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Tigers struggle against powerful defensive teams

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The visiting Red Lake Warriors defeated the Pine River-Backus Tigers 95-60 despite a hard fought effort from the Tigers on Friday, Jan. 18.

The Warriors were able to consistently score points and often forced the Tigers into turnovers. Despite staying in the game early, eventually the physical Red Lake team would wear down the Tigers and win by a large margin.

Pine River played very unselfishly in the early going, always making the extra pass to find the open player rather than forcing a shot, but all too often the defensive pressure led to a pass that was intercepted or tipped out of bounds. However, the Tigers remained in the game early, trailing just 14-12.

PR-B showed excellent defense early on, contesting every shot that Red Lake took and started doubling the man inside for the Warriors, not giving up the easy points inside. With the game so close and the time closing in on the midway point in the first half, Red Lake went back to the full court pressure with mixed results. They were able to create a turnover on one possession, forced a foul on the next, and allowed a fast break as Beau Howard split two defenders at midcourt.

Despite the physical play inside by Red Lake, the home team held their own on the glass, grabbing 30 rebounds, 12 by freshman Zach Struss. At the midway point, PR-B remained in the game, 22-16. Red Lake tried to apply pressure defensively in the half court as well, swarming to the player with the ball. Once again, the Tigers showed they were not intimidated, making two quick passes to find Konrad Bueckers open in the corner for a successful 3-point attempt.

On the following possession for the home team, the Warriors once again swarmed Howard as he drove underneath, going by and around four Red Lake players before finding Struss open for an easy layup. Despite the difficulties that would follow later in this game, Head Coach Shaun Howard sees a lot in his young team to be happy about. When they find themselves in a tough situation, they don’t panic. They continue to play unselfishly and try to find the open player rather than do it all with one or two players.

Red Lake was able to pull away as the half continued and led at the half by double digits, 44-30.

The Warriors led the second half with a 3-pointer. Once again Red Lake’s strategy was to double-team the player with the ball in order to create a turnover. Mager was able to fight through the pressure and find a teammate under the basket for an easy layup.

Despite the positives displayed by PR-B, the superior play by the visiting team proved to be too much. Red Lake was able to create a number of turnovers and more often than not, turned those opportunities into points. Red Lake was also very consistent on offense, not hitting the dry spells that plagued the Tigers. The Tigers were outscored in the second half 51-30, allowing Red Lake to coast to an easy victory on the road.

Scoring Summary

Pine River was led by the 18 points posted by Zach Struss. Struss went 6/9 on field goal attempts and 4/5 from the free throw line. Beau Howard had 12 points and was four of five from the free throw line. Coleman Larson had a season high 12 points, making 5 of his 9 attempts. T.J. Lukanen and Konrad Bueckers each contributed five points. Hank Raph had 3 points, Travon Pederson and Saul Sasse each had two points and Zach Semmler had one. As a team, the Tigers were 16 for 40 from two-point range, 4 of 15 from behind the arc, and 16 of 24 from the free throw line.

Nevis 59, Tigers 52

PR-B took on Nevis on Thursday, Jan. 17. The game was an exciting contest that was close throughout, with Nevis finding a way to secure the victory despite PR-B’s 21-19 halftime lead. Neither team was able to compile a lengthy run of momentum until the end of the second half.

PR-B has struggled this season, as is expected with a young team that has a variety of players getting lengthy playing time for the first time. However, after Nevis took the lead, they answered back with a 16-foot jump shot by Struss and a jump shot just before the arc by freshman guard, Konrad Bueckers. At this point in the game, both teams went into a lengthy dry spell, as both teams came up short on their next ten possessions. Several shots were taken by each, but both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net.

After some scoring by both teams, Pederson hit another long-range shot and Nevis answered back with a jumper to retake the lead. Pederson was feeling it, succeeding on yet another 3-pointer, to give PR-B the 21-19 lead with just seconds remaining in the half.

The Tigers had only a few leads this season as the team has struggled to play from ahead. Howard scored the first points of the half, as he faked a 3-point attempt and drove the lane for a basket. Once again, Nevis found itself at the foul line and took advantage, making both shots attempted. Struss showed some range, hitting a long jumper, just a foot within the arc, but Nevis answered back with a steal, and a foul on the successful layup.

The game would see a lot of back-and-forth, as neither team could go on a long run of baskets. When one team scored a bucket or two, the other team would answer back. Howard scored the next two baskets of the game on a nice spin move, which led to a jump shot and a difficult shot underneath the basket, which was highly contested by three Nevis players, but he found a way to make the shot. After five points by Nevis, junior center, Saul Sasse made his lone field goal of the game on a nice drive to the basket. Both teams traded baskets for the next several possessions as Howard scored on a jump shot and a drive to the basket for the visiting Tigers.

