1/23/2014 4:11:00 PM Chisago Lakes takes it to North Branch in county clash
Carmen Backes rises above her teammates and opponents for an easy basket on Tuesday, January 21 against North Branch.
by JEFF NORTON
From the opening 9-2 run to the final horn on Tuesday, January 21, the Chisago Lakes girls basketball team dominated their in-county rival North Branch in almost every facet of the game. The Wildcats kicked the game off with two straight three pointers by Marissa Kari and Dani Berg before North Branch’s Haley Huset answered with a runner of her own. On CL’s next trip down, Carmen Backes launched another three pointer that went just off the back of the rim. But, Bryanna Fernstrom grabbed the offensive rebound -- a theme that would haunt the Lady Vikings the rest of the night -- and dished it back out to a wide open Backes for another try.
This time, the eighth grader knocked the shot down and Chisago Lakes already had a 9-2 lead. Chisago Lakes continued to build a big lead throughout the first half despite some sloppy play. There was a point when Mikayla Carlson and Courtney Selbitschka combined to force three Chisago Lakes turnovers in a row within 10 feet of CL’s basket, but they just couldn’t hit the shot. That also became a running theme for the Vikings on the night. Most of the game, they couldn’t hit their shots with Fernstrom and Sarah Greene towering in the middle of the lane, but even when they got open looks, they weren’t converting, and when they don’t hit shots against a potent offensive team like Chisago Lakes, things can go awry quickly. And they did. Despite 6’1 Taylor Gazda doing a formidable job on Fernstrom, the Wildcats had too many other weapons. Between the perimeter shooters hitting their three point shots, Greene was doing her usual dirty work down low and scoring buckets from underneath the hoop. By halftime, the Wildcats held a 32-14 lead.
North Branch made a few early runs in the second half, but they were never able to trim the lead to single digits even. The three pointers weren’t exactly falling for the ‘Cats in the second half, but the inside game of Greene and Fernstrom was established and they started to pound the ball down low. The pair scored 31 of their 41 combined points in the second half. For North Branch, they could never get any rhythm going. Every time they got a few baskets in a row, either an untimely turnover or big Chisago Lakes bucket would stop the momentum in its tracks. One of the big energizers for the Vikings, though, was when 5’5 senior guard Mikayla Carlson, who was struggling from the floor on the night, swatted one of the 6’5 Fernstrom’s shots from behind to start a fast break. But Fernstrom went right back at it on the block, and that didn’t happen again. Eventually, both teams started bringing substitutes in, as it was clear the Wildcats would hold on for the big win, 67-51. On the night, Chisago Lakes bigs’ dominated the box score. Fernstrom scored 26 points and had 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Greene scored 15 points and added 15 rebounds and five steals. Even two-guard Berg got involved in the rebound party. She had eight rebounds and four assists to go with seven points and two steals. Backes and Kari each added nine points. Backes added three steals, two assists and two boards. For the Vikings, their lack of size was their downfall from the start. Huset was their leading scorer with 15 points, but she faced some very tough obstacles when she ventured into the paint, her favorite spot. She was beat up after the grueling game. Morgen Coleman and Courtney Selbitschka each added 10 points and Taylor Gazda scored eight points, while also doing an admirable defensive job on Fernstrom, although the box score doesn’t reflect that.
The Wildcats, who upped their record to 11-2 with the victory, will be on the road for three of their next four games. They travel to St. Michael Albertville on Friday, January 24 to take on the defending M8C champs. They’ll follow that up by traveling to Cambridge-Isanti on Monday, January 27. The Vikings, who lost their third game in a row after starting 8-2, will host Proctor on Saturday, January 25 at 1 p.m. before getting right back into M8C play with a showdown with Princeton on Tuesday, January 28.