LEROY — The Pine River girls basketball team heads into the final weeks of the season and players like sophomore guard Julie Justin are looking to be playing their best basketball at key times.

In a recent win over Evart, the Bucks had a 31-2 scoring advantage in the second half.

“We played a lot better defense and we ran the floor,” Justin said.

Pine River had ended the first half of the Highland Conference season undefeated, but suffered its first setback to McBain recently.

Justin cited defense and running the floor effectively as the key reason behind the 8-0 Highland start.

Justin also played varsity basketball as a freshman and has noticed improvement in her own play.

“I think I’ve gotten better on defense and a little bit better on offense,” she said. 

Justin indicated her scoring abilities are about the same this year. She had 11 points in a win over Evart. Kassy Nelson has been leading the team in scoring, but the Bucks have been working on getting scoring from other areas.

“We’re having Kierra post up and are trying to get the ball to her,” Justin said, referring to her cousin and post player Kierra Justin.

Justin expected both McBain and McBain NMC to be tough league opponents in the second half of the season.

The Bucks end their home season Thursday against Lake City.

The key in each game? It’s “playing good defense,” as far as Justin is concerned.