Pine River girls put together an amazing season

LEROY — It won’t be easy to duplicate what the Pine River girls basketball team did this season.

The Bucks lost 58-56 to Shelby last week in the Class C regionals. Shelby went on to win the regional title, which could have easily been the Bucks’.

But a 20-2 record, which included a 20-game winning streak after opening the season in a loss to Reed City, was an enjoyable ride for coach Shawn Ruppert and his players.

Jandney Mattson echoed the thoughts of having had a fun season that ended at least a couple of games too early. Shelby’s height was just a little too much for the Bucks.

“We weren’t boxing them out like we were supposed to and weren’t helping on help side,” Mattson said. “We’ve faced tall teams, it just didn’t flow very good.”

“I thought we battled well against a much bigger team,” said Ruppert. “We just didn’t convert down the stretch when we needed to.”

Kassy Nelson and Jamie Justin were able to hit their threes until late in the game.

But both players were in foul trouble, Ruppert noted, and Nelson eventually fouled out.

Mattson recalls that the Bucks tried various things to get their offense going. “When we would drive to the basket we would try to hit the weakside. That was working a couple of times but we didn’t get it every single time,” Mattson said.

But the Bucks would have preferred to be playing this week.

“We’re pretty upset, we knew we could have done better,” Mattson said. “Overall, we had a good season with conference and districts.”

The 20-game win streak was a matter of “working together,” she added. “We worked together and worked hard on our defense and getting our offense going every game.”

Mattson was among the graduating seniors for the Bucks, along with Jamie Justin, Cayman Gatt, Mattson, Eric Buchner and Haley Raymond.

“After the first game, the girls got focused,” Ruppert said. “We played as hard as we could. I thought my bench players got better. I was happy all the way around.”

Looking ahead, “we’ll still be pretty athletic and we’ll have some scoring,” he said.

For Ruppert and Mattson, there’s not much time to rest. Ruppert coaches the baseball team, which was scheduled to start on Monday. But Ruppert noted all but three of the players for baseball were on the basketball team that played in the regionals on Monday. Since the season has ended, baseball practices will probably start in full gear this week.

Mattson is on the softball team which was also scheduled to start practices this week.