EVART – Pine River, fresh off one boys basketball championship, took the first step toward trying for another Monday night.

The Bucks opened Class C district play at Evart by defeating the host school 68-44.

Brandon Hoaglund scored 19 points while Tyler Lewis and Mitchell McDonald netted 11 points apiece.

Last week, Pine River ended the regular season by tying with McBain for the Highland Conference title.

It was the third straight time this season the Bucks defeated Evart.

Pine River coach Brian Goodenow said he’s happy with the way the team is playing defensively.

“We had a couple of lapses (Monday) and we need to rebound better, we know that,” Goodenow said. “All in all, it was a good team win. The second half of the year, we’ve had a lot of balance in our scoring. That’s great with me, we’ll take that.”

After a sluggish start, the Bucks started opening things up in the first quarter. Mitchell McDonald ignited the way with six points for Pine River, which led 18-6 after the first quarter. Nate Struble had four points for Evart.

Lincoln Erickson used his strength inside for two field goals in the second quarter while Tyler Lewis demonstrated his 3-point shooting with a pair of triples to ignite the Bucks to a 34-12 halftime lead.

Jake McKinstry netted a pair of triples to lead Evart in the second quarter.

“We went into the lockerroom saying just convert and finish those bunnies and that would have made a little difference,” said Evart coach Kris Morgan. “We got a lot of our shots. We just couldn’t finish them.”

Devon VanOrder helped the Wildcats to a 6-0 run to open the third quarter. But Brandon Hoaglund’s 3-point play helped the Bucks regain control. Alex Bengry drove for a pair to cut the lead to 39-22, but Hoaglund netted a 3-point shot for a 42-22 lead. Devin Ruppert’s baseliner doubled the score at 44-22. Hooker hit a triple for Evart with 20 seconds left in the quarter, but Pine River had a 48-27 lead. McDonald netted a breakaway layup to end the third quarter for a 50-27 lead. Ruppert had a drive for two and 59-34 cushion with 5:05 to play.

Lewis drained a triple to open the fourth for Pine River but McKinstry followed with one of his own.

Goodenow said coming into the season he would have said he doesn’t prefer Monday games.

“We’ve had several of them this year so we’ve gotten used to the idea,” Goodenow said. “We had practice over here on Saturday. The guys have played over here enough that they’re comfortable with this gym. It’s a decent venue for us to play in.”

Erickson had 11 rebounds while McDonald had eight for the Bucks. McDonald also had five steals and three assists. Hoaglund had four steals and three assists.

“We all worked very hard, pushed the ball well and moved it really good,” Hoaglund said.

Nate Struble scored 14 points for Evart while McKinstry netted 12.

Pine River, 18-2, plays Lake City 6 p.m. Wednesday at Evart in semifinal action.

“They’re going to bring it at us, we know that,” Goodenow said. ”They played us tough both times earlier this year. It’s the old saying it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season. We know that will be the case. They’ve been playing better as season has gone on. It will be a challenge Wednesday.”

“We’re a tough match-up for most teams,” Goodenow said. “We can play just about any style. We can play the grind-it-out game or the up-and-running game. Versatility is big for us.”

Evart’s season ends at 7-13. The loss to Pine River was typical of the Wildcats’ other two games with the Bucks.

“They jump off to a start and we usually hang with them the rest of the game,” Morgan said. “But as I’ve said if you get down to them by 20 at the start and stay with them the rest of the game, you’ll lose by 20.”

PINE RIVER 68, EVART 44

Pine River 18 16 15 18 -- 68

Evart 4 8 15 17 – 44

PINE RIVER (18-2)

Tyler Lewis 1 (3) 0-0 11, Devin Ruppert 4 0-0 8, Lincoln Erickson 4 1-2 9, Brandon Hoaglund 5 (2) 3-3 19, Mitchell McDonald 5 1-2 11, Lucas Harris 0 0-0 0, Joey Bowman 3 0-0 6, Ethan Whitley 0 0-0 0, Brandon Faulks 0 0-0 0, Schroeder Vanderhoof 2 0-0 4. Totals 24 (5) 5-7 68.

EVART (7-13)

Nate Struble 7 0-1 14, Alex Bengry 2 0-0 4, Devon VanOrder 1 2-2 4, Jon Hooker 1(1) 0-0 5, Jared Pattee 0 0-0 0, Jamin Drake 0 0-0 0, Jacob Hopkins 0 0-0 0, Jake McKinstry 0(4) 0-0 12, Kameron VanScoyoc 1 1-1 3, Derek Bowen 0 0-0 2 0, Tre Dyer 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 (5) 3-4 44.