12/20/2012 9:24:00 AM Schindler gets 400th win as Vikes go to 5-0
North Branch Head Coach Dan Schindler, with his trademark red sweater and white towel over the shoulder, barks out orders from the sideline. Schindler won his 400th career game last Friday with a 56-46 victory over conference for St. Francis.
By JEFF NORTON
When Dan Schindler began his head coaching career, Ronald Reagan was our president, gas was 93 cents a gallon, ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ by the Bangles was the number one single and the number 400 was as insignificant as could be. Now, 26 years later, Schindler tallied his 400th victory last Friday against St. Francis in a career that has seen him go 400-247 along with multiple state tournament appearances. “I have been very fortunate to have some great basketball players and coaches in our program,” Schindler said after the milestone victory. To top it all off, this is shaping up to be one of his best seasons in a while. The girls bumped their record to 5-0 on the season with a convincing 66-56 win over St. Francis in North Suburban Conference play. The first half played out like Schindler expected. St. Francis came out launching the three pointers, but solid fundamentals on defense really limited the Saints’ open looks early on.
“St. Francis is very athletic and can give teams match up problems and they are just relentless in shooting that three pointer,” Schindler said. Although the Vikes had a lead towards the end of the first half, some lackadaisical defense late led to some easy St. Francis free throws that pulled them to within one by the break at 27-26. In the second half, North Branch used St. Francis’s primary weapon against them. The Vikings built an early 11-point lead mainly on their three point shooting. Haley Huset, Courtney Selbitschka, Annette Olson and Mikayla Carlson all drilled shots from long range. But, going shot for shot with the deadly accuracy of a team like St. Francis can burn a team, and it almost did with North Branch. The Saints began to hit their own barrage of threes as they trimmed the lead to five points with just over five minutes left. But, North Branch had two not-so-secret weapons that they were able to use to keep the Saints at bay. The first one was the post game of Sarah Lekson. Lekson has been a terror down low for three years for North Branch and her inside presence really helped slow the game to a pace North Branch was more comfortable with and she made some key baskets down the stretch. The other was a hallmark of any Schindler coached team in his 26 years: the free throw line.
The Lady Vikes got the charity stripe 38 times and made 24 of them, 12 more than St. Francis made on the game. “We always stress that we have to win the free throw line battle and we did,” Schindler explained. With both of those factors working in North Branch’s favor, they were able to build the lead back up to double digits and keep it there for the 66-56 victory. Lekson had another double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. She also added five steals for the Vikings. Huset was North Branch’s offensive leader, scoring 22 points as she went nine-for-10 from the free throw line as well as hitting three big three pointers. Selbitschka added 11 points in the winning effort. “We always seem to have great games with St. Francis -- we went to three overtimes with them last year -- and this game was the same,” Schindler said.
“We are happy with out team effort and our good start.” That strong start will be tested over Christmas break and early 2013 as the Vikings go on the road for their next eight games. But for now, Schindler was just savoring the big victory that gave him 400 and doling out credit to everyone around him. “I have never made a shot or got a rebound in those wins,” he said. “You have to give my players most of the credit. I have had many talented and dedicated players. I also have had many coaches behind the scenes that work very hard and don't get enough credit including my staff this year.”