Bucks’ sophomores shine this season

LEROY — A young Pine River girls basketball team achieved plenty of impressive feats this season with sophomores Michelle Kelsey and Devyn Powell playing a huge role in a season that racked up a 16-7 record and ended with a loss to McBain in the district finals.

“It has been one heckuva year,” said Kelsey, who has drawn several starting assignments. “I’m definitely glad I’m on varsity because I have learned so much, like I need to be confident and tough with the ball and I can’t let one mistake bring my game down. I have to fix it and move on.”

Kelsey acknowledged that it took her awhile to feel comfortable with the varsity level.

“I wasn’t very confident with the ball, but then I had to gain that confidence,” she said, adding that that she wants to improve on outside shots “and making all of my layups. I think I’m a good defensive player and I shoot pretty well inside.”

Powell is also in her first varsity season and like Kelsey has seen extensive court action.

“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure how I would handle being moved up to the varsity,” Powell said. “It wasn’t something I totally wanted at the time. Now I feel that I’ve grown and learned a lot. I’m happy to say that I’m on the varsity now.”

Powell’s role has usually been defensive-oriented.

“I’m normally one of our quicker players,” she said. “Normally, I can play tight defense on the other team’s good shooters.”

The Bucks “have had a strong season,” Powell said. “We’re really young. Next year, we’ll come out that much stronger.”

Powell is also an excellent runner in cross country and track.

Track “teaches me how to have a lot of endurance,” Powell said. “It teaches me how to push through pain that a lot of people playing basketball can’t and being able to handle being tired more.”

Powell started playing basketball when she was a young age.

“Most of us have played together since third or fourth grade,” she said.

Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert has been happy with the play of his two sophomores.

“They always play good defense,” Ruppert said. “Devyn missed a couple of easy ones (in a recent game) but she’s always hustling down the floor. I’m happy with both of them.”

The Bucks lost to McBain in the district finals 51-37 at Farwell. They were down 15-2 after the first quarter. Erica Buchner had 12 points for Pine River while Haley Raymond added nine points and eight boards. Jamie Justin dished out four assists.

“The effort was there, we just got off to a terrible start,” said Pine River’s Shawn Ruppert. “We didn’t turn the ball over a lot. We couldn’t make any shots. We cut it to five in the fourth quarter. So we were right there. We could have done better on the boards. Rebounding hurt us.”

On Thursday, in a game snowed out from Wednesday, Pine River beat Clare in overtime 48-45.

Jamie Justin, despite fouling out with five minutes left in regulation, had 12 points while Buchner, Haley Raymond Kassy Nelson had 10 apiece. Raymond also had 10 rebounds.

“We could have played better than we did,” Ruppert said. “I thought it would be a close game and it was. Haley Raymond and Erica Buchner both stepped up when we needed them.”

Ruppert acknowledged that playing an emotional game on Thursday and then facing McBain on Friday “wasn’t ideal. But teams play over that. We didn’t shoot well. I’m sure we were a little tired and mentally exhausted.”