Pine River defeats Reed City, falls to Morley Stanwood in openers

LEROY —  It was a 1-1 startin the opening week for the Pine River girls basktball team.

The Morley Stanwood Mohawks came out on top in an early nonconference test, defeating Pine River 48-41 Friday night.

The Mohawks took a 25-13 lead into halftime before the Bucks outscored the home team, 28-23, in the second half. But the Mohawks had enough of a cushion from the first half to hold on and secure the win.

Mekayla Carey led the Mohawks with 18 points and five rebounds while Mikayla Thumser added seven points and Mallory Raven dished out five assists.

Kassy Nelson led the Bucks offensively, tallying 16 points while Julie Justin added eight in the setback. 

Meanwhile, thanks to a 27-point outing by Nelson, the Bucks kicked off their 2014 season with a 58-32 win over the Reed City Coyotes in Reed City on Dec. 2. 

Nelson got her night started right away with a 3-pointer to open the contest and followed it up with an old-fashioned three-point play to push her team to an 8-2 lead in the early going. 

The Coyotes clawed back to tie it up at 8-8 with 4:44 left in the opening quarter on a layup by Lauren Voelker, but Nelson heated up with two triples and a pair of fastbreak jumpers in the last four minutes of the first to send her point total to 16 in the quarter and to give her squad a 22-8 lead heading into the second. 

“I was pretty fired up,” Nelson, who recently committed to play basketball at Saginaw Valley State, said. “It’s my first game of my senior year, so it’s kind of a big deal for me to just do my best in high school and leave an impact. I was super excited and just ready to get it going because I have a lot of young girls on my team and I just want to show them what it can be like to have a lot of fun on the basketball court and make them ready for next year.”

Each side struggled throughout the second quarter, with the Coyotes opening the period on a layup, but both teams went scoreless until the 5:20 mark when Reed City’s Emily Libey knocked down two free throws. The free throws were part of a 6-0 Coyote run, but the Bucks got rolling again and added back-to-back buckets to end the first half with a 30-18 lead. 

“In the first half I think we were playing too robotic,” Reed City coach Brian Koopman said. “We couldn’t get a flow going and we were really nervous and, like I said, we basically started all five that have never played the game before at the varsity level and that’s tough.”

After a scoreless second quarter, Nelson heated back up with another trey and and-one in the third as part of a 7-0 Pine River run and the Coyotes went scoreless for the first four minutes of the quarter. 

Pine River’s Julie Justin completed a hoop-and-the-harm three-point play to push the Buck lead to 20 points at 40-20 and they coasted to a 46-23 advantage heading into the final quarter as the Bucks’ zone defense allowed just five Reed City points in the frame. 

“I thought we were aggressive, especially offensively,” Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert said. “Our defense was a little bit out of sync in the first half and we fouled too much and got out of position a few times, but I was happy the second half. I thought our zone gave them a lot of trouble.”

Nelson opened the fourth with a 3-pointer and Anna Lindquist added back-to-back baskets later in the period as the Bucks outscored the Coyotes 12-9 in the fourth and cruised to a season-opening victory on the road, 58-32. 

Nelson led all scorers with 27 points on five 3-pointers while Keirra Justin chipped in 10 down low for the Bucks. 

“I just wasn’t missing really, that was it,” Nelson said. “My girls just hit me when I was open and the flow was just there and I think we just jelled really, really well for the first game of the season.”

Libey led the Coyotes with 10 while Brenna Westhoff added five and Hanna Price and Keylee Aemisegger each chipped in four apiece in the nonconference setback.

“We never really got into a flow offensively and some of that is the nerves and it being the first game, but I told the girls we’d have some growing pains from the get-go,” Koopman said. “But, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

To add to the Coyotes’ issues, Voelker went down with an apparent knee injury after scoring two points. 

“I thought Lauren Voelker did a good job for us and then she went down,” Koopman said. “That’s a huge blow for us. She’s a kid that played a lot of minutes off the bench for us last year. The sad part is, I think she might be done. I think it’s probably an ACL, which is bad for her and us.”