LEROY — Pine River’s Mitchel McDonald scored 19 points as the Bucks fell to 11-3 overall Friday with a 75-70 loss to Manton.

Manton was led by WyatteBaker’s 19 points.

The Bucks dropped to 5-3 in the conference, travel to McBain on Friday.

Meanwhile  it was the seventh and final Highland Conference game for the first half of the boys basketball league season Tuesday night (Feb. 3) when Pine River visited cross-county rival Evart.

But Pine River was able to keep its winning streak going at eight games with a 65-55 victory.

The Bucks improved to 5-2 in the league and 11-2 overall. But it wasn’t easy.

“Gritty, another dogfight,” Pine River coach Brian Goodenow said. “It seems like that’s all we’re playing anymore. But I guess we take that as it makes us tougher and it makes us confident we’ll win that type of game.”

Evart is 4-7 overall and 2-4 in the league.

“We played fairly well and did a lot of good things,” Evart coach Kris Morgan said. “I think it simply boiled down to us not rebounding at the end of the game. They got so many chances.”

Evart led for much of the first half, but the Bucks came back strong to take a 32-29 lead at the intermission.

Nolan VanOrder had six points in the first quarter for Evart while Danny Griffin added six. Pine River inserted a new lineup of five players midway in the quarter and Lukas Sizemore’s basket late in the period for the Bucks made it a 12-12 tie.

Griffin netted a pair of triples in the second quarter to help the Wildcats temporarily maintain control.

Noah Drake’s triple put Evart up 25-21 with 3:30 left in the second. Mitchell McDonald’s 3-point play got the Bucks back in the lead and fueled a three-point halftime edge.

Harris scored four points early in the third to give Evart a 36-31 lead. Mason Powell’s basket at 4:30 gave the vistors a 42-33 edge.

The Bucks were hurting the Wildcats on the boards and working effectively on the fast break. With the second unit again in for the Bucks, Sizemore scored for a 48-36 lead at 2:30.

Andrew Maxwell and Cody Prichard scored late in the quarter for Evart to cut the Bucks lead to 50-42, going into the fourth. Prichard hit two straight early in the fourth to cut the Pine River lead to 51-46. Harris came back with a triple at 5:43 for a 55-48 lead, but Drake matched it seconds later with his own 3-pointer.

Harris’ 3-point play gave the Bucks a 58-51 lead with five minutes to go. Robbie Tapling’s long 3-pointer for Evart cut the gap to 58-55. McDonald scored on a putback at the other end for a 60-65 lead at 2:40.

Evart failed to score on two possessions, allowing Pine River to hold onto the ball and force the foul. Powell hit two free throws with 53 seconds left for a 62-55 lead, Harris sank two foul shots with 33.7 seconds to go and the Wildcats ran out of time.

Harris led Pine River with 21 points, while McDonald added 11 and Powell had 10.

Harris, Goodenow said, “is really starting to play with confidence. That’s the key for him.”

Goodenow noted he’s used his second group, called the “Swarm Team,” several times this season.

“They come out and bring us some energy,” Goodenow said. “That’s what we needed the first half tonight. We were just flat again. I don’t know why we keep doing that. The second group gets things moving for us.”

Drake paced Evart with 17 points while Griffin had 12 and Prichard put in 10.

Drake “is capable of that every night,” Morgan said. “Cody has played well lately. He’s playing his role.

“I told the kids you can’t beat these upper teams by just playing a good game. You have to play a great game all the way around. You have to be good in every facet of the game.”