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Tigers advance in the playoffs

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Sophomore Hank Raph scored a personal-best 19 points, and added a career-high 11 free throws, all in the final 3:30, to lead the eighth-seeded Pine River-Backus boys’ basketball team past the No. 9 Northland-Remer Eagles 79-71 in the first round of the North Subsection 5A playoffs on Monday, Feb. 24.

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The Tigers, 6-20 overall, advance to the subsection quarterfinals at No. 1 Browerville at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.

On Monday, it was Raph’s accurate shooting at the free-throw line in the closing minutes that turned a close game into an eight-point victory as the Tigers scored 18 of the final 23 points.

“Hank is one of our kids who attacks the basket, but we don’t get him to the line enough,” PR-B coach Shaun Howard said. “But we know he can shoot. He’s on top of our free-throw later in practice. He has two more days of practice to win the trophy.”

Raph first made a pair of free throws to cut the Eagles’ lead to 66-63 with 3:30 left. The Tigers then made it 66-65 on a basket by Konrad Bueckers.

Raph made another free throw to tie it 66-66 with 2:20 left. That’s when a rare technical foul was called on Northland-Remer for having six players on the court. Raph went back to the line where he made two of three shots.

“That was one of the first times that I’ve seen it enforced,” Howard said of the technical foul. “It came right after we rallied to tie it. From that point, we ran with it.”

Raph then added two additional free throws 20 seconds later to give the hosts a 70-66 lead. Two more free throws by Raph made it 74-68 with just over a minute remaining. N-R reduced the lead to 75-71 but the final two free throw by Raph extended PR-B’s advantage to an insurmountable six points with 16.4 seconds left.

“Usually I’m in the game to make passes,” Raph said. “I do like the pressure (of making free throws). And it feels good when you come through.”

Zach Semmler clinched the win with a pair of free throws in the final seconds. PR-B made 18 of 22 free throws in the second half.

“The game shouldn’t have been so close,” Howard said. “(N-R) has just five wins, and we have six, but we play a tougher schedule with more Class AA teams. We just had some young nerves that were exposed early in the game.”

Zach Struss added 15 points for the Tigers, while teammate Shane Sepin added 13. The Eagles were led by Gary Gross and Jordan Perkins with 17 points each.

“We’ve won quite a few (play-in playoff) games over the years,” Howard said, “but we’ve struggled in the (subsection) quarterfinals. I don’t think we’ve won a quarterfinal game since 2001.”

Northland 33 38 — 71

PR-Backus 39 40 — 79

NORTHLAND REMER

Austin Likens 3, Easton Wake 11, Zak Nornberg 12, Gary Gross 17, Justin Wicks 8, Jordan Perkins 17, Jarod Stefan 3. FT 15-22 (68 percent). FG 24-66 (xx percent)

PINE RIVER-BACKUS

Zach Semmler 4, Hank Raph 19, TJ Lukanen 6, Cole Larson 2, Konrad Bueckers 10, Travon Pederson 1, Tony Pederson 2, Henry Krecklau 7, Shane Sepin 13, Zach Struss 15. FG 26-56 (46 percent), FT 25-34 (74 percent). 3-point 2-12 (16 percent).

Tigers 73, Laporte 52

Zach Struss led all scorers with 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Pine River-Backus past the visiting Wildcats in a Northland Conference game on Thursday, Feb. 20.

PR-B finished 3-11 overall in conference games this season.

Laporte 25 27 — 52

PR-Backus 31 42 — 73

LAPORTE

Donovin Kelley 5, Kyle Kerby 17, Austin Moss 13, Riley Kline 1, Cody Hoffman 4, Jared Miller 10, Jackson Booth 2. FT 10-21 (48 percent).

PINE RIVER-BACKUS

Zach Semmler 7, Hank Raph 2, TJ Lukanen 4, Cole Larson 1, Konrad Bueckers 8, Travon Pederson 7, Jesse Potz 2, Tony Pederson 7, Henry Krecklau 4, Shane Sepin 6, Saul Sasse 4, Sage Beckler 1, Zach Struss 20. FG 28-65 (43 percent), FT 13-28 (46 percent). 3-point 3-8 (38 percent).

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