1/26/2018 3:02:00 PM North Branch edges Chisago Lakes in a rousing contest
Dylan Ramberg and Zach Gazda boxed out a CL defender as they were all looking for an rebound.
It’s been nearly three years since North Branch had won a Mississippi 8 Conference game. It was a 73-58 win over Big Lake on February 20, 2015. Since then, they had dropped 26 straight M8C contests.
That made their win against longtime rival Chisago Lakes even sweeter after holding off the Wildcats for the 67-66 victory. “This was a huge game for us and for everyone involved within our program,” North Branch Head Coach Alex Kuhlman said after the contest on Thursday, January 18. “We broke a long streak in the conference and I am so proud of the effort that we gave.” Although they were the visiting team, North Branch came out with a lot of energy. Not only did that translate into stops on the defensive end, but they were shooting the ball much more effectively than they have most of the year.
They were active on defense, forcing turnovers that turned into fast break points, and that led to an early lead for the Vikings. In fact, it looked like they would go into halftime with a big lead, but back-to-back late baskets from Nils Gulbranson trimmed North Branch’s halftime lead from 12 to seven.
North Branch kept a comfortable cushion between themselves and Chisago Lakes for most of the second half. But, late in the game, the Wildcats began to foul North Branch, and that’s where some struggle and doubt crept in for the Vikings. They missed key free throws late and Chisago Lakes fought back to trim the lead down to one.
“We did not throw in the towel. We were able to survive some bigger deficits and find a way to battle back,” Chisago Lakes Head Coach Todd Dufault said. “The guys kept clawing back and had a chance to win it.”
Chisago Lakes started their late run down 10 points with a minute and a half left. Gulbranson and Seth Thompson hit some big shots, as well as a few mixed in from Will Tinjum, and Chisago Lakes trimmed the lead down to one point. They even got the ball back with just 1.7 seconds left under their basket, but the shot just barely rolled off the rim.
“It was the shot we wanted,” Dufault said after the game.
“We really struggled to close out the game, especially from the line,” Kuhlman noted. “That kept the game close.” The free throw percentage disparity was wide as the Vikings shot just nine-of-17 from the charity stripe while Chisago Lakes went 12-of-14.
North Branch did do a great job at converting CL’s turnovers into points, though, scoring 23 points off of the ‘Cats mistakes. On the other end, Dufault was proud of how his team battled but understands they can’t put themselves in a position to have to fight all game to get back into it. “Once again, very proud of the TEAM and their effort. The bench was involved and everyone was pulling for each other,” he said. “We just cannot put ourselves in a hole. We will continue to work hard at being more consistent. Love the improvement that we are making as a team. The guys know that there is a lot of season to go and we will keep at it.”
For North Branch, Zach Gazda used his length to score 15 points and grab five rebounds. Dylan Ramberg had a very effective and efficient night, scoring 19 points on only 10 shots and adding seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. “This might have been the best game of Dylan’s career,” Kuhlman said.
Jonah Marcussen had 12 points and five rebounds and Brady Brodin had 11 points on three big three point shots. Cam Irvin also provided a huge spark off the bench at the end of the first half. He scored eight points and had three rebounds and really ignited a first half rally with his energy.
For the ‘Cats, Gulbranson led the way with 23 points, and Thompson and Tinjum chipped in 17 each in the losing effort.