LEROY – Pine River geared up for its critical Highland Conference showdown Saturday night with Beal City by downing Evart 64-24 in league play Thursday night.

Pine River, ranked 10th in the latest Class C Associated Press poll, has won eight straight.  It was all Bucks from the start.

Jamie Justin netted three triples in the first quarter while Jandney Mattson and Kassy Nelson added threes. Cayman Gatt had 10 points on five field goals and it was 24-10, Bucks, going into the second quarter. Pine River’s full-court press remained effective against the Wildcat offense.

Evart’s struggles continued in the second frame. Justin had a triple midway in the quarter for a 39-12 lead. Pine River was up 50-13 at halftime.

“We haven’t played in awhile,” said Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert. “I was just looking to get out and run and be aggressive on defense. I was really happy the way we moved the ball in the first half. We got a lot of shots. We rebounded well.”

The Bucks went on a 4-0 run to open the second half to set off the running clock. Kristin Kullman netted a triple for the Wildcats. It was 58-17 after three.

Taylor McLachlan netted a triple for Evart midway in the fourth.

Justin wound up with 17 points while Nelson had 15 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Gatt added 14 points.

Kristin Kullman scored 11 points for the Wildcats.

The Bucks are 5-0 in the league and 8-1 overall.

“We find the open person a lot better than we did at the beginning of the season,” Gatt said. “We make the extra passes. We learn from every game.”

Saturday’s game against Beal City will be at home for Pine River.

Evart is 3-8 overall and 1-4 in the league.

PINE RIVER 65, BEAL CITY 48

Five girls were in double figures for Pine River in a 65-58 win over Beal City on Saturday night at home.

Jamie Justin scored 17 points and three assists, followed by Kassy Nelson with 12 points and five steals, and Cayman Gatt, Erica Buchner and Haley Raymond with 10 points. Raymond also had five steals. Gatt had four assists.

Buchner and Raymond had six rebounds each.

It was 38-20 at halftime, Pine River.

This Friday, Pine River is at McBain.