Pine River overcomes Evart’s 3-pointers for Highland victory

LEROY — Pine River survived a 3-point shooting barrage in the second quarter from Evart to score a 68-54 Highland Conference boys basketball victory on Monday.

Danny Griffin netted three 3-pointers and Layne Nadig added two in the second quarter to lift the Wildcats (4-9, 1-7) to a 32-25 halftime lead. But the Bucks (7-5, 4-4) came out with a 22-6 third-quarter advantage to regain control of the game.

“We just weren’t getting on the boards and weren’t getting stops in the first half,” Pine River coach Brian Goodenow said. “They were shooting the ball well.”

Pine River’s Hunter Esiline scored 13 points in the first half including seven in the first quarter, but Robbie Tapling scored six for the Wildcats, who had a 10-9 lead going into the second. Mason Powell scored seven points in the second for the Bucks but Evart’s hot scoring touch gave the Wildcats the advantage at halftime.

“We played probably one of our best halves since Reed City (in mid-December) in that first half,” Evart coach Kris Morgan said. “We came out and ran a little bit and made our shots, were playing solid defense and were mixing things up and working pretty hard. I was impressed with our first half.”

The Wildcats had a 36-27 lead early in the third quarter, but Pine River put on a seven-point run including a 3-pointer from Tyler Wing to make it a two-point game.

Tristen Nelson’s 3-pointer for Pine River gave the Bucks a 41-38 lead with two minutes left in the third as the Wildcats struggled in their shooting. Wing’s two free throws made it 44-38 with 1:30 to play. Esiline’s baseliner ended the third quarter with a 47-38 Bucks advantage.

“In the second half, we came out and really turned up the defense, which is the key for us,” Goodenow said. “If we can’t get stops and can’t play defense, we’re not going to win. We switched to a zone and played more zone than we normally do. That seemed to cause confusion for them.”

“They jumped into that 1-2-2 zone a little bit and we couldn’t adjust to it,” Morgan said. “We forgot everything we were supposed to do against it. Not making those in-game adjustments is what killed us.”

Powell’s free throw made it 52-40 early in the fourth. He scored again at 4:40 for a 58-41 lead, as the Wildcats’ shooting woes continued. Griffin hit a pair of threes to keep Evart alive, but time ran out on the Wildcats.

“The biggest thing was we got stops, and got out and ran,” Goodenow said. “We got some transition baskets.”

Esiline scored 22 points, while Powell had 21 and Wing 13 for Pine River.

Griffin led the Wildcats with 19 points, while Robbie Tapling had 13.

“We’re coming in with a good game plan,” Morgan said. “Once that game plan changes, these guys have to take over. They’re good smart ballplayers.”

On Thursday, Evart is at McBain Northern Michigan Christian and Pine River is at Manton.