Pine River downs Evart to advance to district finals

BEAVERTON — It was game No. 3 between Osceola County and Highland Conference boys basketball rivals Evart and Pine River Wednesday night (March 5).

But the Wildcats made it 3-for-3 with a 70-49 victory at Beaverton in a Class C district semi-final showdown to advance to Friday’s title game.

Skyler Nelson hit 20 points while Mitchell McDonald added 17 and Brandon Hoaglund put in 13 to lead the Bucks.

Pine River shot 45 percent from the floor including 40 percent from the free-throw line.

“We can live with that, especially when we shoot 50 percent inside the (3-point line),” said Pine River coach Brian Goodenow. “That’s good enough. I’m not going to complain.”

Tre Dyer had 13 points for Evart.

The Wildcats were playing without a main starter, center Chris Garner, who was the key in a near Evart victory over the Bucks earlier in the season.

Goodenow admitted that Garner’s absence motivated him to change some strategy.

“We changed our whole defensive scheme after warmups,” Goodenow said. “We planned on playing a little bit of zone which is what we did at the end of the regular season. When we saw (Garner) wasn’t there, we went into the lockerroom and decided to go man-to-man.”

Evart coach Kris Morgan said Garner didn’t play because of “team” issues.

“We had some guys step up,” Morgan said. “I thought Tre Dyer played well and Josh Decator stepped up and played a good second half. We weren’t going to let (the loss of Garner have an impact)...we started the season losing Jacob Hopkins (to an injury). It took us awhile to adjust to that. Then we lose Chris and it’s the next guy up.”

The Bucks got off to a hot-shooting start with five 3-pointers in the first quarter, including two apiece for Nelson and Hoaglund, and one from McDonald for a 25-7 lead going into the second.

“We thought we could match up to them in the zone and had a chance if they weren’t hitting them,” said Morgan. “But they came right out and seven of their first eight 3-pointers didn’t even hit the rim. They were right on.”

The Wildcats started getting the offense cranked up in the second quarter with Jacob Fortune, Tre Dyer and Cody Fournier all hitting threes. But Nelson hit another triple in the quarter and McDonald was on fire with two triples and 12 total points in the second. The Wildcats showed brief signs of gearing up for a comeback but couldn’t overcome two late-quarter triples from McDonald.

“I thought we came out and set the tone exactly the way we needed to,” said Goodenow. “We wanted to get off to a good start and play good defense.”

Evart trailed 47-23 going into the second half.

Jared Pattee picked up his fourth early in the third. Teammate Larry VanBuren drew his fourth moments later.

Brandon Fulks hit two free throws to give the Bucks a 53-27 lead midway in the quarter. Decator scored for Evart at the one-minute mark but the Bucks went on to a 57-33 lead after the third quarter. Nelson’s triple early in the fourth gave the Bucks a 60-36 advantage. Dyer and Nelson traded triples during the quarter but the Bucks were well ahead 63-41.

“The second half, I thought it got pretty chippy,” Goodenow said. “I didn’t like the way we rebounded in the second half. I thought we need to match their physicality on the boards. Overall, I was please with their performances.”

Also for Pine River Mitchell had nine rebounds, followed by Harris and Nelson with seven each and Hoaglund with five. Nelson had four assists while McDonald and Hoaglund had three apiece.

The season ends for Evart at 9-11.