LEROY — Defense paved the way for Pine River in a 48-34 victory over Manistee Monday night in non-league boys basketball action.

Lincoln Erickson was productive inside for the Bucks with 24 points and eight rebounds, followed by Hunter Powell with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Nicholas Johnson had 10 points and Dillon Rankin added six points for Manistee.

“We knew exactly what Manistee was going to do and they did it and we struggled at times with the press,” said Bucks coach Scott Benson. “Once again, I have a freshman (Mitch McDonald) and two sophomores (Grant Gugle and Skyler Nelson) running the show on top. They did a good job. Defensively, we played great. Only a few times we lost our man.”

The Bucks held Manistee to 18 points in the first three quarters.

Leading 19-12 at halftime, the Bucks went up 27-16 at 4:20 of the third on Erickson’s 3-point play. Nicholas Johnson netted four points early in the third to keep the Chippewas close. But it was 32-18, Pine River, going into the fourth.

Powell drove for a basket to open the final period. Rankin scored to cut the PR lead to 34-22 at 6:20. Johnson scored off a steal moments later to make it 34-24. Erickson countered with a layup moments later and the Bucks continued to grab the key defensive rebounds and the Chips couldn’t connect offensively at key times. Powell scored inside at 4:11 for a 38-24 lead. Gugle upped the lead to 16 points with a breakaway layup moments later.

McDonald’s two free throws made it a 43-26 lead with three minutes to go.

Johnson had two straight drives for baskets to keep Manistee within striking distance. But Powell took a pass from Erickson and scored inside for a 48-32 lead with 40 seconds to play.

“It was our defense that won the game,” Benson said. “I’m happy with how our guards handled themselves. That’s an athletic team. We handled the pressure. McBain didn’t handle their press like we did.”

Erickson scored eight of Pine River’s 13 points in the first quarter and all six of the Bucks’ points in the second. Andre Allen had four points in the first quarter for the Chippewas, who trailed 13-8 going into the second.

Both teams had massive turnover problems the second quarter. Erickson hit with 50 seconds to play to give the Bucks a 19-12 halftime advantage.

“(Erickson) was a big factor,” Manistee coach Scott Solberg said. “There again, I thought we had a hand in his face a lot. He still hit his shots. When that starts happening, there’s not much you can do.”

Bucks’ coaches praised Gugle for a strong floor game from off the bench.

“We had a lot of turnovers and should have made more of our open shots,” Gugle said. “I like my role. My teammates help me out a lot.”

Gugle made a smooth transition to the varsity.

“You have to be a lot faster and a lot stronger,” he said. “But it’s a lot fun. But you could always do better.”

Pine River had a whopping 40-15 rebounding advantage.

Pine River, 4-2, plays Thursday at McBain Northern Michigan Christian. Manistee, 5-4, is home Friday against Reed City.

“We have a tough three games,” Benson said. “We have NMC, Lake City (Jan. 17) and Beal (Jan. 20) coming up.”.

“We’re not shooting very good at all but I think we’ll come around and do better game-by-game,” Gugle said. “We need less turnovers. If we make a couple of more shots here and there, we’ll be all set.”

Pine River was 1-1 last week in Highland Conference play. Friday night at Marion, the Bucks beat the host team 54-39 and was led by Erickson with 15 points and Hunter Powell with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

On Jan. 3, the Bucks lost to McBain 55-32. Erickson and Powell had five points apiece for the Bucks.

The Pine River junior varsity improved to 5-1 with a 48-43 win over Manistee. Brandon Hoaglund netted 18 points while Schroeder Vanderhoof added 12 points.