a lot of time on the court offensively but did good things defensively and is very unselfish.”

North Branch went 13-15 this season in what was their first year in the Mississippi 8 Conference. The Vikings went 4-10 in Section 7AAA and 2-5 against conference opponents.

“We had a great season and had a lot of fun,” Huselid said. “The girls gave great effort all year. Our new conference is several steps up in competition and in quality teams and players. It took awhile to get things going and we did some things different that took some time, but I thought we played very well down the stretch.”

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