LEROY —  Kassy Nelson has taken on a different role this season for the Pine River girls basketball team.

The Bucks despite heavy graduation losses from last season, have been holding their own, led by Nelson, the only starter back from last season’s district championship team. A junior, she’s in her third varsity season.

Pine River is 3-2. The Bucks would have been 5-0 with their two losses being close encounters with two fine teams in Morley Stanwood and McBain.

The loss to McBain was 44-38 after the Bucks fell behind 11-0 early. Late in the game, a Nelson 3-point attempt which just fell short would have tied it up and given the Bucks a chance for the win.

“We let them get a big lead in the beginning,” Nelson said. “If we would have started off strong and not have let them get up in the first quarter, the whole atmosphere in the gym would have been different.”

But after five games, “we’re getting better,” Nelson said. “Mostly in defense. We still have quite a bit work to do on the offensive side. When our shots start falling, we should be a little bit better. Right now, I feel like there’s a cap on the bucket.”

Nelson said a win over Manton may have been the team’s best game.

“Our transitions on defense are really well. Our movement on offense, we drive together quite well,” Nelson said.

This season, Nelson is more involved with ball handling.

“Last year, we had Jamie Justin and some good point guards and I was more of an outside shooter,” Nelson said. “I shoot better without the ball in my hands, like off the pass. There’s aspects of the game I have to improve on and that’s just one of them.”

Nelson is also looking to avoid getting into foul trouble. She’s done OK in that with the exception of one game.

The Bucks resume action Jan. 7 at home against McBain Northern Michigan Christian.

“We improve each and every day. We come here and work hard,” Nelson said. “By the end of January, I think we should be one of the best teams around, for sure. We need to play the whole game and not just half.”