Pine River hands Lake City first loss

LEROY — Lake City brought an undefeated girls basketball record to Pine River Thursday night. But stingy defense and dominant rebounding sparked the Bucks to a 41-27 Highland Conference victory over the visiting Trojans.

Pine River had an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter and kept it going. The Bucks (7-4 and 5-1) limited the Trojans (10-1, 5-1) to 10 second-half points and as a result are now tied for first place in the league.

“I thought the girls executed very well in the second half,” Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert said. “We talked about what we wanted to do against them and it worked. I watched them play one time and knew they beat McBain. I knew McBain plays man-to-man quite a bit, and we can play a good man-to-man, but our 1-3-1 is really effective. We played zone a little more.”

The Justin cousins, Julie and Kierra, were again a dynamic duo. Julie delivered 14 points and eight rebounds while Kierra had 11 points and 22 boards.

“The big difference is that we rebounded,” Ruppert said. “Kierra Justin really controlled the middle in the second half.”

The Bucks fired out to a 13-6 lead over the Trojans in the first quarter, before cooling off, and allowing Lake City to get back in it. Kierra Justin had six points on putbacks to fuel the Bucks offense. Lake City went on a 5-0 run to make it 13-11 going into the second quarter.

The Bucks struggled to score in the second but the Trojans couldn’t take advantage. Anselma Barnett had a putback late in the quarter, giving the Bucks an 18-17 halftime lead.

Logan Powell scored inside for a 24-19 Pine River lead early in the third. Lake City’s leading scorer Laraiah Schichtel picked up her third foul early in the quarter. Pine River’s defense continued to play well and Barnett’s layup gave the Bucks a 27-23 lead with 2:35 left in the third. Powell scored with a minute left for a 29-23 edge going into the fourth.

Justin netted a 3-pointer early in the fourth for a 32-23 lead. Powell passed to Anna Lindquist for a fast-break basket and 34-23 lead at 5:42.

“We got off pretty strong, usually we start out slow,” Powell said. “We were confident and we just wanted to come out and win. That’s what we did.”

Julie Justin drove to the hoop for a 38-27 lead at 3:05 and Lindquist scored to increase the lead to 13 points moments later. Lake City continued to struggle offensively and Pine River hauled down the key defensive rebounds.

“It’s our biggest win so far,” Ruppert said. “I thought Logan did well after being nervous at the beginning. She quit turning the ball over, ran the floor for us and did a great job on defense.”

Lindquist added eight points.

Schichtel led the Trojans with 12 points but didn’t score in the second half.

The Bucks play Friday at Beal City.