Pine River’s girls season ends in loss to Shelby
MCBAIN — The streak is over, and so is Pine River’s girls basketball season.
Shelby used its height advantage, rebounding supremacy and clutch free-throw shooting to defeat Pine River on Tuesday (March 5) in the Class C regional semifinal at McBain.
Shelby also won Thursday’s title game, 58-56. Pine River, which had won 20 straight games, ended its season at 20-2.
Pine River entered the game ranked fifth in the final Associated Press Class C state poll.
Sophomore Kassy Nelson had a phenomenal performance with six triples for the Bucks and 26 points while senior Jamie Justin added 15 points, but the Bucks netted only 11 points from the other scorers.
Shelby’s inside player combination of Sydney Czurak and Abby Rodriguez scored 21 and 13 points and gave the Bucks trouble on the boards for most of the game. Czurak entered the game averaging 17 points.
“We knew all season that’s how we win games,” said Shelby coach Sarah Wolting. “We knew we had to go inside. We’re bigger than every team we play.”
“We knew coming in they would be tall and we had to front them and get help from back side,” Justin said. “We got into too much foul trouble.”
Shelby built a 27-26 halftime lead.
Nelson’s triple early in the third quarter made it a 29-29 tie. Another Nelson three plus two Justin free throws gave the Bucks a 34-31 lead at 5:04. Nelson’s third three of the quarter at 4:15 made it 37-33. But Czurak was ruling the inside and kept the Tigers in the game.
The Tigers continued to use their rebounding advantage to hurt the Bucks, but Pine River had another bad break when Justin picked up her fourth foul midway in the third. Nelson had 11 points in the quarter but Shelby led 47-43 going into the fourth.
Justin went back in the game to open the fourth and hit two baskets to tie the game 47-47. Shelby went on a 4-0 run but Nelson netted a triple to cut the Bucks’ gap to 51-50. She scored at 4:36 for a 52-51 lead.
Jozilyn Kinstner hit two straight to give Shelby a 55-52 lead with 2:30 to play. Rodriguez hit two free throws at 2:05 for a 57-53 Shelby advantage.
Shelby’s defense was effectively guarding Justin and Nelson more at the perimeter to prevent 3-point shots. But Justin got a 3-pointer off the bounce on the rim to make it 57-56 with 17.6 seconds to play.
Nelson drew her fifth foul with 14.5 seconds to play. Rodriguez hit a free throw with 14.5 seconds to go. Pine River tried to get the ball inside but threw it away.
Kinstner missed two free throws at the other end, giving the Bucks one last chance with 3.8 seconds to play. Justin took the inbounds pass from Cayman Gatt, but had the ball tipped away as she went across midcourt and couldn’t get a good shot off.
“I tried to get to the hole to at least get a shot off,” Justin said adding that in the fourth quarter, “They did a good job of getting out and rotating in their zone.”
“I played some man and some half-court presses,” Wolting said. “My girls did a good job of transitioning with the zone. I thought our 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 zone worked the best in the second half.”
Pine River fired out to a 4-0 lead before Shelby, using its height advantage, rattled off nine straight points.
The Tigers led 14-10 after the first quarter, but Justin scored four straight to get Pine River in an early-second quarter tie. Rodriguez had a triple and five points in the quarter to give the Tigers the edge 24-19 late in the period. Justin drew her third foul. But Nelson hit eight points in the quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers to keep the Bucks within a point at the intermission.
“She’s only a sophomore,” Wolting smiled while talking about Nelson. “She’s going to be a great player. At times, we knew where she was but her teammates did a good job of getting her open. Her teammates got her open. I don’t want to give us all the credit because they played a great game. They got her the ball and she hit some huge threes.
”I thought we did a good job in the fourth quarter of knowing where she was,” she continued.
Pine River lost its opener in November and then went three straight months without losing.
“I thought we could make it a lot farther than this,” Justin said. “I think we played hard. We just made a few mistakes here and there.”