However, Nevis was able to mount the first extended run of the game, a 9-2 run which would give them the lead that they would not relinquish. The run included 5/6 from the foul line, and a couple successful drives.

PR-B refused to give up, as Howard showed leadership and a never-give-up attitude, making two free throws and creating a turnover on a steal and a basket. After a missed free throw, junior forward, Coleman Larson fought for the offensive rebound, he kicked the ball out to Howard, who once again pump faked the 3-point attempt and drove the lane, which led to a basket and got the Tigers back into the game.

Nevis found a way to extend the lead with four successful free throws on their next four attempts, but Howard once again answered with mid-range jump shot. Travon Pederson created a steal at midcourt and quickly moved the ball to Howard who made a basket underneath the hoop to cut the deficit to 55-50.

Unfortunately, the momentum, although extremely exciting, came a little too late. The visiting Tigers were forced to foul the home team with time running out, hoping they would miss some shots from the foul line, but Nevis held their own from the stripe. After Howard drove the lane and missed a shot amid a lot of contact, PR-B coach Shaun Howard was given a technical for arguing that contact had occurred. It is understandable that the away team was frustrated at the 42-10 disparity of free throws attempted in favor of the home team.

When the final buzzer sounded, the exciting game ended with the home team on top with a hard fought 7-point advantage, 59-52.

Scoring Summary

The Tigers went 15 for 34 from two-point range and 5 of 16 from behind the arc, led by three successful long-range shots from Travon Pederson. Howard led the way on the road, with an impressive 26-point performance. Travon Pederson had nine points, all from behind the arc. Zach Struss added six points and Konrad Bueckers had five. Saul Sasse and Cody Mager each had three points.

Verndale 66, Tigers 36

The Vernadale Pirates defeated PR-B on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Verndale was able to take an early lead and kept pressure on the Tigers, who were unable to stop the inside scoring by the Pirates. Verndale was also extremely effective at applying pressure on the Tigers, leading to points in transition.

The Pirates played some tough defense early which led to steals. The Pirates hit two 3-point attempts on their next two possessions, to give them a comfortable 14-1 lead with only five minutes gone in the game.

PR-B was able to get their offense going, although they weren’t able to make their shots, they did go 2/4 from the free throw line in the following possessions. Senior guard, Beau Howard created some offense of his own, driving in the lane to give his team their first field goal of the game.

Both teams started to turn up the heat on defense, which led to several minutes without a basket from either team, before Verndale made a couple shots inside. Throughout the game, the majority of the scoring was done within six feet of the basket. The Tigers didn’t have an answer for the inside game presented by the Pirates.

Verndale also created difficulties for the young Pine River-Backus team with solid defense, often creating turnovers on steals, blocked shots, and forcing the Tigers into traveling calls, when they attempted to drive into the lane.

After a couple of free throws by the Tigers, Verndale went on an 11-0 run, deflating any momentum that Pine River-Backus had going for them. Verndale showed that they could score a variety of ways, as the Pirates' run included a 6-foot jump shot, a steal-and-layup in transition, a basket underneath and a 3-pointer.

The Tigers showed some life, after two missed free throws, PR-B fought for the offensive rebound and made a basket and Howard turned a steal into points with a fast-break basket. The Tigers showed that they wouldn’t quit, as they finished the half on a 7-4 upswing. However, the Pirates were able to go into the locker room with a solid 31-14 lead.

The Pirates stifled the momentum that the Tigers had going at the end of the first half as Verndale made the first two shots of the second half on short jump shots. PR-B was able to get their offense going, as several Tiger players contributed to a 9-2 run to cut into Verndale’s large lead. Despite cutting into the deficit, the run by the Tigers would not be enough, as they found themselves down 37-23.

Verndale answered the run by PR-B with a run of their own, going on a 10-3 run over the next several minutes. A steal led to points for the Pirates and several more baskets from short range that the Tigers were unable to prevent. Pederson did have another 3-pointer with the run, but the Pirates kept scoring at will. With 11:06 left in the game, Verndale’s lead was 46-26.

Struss added a basket on a 12-foot jump shot, but the Pirates answered with a three-pointer. After a successful three-pointer by the Tigers, Verndale scored the next 10 points. Although the inexperienced PR-B didn’t give up, they had no answer for the inside game by Verndale.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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