Hemlock slips past Pine River girls in regional final

BEAL CITY — Hemlock started fast and finished strong in defeating the Pine River girls basketball team 60-55 in Thursday's Class C regional title game.

Hemlock (21-4)  advanced to the state quarterfinals Tuesday at Saginaw Heritage. The season ended for Pine River (22-3).

Hemlock led 35-27 at halftime.

Hemlock’s Sam Krauss sizzled in the first quarter with five 3-pointers and two field goals for 19 points and a 22-13 lead. Julie Justin's defensive coverage on Krauss limited her to nine points the next three quarters.

“We decided to go full deny on (Krauss),” Ruppert said. “That was more effective. In the first quarter, we didn't do a good job on her. It was not real good defense.”

The Bucks opened the third quarter with two Kierra Justin putbacks. Julie Justin's 3-pointer cut it to 38-37 and Kierra Justin scored inside for a 39-38 Bucks' lead.

The Huskies then went on a 6-0 run for a 44-39 advantage. Julie Justin countered with a 3-pointer at 2:06 for a 44-42 score. KayLee Goodman's reverse side layup tied the game. Julie Justin's two free throws to end the third made it 46-46.

Pine River's Hannah Lindquist scored to open the fourth quarter. Krauss scored at 5:56 for a 50-49 Hemlock lead and the seesaw battle continued. Natalie Hoffman's two free throws at 2:28 made it 55-50, Huskies. Julie Justin and Kierra Justin hit consecutive layups to make it 55-54. But Julie Justin fouled out at 1:25.

“Down the stretch, she's usually the one who has the ball,” Ruppert said. “So that hurt us.”

Hemlock missed some free throws and Hoffman fouled out. Kierra Justin hit a tying free throw. Krauss scored at the other end and Pine River had a turnover. Krauss' free throw made it a 3-point game and the Bucks had another turnover. Krauss hit two free throws to seal the win.

“Not having Julie out there had a lot to do (with the turnovers),” Ruppert said while expressing overall satisfaction with his team's effort. “But I thought we played smart against their trap defense. Their coach told me afterwards no one played that effective against it.

“I'm sad that the season's over, but not with the effort.”

Krauss had 28 points. Julie Justin scored 22 and Kierra Justin had 17 for Pine River.

“Pine River is a heckuva team,” Hemlock coach Scott Neumeyer said. “(Julie Justin) can really shoot the ball, we knew that. We didn't have an answer to (Kierra Justin).”