Johnny O'Brien 1/6/22

Johnny O’Brien drives in the lane against North Branch. O’Brien finished with eight points, Thursday, Jan 6. 

Big Lake split their week 1-1 against Delano on Tuesday, Jan. 4 and North Branch on Thursday, Jan. 6. Carson Kunz dropped 15 points against the Vikings in an 11 point loss, 66-55. Joe Stepp had a team high 17 in their win against the Tigers.

Despite a tough second half with fouls, the boys battled all night and the game went down to the final minute and Head Coach Tom Critchley was proud of their effort, “our kids are always going to play hard. They’re good kids. They play hard, you know we just got to work on making quicker decisions.”

The ball movement could have been a little looser, but that wasn’t a problem during their previous couple weeks so it doesn’t seem to be a concerning trend. The Hornets have a lot of guys that can do damage with the ball.

Kade Layton was on fire early and hit back to back threes for the Hornets after Mitchell Hill dropped a corner three from Stepp and the Hornets led early. Johnny O’Brien hit his own three after Layton’s second to retake a 16-14 lead.

The Vikings called timeout with 11:54 left in the first half and Kunz responded with a dunk to extend the lead to four. The Hornets cooled off after their hot start and the Vikings took the lead and brought it into the locker room. At halftime North Branch held a 28-24 lead after Big Lake scored five points in the last 20 seconds. O’Brien found Kunz for a bucket and after a quick stop Isaiah Terlinden got a three to fall right before the buzzer sounded off.

The Hornets had some really tough foul calls against them, especially in the second half and the Vikings were able to shoot plenty of free throws and it made it hard for the Hornets to keep up.

The Hornets kept it close, but the Vikings seemed to have an answer after every Hornet bucket. With 12:04 left Kade Layton drove to the rack and finished nicely, but North Branch went right down and scored on a corner three to keep their lead at seven, 40-33.

With around 11 minutes left, Hayden Thieke was whistled for a foul, but it should have been a jump ball. Instant karma stuck as the ball never lies when Big Lake stole the inbounds pass and Kunz got rewarded with the old fashioned three point play. He hit the free throw and cut the score to 40-36.

North Branch was already in the bonus however with 10:56 left as Kade Layton should have been rewarded with another steal, but the refs inserted themselves in the game once again and called Layton for a foul.

The Hornets started to trap the ball handler for most of the rest of the half and forced some turnovers in their comeback attempt, but the fouls mounted up and it was hard to string together a run.

The Hornets finally started getting to the line themselves with Kunz, Stepp and O’Brien all getting to the line. With 2:39 left, Kunz finished another layup and the Vikings were forced to call timeout with it now being just a four point game, 55-51.

That was as close as they’d get as North Branch hung on late to beat Big Lake 66-55.

Big Lake (4-5, 0-1 M8) has Cambridge-Isanti (1-10, 1-0) on Tuesday in their only game of the week.

Big Lake 61, Delano 58

Big Lake defeated Delano on the road on Tuesday, Jan. 4. The Hornets took a five point lead into halftime that propelled them to the three point win. Stepp scored 17 and O’Brien had 13. Owen Layton and Kunz tied for third on the team with eight points each.

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