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Tigers earn 2nd win

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Zach Struss scored 25 points to lead the Pine River-Backus boys’ basketball team past Laporte 68-55 in Northland Conference action on Monday, Jan. 20.

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The Tigers, 1-7 in the conference and 2-11 overall, were scheduled to face Cass Lake-Bena on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and then play at Verndale on Friday, Jan. 24.

Struss also grabbed seven rebounds while teammate Konrad Bueckers had 11 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals for the Tigers. Tony Pederson had seven points and nine rebounds for PR-B.

Austin Moss had 30 points for Laporte, which has lost six straight games.

Laporte 22 23 — 55

PR-Backus 30 38 — 68

LAPORTE

Quintin Nelson 7, Kyle Kerby 7, Austin Moss 30, Cody Hoffman 2, Jared Miller 4, Dillon Lutgen 1, Dillion Hoffman 2. FT 11-17 (65 percent).

PINE RIVER-BACKUS

Zach Semmler 3, Hank Raph 7, TJ Lukanen 5, Cole Larson 2, Konrad Bueckers 11, Travon Pederson 4, Jesse Potz, Tony Pederson 7, Henry Krecklau, Shane Sepin 5, Saul Sasse, Shane Fleming, Zach Struss 25. FG 19-59 (32 percent), FT 27-43 (63 percent). 3-point 3-20 (15 percent).

W-H-A 68, Tigers 55

The Tigers, coming off their first victory of the season two nights earlier, fell to the visiting Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves in a Northland Conference game on Thursday, Jan. 16. Chris Duff had 27 points for W-H-A, which is 6-0 in the conference after its fifth straight win.

The home team started off hot, but eventually fell to the Wolves in a tightly contested matchup. Last time the Tigers faced W-H-A, they were soundly defeated 64-47, with the Wolves controlling that game from start to finish. The Tigers played much better in the second meeting.

The home team started the game with all the momentum in building a 14-3 lead. The Tigers were playing an aggressive defense and converting a high percentage of their shots. The Wolves didn’t have an answer for the aggressive style of defense, turning over the ball on several possessions.

PR-B showed confidence, coming off the first win of the season two nights earlier, but the 11-point lead would prove to be the high point in the game. After a timeout, the Wolves were able to make some adjustments, scoring the next seven points in the game which was part of an 11-2 run. WHA also turned up the heat on defensive end of the court, causing several turnovers to give themselves extra offensive possessions.

The Tigers struggled, losing the ball out of bounds on three straight possessions and turning the ball over on several others. However, PR-B did keep the pressure on defense and rebounded the ball well. After a couple of baskets, the Tigers found themselves with a 20-15 lead midway through the first half.

The rest of the first half would be disastrous for the home team as they were outscored 15-4 at a critical point in the game and went into the locker room trailing 29-24.

The second half started off decent for PR-B, they were able to keep pace with the visiting team in the first few minutes. However, the Wolves slowly increased their lead, eventually building up an 11-point lead. The Tigers made a few small runs to chisel away the deficit, but in the end, they couldn’t manage to get back on top. Despite the loss, the Tigers showed they were a much improved team since the first meeting between these two teams in December.

Walker-H-A 31 37 — 68

PR-Backus 24 31 — 55

WALKER-H-A

Logan Gross 5, Austin Richter 15, Josh Widman 4, Dakota Hall 12, Dustin Ovitt 3, Gage Deskeere 2, Chris Duff 27. FT 18-28 (64 percent).

PINE RIVER-BACKUS

Zach Semmler 2, Hank Raph 8, TJ Lukanen 11, Cole Larson 7, Konrad Bueckers 10, Travon Pederson 4, Saul Sasse 2, Zach Struss 11. FG 22-56 (39 percent), FT 7-23 (30 percent). 3-point 2-10 (20 percent).

Tigers 64, W-DC 61

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Tigers celebrated their first victory of the season by holding off the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines. The game was extremely close, but as the final buzzer blew the Tigers found themselves winners after two 3-point attempts came up short for the visiting team.

The key for the improving Tigers was their team defense, which made things difficult for W-DC.

“I talked to the coach from Menahga after the loss [on Jan. 13), and he told me that we were 10 times better than the first time we played them this season,” PR-B coach Shaun Howard said after defeating W-DC.

The Tigers have had difficulty getting leads this season. At times, they’ve gone on decent runs to get within striking distance, but teams have managed to get the momentum back and pull away at critical points in the game, but this game was different. PR-B went into the locker room at halftime with a lead for the first time this season at 33-31, which gave the team confidence that this was their night.

The Tigers looked more aggressive on the defensive end than in previous contests.

“Our team defense was the key to the game, we got into their passing lanes all game,” Howard said.

The home team gave W-DC fits on every pass and every shot. Zach Struss looked particularly aggressive on that end of the court during the game. Another player praised by Howard was Zach Semmler, who the coach said “stepped up and played great D all night on their best offensive player.”

Late in the game, the Tigers made several important baskets. Struss was able sink consecutive shots from the top of the key and from the corner to keep the Tigers in the lead. T.J. Lukanen also made the most of his opportunity, hitting a big shot from behind the arc and an important seven-foot basket, both coming late in the game when points are at a premium.

The other critical play was made by Coleman Larson, who came off the bench to make a steal on the defensive end, diving for a ball and getting fouled in the process. He was able to sink both free throws on a 1-and-1 with time running down in the second half. As he pumped his fists, you could see how important this game was for the young PR-B team.

Howard added that he’s starting to give the younger players more time on the court. He also noted that the Tigers don’t have “one go-to player like in previous seasons.”

Scoring for PR-B has come from a variety of players this season.

Struss had 14 points while Bueckers added 12 for the Tigers.

Dylan Dumpprope finished with 22 points for the Wolverines, 3-11 overall.

Wadena-DC 32 29 — 61

PR-Backus 33 31 — 64

WADENA-DEER CREEK

Blake Connell 13, Jacob Goeden 7, Isaac Laughlin 4, Jared Reintiz 10, Alex Redfield 5, Dylan Dumpprope 22. FT 8-22 (36 percent).

PINE RIVER-BACKUS

Zach Semmler 9, Hank Raph 5, TJ Lukanen 5, Cole Larson 4, Konrad Bueckers 12, Tony Pederson 4, Shane Sepin 5, Saul Sasse 6, Zach Struss 14. FG 21-47 (44 percent), FT 10-17 (58 percent). 3-point 4-15 (26 percent).

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