Pine River boys win pair to clinch Highland title tie

LEROY — Two wins to close out the regular season last week clinched a share of the Highland Conference title for the Pine River boys basketball team.

The Bucks ended the Highland season at 12-2 to tie McBain for first place. Pine River defeated Manton 55-42 last Thursday to clinch the title tie.

Joey Bowman scored 17 points, followed by Brandon Hoaglund with 12 and Mitchell McDonald with 11.

Earlier in the week, Pine River wanted to avenge its first loss of the season a month ago at Beal City.

But the 75-64 boys basketball Highland Conference win on Feb. 26 over Beal City also put the Bucks in excellent shape for the league title chase

Tyler Lewis netted seven 3-pointers and totaled 21 points while Mitchell McDonald had 15 points and Joey Bowman added 12 for the winners, who suffered their first loss of the season last month at Beal City.

Beal City scored 36 first-half points but the Bucks held the visItors to only six in a decisive third quarter.

Lewis netted a triple early in the third quarter for a 40-36 lead. McDonald’s 3-pointer at 4:42 made it 45-38, Pine River. Lewis’ sixth triple of the night at 2:08 upped it to 51-42. The Aggies, meanwhile, struggled offensively and it was 53-42 after three quarters.

“In the third quarter, our defense was intense. We called on the guys to take control of the game,” said Pine River coach Brian Goodenow. “We say all the time that the offense starts with defense. Everything starts with defense for us. We stayed man-to-man the whole time. They’re such a challenge to defend because they have so many good shooters.”

“It was a matter of mixed shots,” said Aggie coach Cam Gatrell.   “We had decent looks. We just didn’t make shots.”

Brandon Hoaglund had a putback at 6:45 for a 56-44 Bucks lead. McDonald passed to Devin Ruppert for a basket a 5:30 and 60-48 lead. The shots continued to not drop for Beal City. Lewis got the bounce up and down the rim for his seventh triple at 4;19 and 64-51. Ruppert added two free throws moments later. McDonald’s drive gave the Bucks a 70-56 lead with 2:08 to play.

Ethan Whitley scored a minute later for a 72-59 Pine River advantage. Trying to catch up, the Aggies sent the Bucks to the line. Sam Schafer’s triple cut it to 72-64 with 45.7 seconds left. Two free throws by Ruppert at 15 seconds made it 75-64.

It was an highly intense first half with both teams constantly exchanging the leads.

Lewis netted a pair of triples and McDonald contributed with one. But Luke Farrell hit a triple at the buzzer to give the Aggies a 20-16 lead.

The action picked up in the third quarter with the Bucks going on a 7-0 run to open the period. Joey Bowman scored three key field goals to help the Bucks stay close. At the buzzer, the officials ruled Samuel Schafer was fouled on a 3-point try. He went to the foul-line with no time left on the clock but missed all three shots and the Bucks were up by one at the intermission 40-36.

Lewis single-season high is eight 3-pointers.

“It just happens,” Lewis said. “It’s what I practice most...they were guarding me. I just have to get open. I have a quick release.”

Also for the Bucks, Ruppert brought down 11 rebounds and Lewis had four. McDonald totaled seven assists while Ruppert and Nelson had four each.

“It was senior night and our last home game of the year,” Goodenow said. “We had a nice season and wanted to win this one for our fans. It turned out for us great this year.”

Sam Schafer netted four threes and had 23 points to pace the visitors.

Beal City fell to 13-7 overall and 10-4 in the league when it lost to McBain on Thursday.