LEROY — Kierra Justin entered her junior season expecting to play a critical role for Pine River’s girls basketball team.

The role will be even more important as the Bucks return to action this week, hoping to improve on a 2-2 record.

Justin and her teammates were busy practicing during the winter break.

“We’ve been practicing in the morning sometimes and at night,” she said. “We’ve been working better on our offense and getting in shape.”

It’s Justin’s third varsity season. The first two were productive, she said, recalling she was able to make the transition just fine as a varsity player.

Her role is basically the same this season as a forward-center, involving boxing out, getting rebounds and helping the Bucks hold their own down low. Justin said she’s playing better in that role this season.

“I’ve been practicing more and I know more,” she said.

The Bucks won their last two games prior to the winter break.

“We played pretty good,” Justin said. “It was good defense, looking up the floor and running the floor.”

Rebounding and boxing out remain strengths for Justin, who said the Bucks are looking to be more effective offensively.

Being Highland Conference and district contenders remains a goal, she said.

The Bucks were scheduled to host Benzie Central on Monday night. They have Highland Conference games Thursday at McBain Jan. 12 at Marion and Jan. 15 at home with McBain Northern Michigan Christian.