LEROY — Hunter Powell had the scoring touch Thursday night. As a result, his Pine River Bucks went on to a 59-50 win over the Evart Wildcats in Highland Conference boys basketball action.

Powell netted a season-high 25 points and brought down 11 rebounds. He scored 15 points in the first half.

“We’re working as a team and we’re all working hard,” Powell said. “We’re playing well. We just have to hit our free throws at the end.”

“Hunter’s been playing tough over the last few games,” said Bucks coach Scott Benson. “He’s been getting inside.”

Evart opened the second half with a 5-0 spurt to cut its gap to 31-23, with Preston Boyd converting on a 3-point play. But Powell responded with two unanswered field goals.

Jesse Lang picked up his fifth foul early in the third and left the game. Lincoln Erickson later hit two unanswered shots for a 40-27 Bucks lead with 4:20 to play in the third. Nelson followed with a 17-footer. Mitch McDonald’s baseliner made it 47-29, Bucks, with 40 seconds left in the third as Evart continued to misconnect on shots inside.

Evart sophomore Jared Pattee connected on a shot at the buzzer, just across half court, cutting Pine River’s lead to 47-34 going into the fourth.

Erickson opened the fourth with a baseliner for a 49-34 advantage as the Bucks continued to dominate the boards. Erickson followed with two free throws moments later for a 51-34 lead. Skyler Nelson sank a 3-pointer moments later for a 54-36 margin. Jarek Van Order and Jonathan Hooker both drove to the basket for a pair for Evart, making it 54-40. VanOrder’s putback made it 54-42.

Hooker scored with two minutes to play to cut it to 54-44 while the Bucks started to miss their free throws. With 56.7 seconds left, Boyd’s two free throws cut it to 54-46. Moments later, Powell sealed the deal with a roaring slam dunk.

“It gets the crowd in it,” Powell said of his dunk. “I just want to get more fans here and get people pumped up about Pine River basketball.”

Mitch McDonald added 12 points for the Bucks.

Hooker led Evart with 15 points including 10 in the final quarter.

The Wildcats shot 15-of-60 from the floor for 25 percent. Evart was also rebounded 45-25.

“They owned the boards pretty good,” said Evart coach Kris Morgan. “I’m pretty sure we stayed with them or won the second or third quarter. But falling way behind in the first quarter is too big of a hole.”

The Wildcats had early-game shooting problems and the Bucks took advantage for a 31-18 lead. Hunter Powell had seven points to spark a 17-7 first-quarter lead for the hosts. When he scored inside at 2:11, Pine River’s lead was 15-4. Jarred Pattee’s triple for the Wildcats cut the lead to 10 as the quarter ended.

Powell also had a big second quarter with eight points, featuring a 3-point play at 2:12 for a 29-13 lead. Preston Boyd hit two buckets late in the quarter to keep the Bucks, within striking distance.

“Give credit to those guys, they really pressured us tough,” Benson said. “We just did every cardinal sin possible like dribbling the ball between two or three guys, picking up our dribble on the side and throwing the ball in the corner...all the things you teach kids not to do. We lost our composure. But we won.”

Evart, 3-6 overall and 0-5 in the Highland, played at McBain Northern Michigan Christian on Tuesday and is at Beal City on Friday

Pine River 7-4 overall and 3-3 in the league, played at Manton on Tuesday and is at McBain on Friday.