EVART –- It was expected to go down to the wire and it did.

Lincoln Erickson scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, Mitchell McDonald had 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists and Devin Ruppert added eight points and eight boards to lead Pine River to a 59-52 Class C district boys championship victory over McBain Friday night.

McBain and Pine River defeated each other during the regular season and shared the Highland Conference title. There would be no sharing this night.

“We said if we’d play our game, which is defense and rebound and moving the ball on offense, we’d come out with a win,”’ Ruppert said. “That’s what we did.”

Pine River, 20-2, plays in the Class C regional at 6 p.m. on Monday at Traverse City West.

McBain’s season ends at 18-6.

In the game’s waning moments, “We picked up our defense and took care of the basketball,” said first-year Pine River coach Brian Goodenow. ”They’re such a good team and it’s such an intense rivalry that you had to know it was going to end up this way after the way the first two games went.”

Erickson scored for Pine River to tie the game 32-32 to open the third quarter and added two free throws moments later to give Pine River a 34-32 lead. Hunter Powell’s 3-point play gave McBain a 37-36 lead midway in the quarter. Powell added two free throws at 3:02 for a 41-36 lead. Bowman hit five straight points and Lucas Harris had a nice block and save at the other end for a 41-41 tie. McBain hit four straight and led 45-43 going into the fourth.

Skyler Nelson's first basket of the game at 6:35 was a big one, a 3-pointer for a 47-47 tie. Erickson followed moments later with a lay-up for a 49-47 lead. He also scored inside a moment later for a 51-49 PR advantage. The Ramblers committed a turnover and Pine River got the ball with 1:16 to play. McDonald was fouled with 59.2 seconds and made two free throws for a 53-49 lead. But Andrew Lucas countered with a triple for McBain 10 seconds later. McBain put on a fullcourt press and Jared Larr stole the ball with 40.9 seconds to go. Brandon Hoaglund got the block on Larr and the Bucks took the ball.

“People underestimate Brandon,” Goodenow said “He can jump. He get a lot of rebounds for us. He’s one of those kids who’s at the right place at the right time. That obviously was a key play.”

Nelson was fouled with 23.7 seconds to play and hit both free throws for a 55-52 lead. Ruppert grabbed the defensive rebound at the other end and was fouled. He hit two free throws for a 57-52 lead with nine seconds left, McDonald stole the inbounds pass and Nelson scored at the buzzer as the celebration began for the Bucks.

“We told the guys that when we got the ball, we’d spread the floor, run the clock and make them foul you and then finish,” Goodenow said. “Skyler had an air ball (on a free throw attempt) early in the game. He hit them when it was clutch.”

“We picked it up on defense and made all our free throws down the stretch,” Nelson said.

Powell, who transferred to McBain from Pine River during the offseason, scored 11 points and had a blocked shot in the first quarter to ignite the Ramblers to a 16-15 lead.

Ruppert hit two straight baskets to ignite Pine River to a 22-21 lead early in the second. Powell hit a 3-pointer later in the quarter for a 28-27 lead and the Ramblers added four more points. McDonald’s 3-pointer cut it to 32-30, McBain at halftime.

Powell led McBain with 23 points while Larr had 15.

“We wanted to have them buy into the team concept and that’s our theme all year,” Goodenow said. “It didn’t happen overnight. They bought in and made it happen. We said let’s win the district and after that you’re a wild card, then nobody knows what will happen.”

“It feels great. I love it,” Nelson said. “I’ve been waiting for this day a long time. I used to talk about this when we were little kids, me and Mitch McDonald. This was our dream.”

The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes when a fan collapsed to the floor during the pregame after tripping on the bleacher steps. She was treated and later carried into the lobby area and taken to receive medical attention.

PINE RIVER 59, MCBAIN 52

McBain 16 16 13 7 -- 52

Pine River 15 15 13 16 -- 59

MCBAIN (18-6)

Jared Larr 3(1) 6-6 15, Clayton Westdorp 1 1-2 3, Hunter Powell 8 7-9 23, Chris Ouiwinga 1 0-0 2, Grant Gugle 1 0-0 2, Andrew Lucas 2 (1) 0-0 7. Totals 16 (2) 14-17 52.

PINE RIVER (20-2)

Tyler Lewis 1(2) 0-0 8, Devin Ruppert 3 2-2 8, Lincoln Erickson 5 2-2 12, Brandon Hoaglund 1 2-2 4, Mitchell McDonald 1(1) 5-6 10, Skyler Nelson 1(1) 3-4 8, Joey Bowman 4 1-1 9. Totals 16(4) 15-17 59.