Pine River 3-0 after win against Chippewa Hills

LEROY — In a boys basketball nonconference matchup between Chippewa Hills and Pine River on Monday night, neither team could find the basket, but the Bucks racked up a pile of offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities to score a 63-44 victory in their home gym. 

The Warriors started out with a 4-0 lead, but the Bucks battled back on one-on-one play from Mitch McDonald to knot things up at 6-6 with 5:10 left in the opening quarter. 

The Bucks’ swarming defense started to get to the Warriors as the home team recorded steals and offensive rebounds, but the Warriors recovered to take a 12-10 lead with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter McDonald rallied the Bucks and connected from long range and scored on a transition layup after creating a turnover, giving the Bucks a 15-14 edge heading into the second quarter. 

The Bucks went to their bench or, as Pine River coach Brian Goodenow calls it “the swarm team”, to start the second quarter with fresh legs and a 5-0 Pine River run. 

“Our defense always starts our offense and it just seems like things were kind of stagnant so we brought in our swarm group off the bench,” Goodenow said. “Five new guys, and they just bring so much energy when they come out and they turned things around for us. Everybody just rode that momentum from there.”

Pine River’s Tyler Wing knocked down a 3-pointer as the Bucks’ reserves pushed the lead out to 26-16 with four minutes left in the first half. 

The Warriors started to fight back, with Austin Issette completing an old-fashioned three-point play, but McDonald was fouled on a 3-point attempt and knocked down all three free throws to send his team to the locker room with a 33-21 advantage at halftime. 

The Warriors opened the third quarter with a triple from Grant Brinker, but Brandon Fulks answered from long range for the Bucks as the home team continued to swipe offensive rebounds to preolong possessions and push the lead out to 49-31 heading into the final quarter. 

Fulks contributed nine points, four assists and four steals while Lucas Harris added eight points, seven boards and two blocks. McDonald led Pine River with 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven steals in another impressive outing for the Bucks’ senior. 

“Mitch is just fun to watch,” Goodenow said. “He’s just like anybody else, he knows he has things he has to continue to work on, but this has been a new process for Mitchell. He’s never been the oldest guy on a team. He’s always been the younger guy, so now he’s in a mentoring role and helping these guys along...Mitch is a great leader for us.”

The Bucks (3-0, 0-0 Highland) start their holiday break, playing again on Jan. 6 at Manton.

Thursday game

LEROY— The Bucks scored a 72-42 victory over Traverse City Christian in the Bucks’ home opener Thursday. 

McDonald lit up the scoreboard in the opening quarter, knocking down 3-pointers to start and close the first quarter as Pine River’s defense led to a 24-9 advantage heading into the second quarter. 

Brandon Fulks had two steals to spark the Bucks to a 5-0 run to open the second quarter before McDonald closed the half with another triple, putting his first-half total at 19 points as the Bucks took a 37-16 into the break.

“The ball was going in the hole. I don’t think I’ve had a half like that ever,” McDonald said. “I feel like my team needed me to score and when I score it opens up everyone else...The team moved well and the team was getting me the ball and I was knocking down my shots.”

After scoring just 13 in the second quarter, the Bucks bounced back in the third on triples from Fulks, Greg Park and Tyler Wing. Pine River brought in the fresh-legged reserves and pushed the lead to 57-24 heading into the fourth quarter, beating the Sabres 20-8 in the third frame.

“The game kind of slowed down for some reason,” Goodenow said. “It wasn’t the tempo we liked, so we switched up the lineup a little bit and went with some of the younger kids who are really good at our pressure defense and that kind of turned the tempo back.”

The lead hovered around 30 points for the entire closing quarter as the Bucks cruised to the 72-42 nonconference win.

McDonald led the Bucks with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Park chipped in 13 and Fulks added 12 points, five assists and six steals.

“It’s always great and fun to get the first home win, especially by a large amount,” McDonald said. “It excites the community.. .Our ultimate goal is to put some numbers up on the conference (banner) and put some district numbers up there too.”