EVART — A strong second half lifted the Evart Wildcats past Marion 65-44 at Evart Monday night in Highland Conference boys basketball action.

Evart led 16-12 after the first quarter and 33-27 at halftime.

“We didn’t play that well in the first half,” said Evart coach Kris Morgan. “We didn’t play too bad of defense in the second half.”

The Wildcats led 53-40 after the third quarter.

Jarek VanOrder had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks while Jesse Lang had nine points and eight rebounds, Jonathan Hooker added 10 points and Jared Wheeler had nine points.

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, Lincoln Erickson was in the right place at the right time. So was his Pine River teammate Mitch McDonald.

McDonald passed to Erickson underneath for a layup with two seconds left in a 53-52 Pine River Highland Conference boys basketball victory over Evart.

“Evart played good,” Erickson said. “We weren’t up to our stuff tonight. We need to go hard in practice. That’s the best way to go.”

Pine River carried a 27-26 lead into the second half. Hooker’s triple early in the third quarter gave Evart a 30-29 lead. Evart’s Preston Boyd scored at the 4-minute mark to make it 32-32. Skyler Nelson sank his third 3-pointer of the game for a 35-32 Bucks lead at 2:34.

Erickson netted two baseliners for a 42-39 Bucks lead to open the fourth.

VanOrder’s jumper at 1:40 made it 35-34. Boyd tied the game moments later on a free throw. Mitch McDonald drove for a basket and 37-35 Pine River lead with 40 seconds to play and Nelson added a free throw.

It was 38-35 going into the third.

VanOrder’s putback cut Pine River’s lead to 44-43 with 3:52 to play. Evart was whistled for a technical with Erickson hitting one free throw. Jesse Lang’s triple at 3:02 gave Evart a 46-45 lead. Hunter Powell followed with a putback and Erickson’s layup at 2:58 made it 49-46, Bucks. Lang followed with two free throws for the Wildcats.

Pine River then tried to eat the time up by stalling on offense but turned it over on a foul call.

At the free-throw line, Lang hit two shots and Evart led 50-49. Powell netted a layup to give his team a 51-50 lead with 26 seconds to play. Evart ‘s VanOrder sank a layup with 10 seconds left to regain the lead for Evart and Pine River had eight seconds left for one more play following a timeout. McDonald drove to the basket and dished off to Erickson who converted for the winning points.

“We thought they were going to post up and go to one of their bigs,” said Morgan. “McDonald, we suspected that it would be in his hands too.”

Erickson scored 17 points to lead the Bucks while Nelson added 13 and Powell had 12.

“I just made the layup,” Erickson said of the winning shot. “Mitchell McDonald just drove threw three people on the baseline. He’s a stellar guard and no one could steal it from him. He gave me a pass and I made the layup.

“I was ready for the rebound. I thought he was going to shoot it.”

McDonald was credited with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Pine River carried the play in the first quarter but it was definitely Evart’s game in the second period.

Skyler Nelson netted a pair of threes and McDonald hit a triple while Erickson added three field goals to boast the Bucks to a 21-12 lead after the first quarter.

“We were letting their 3-point shooters spot up too easy,” Morgan said. “We had to sit in that zone. They’re too big and we let the outside open too much. We knew we had to expand that zone a little bit.”

VanOrder had a 3-point play and Jarred Pattee scored off a drive to tie the game 24-24 late in the second. Nelson’s trey gave the Bucks a 27-24 lead late in the half.

“They deserved to beat us but we’re going to take it because we executed down the end when we had to,” said Pine River coach Scott Benson. “We didn’t get many calls at all. I was not real happy with that. That happens and the kids played above it. Mitchy had a great drive and a great dish.”

VanOrder led Evart with 16 points.

“It was a good game,” Morgan said. “I told the guys, ‘be upset, but don’t hang your heads, you played well.’”

Pine River, 7-5 in the league and 12-6 overall, played at Beal City and is home Thursday against Manton.

Evart, 3-9 in the league and 7-11 overall, played at McBain on Tuesday and is home Thursday to close the regular season with McBain Northern Michigan Christian. In Class C district action next week, Evart is at Hesperia and plays White Cloud or Morley Stanwood on March 7 at 6 p.m. Pine River is at Clare and plays McBain or Lake City on March 7 at 8 p.m.