PINE RIVER -- A crescendo of tension that had been intensifying for many years hit a boiling point Tuesday in front of a packed gymnasium.
In a Park Region Conference girls' basketball game the Pine River-Backus Tigers battled their ghosts and got the monkey off their backs as they beat the Pequot Lakes Patriots 52-44, snapping a 19-game losing streak to their archrival.
"This is big-time," said Tigers coach Tom Lupella. "We've had good games with them but we've never been able to play four quarters. We've outscored them in a half three times but we've never played four quarters with them."
PR-B did play four quarters Tuesday, allowing Pequot to crawl closer in the second quarter when they outscored PR-B 12-11.
With a 25-22 halftime lead thanks to 17 first-half points by Sarah Laposky the Tigers looked confident entering the second half. Right away they took it to the heart of the Patriots and did some early damage.
Brittany Nelson drove into the paint, made her shot and was fouled by Pequot's Julie Redebaugh. That was Redebaugh's fourth foul and it caused Pequot coach Bill Larson to question the referee.
After a technical foul was called on Larson, Nelson hit her free throw for a three-point play. Laposky then hit one of the technical foul shots and Nelson scored again for a quick six-point burst.
"If you look at it I had my No. 1 scorer, No. 1 player, top 100 in the state, play two minutes up until the beginning of the fourth quarter," Larson said of Redebaugh's foul trouble. "It happens. You have to adjust to it. Unfortunately in a game like this you can't because we have so many young kids."
With Redebaugh on the bench the Tigers were able to execute their game plan of stretching out the Patriots' offense. With different matchups than the last time the teams played, Pequot wasn't able to dominate the low post.
"We can't play with them inside with their big girls so we really put more pressure on them," said Lupella. "We did a little more trapping too. I think that tripped them up a little bit."
PR-B went into the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead and a mindset to play all four quarters. It almost didn't happen.
Pequot's Flecia Foster, who had been battling shooting problems, finally warmed up. She knocked in two free throws and scored the next basket to bring the score to 40-38.
With 3:20 left and the crowd beginning to sense the end of years of frustration, the Tigers did what they planned to do -- finish four quarters.
The Tigers' Brooke Rollins scored to bring the lead back to four. She then dropped in two free throws. Besides a basket by Pequot's Megan Arns, Laposky finished off the scoring by hitting six consecutive free throws to end the game.
"We knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on Sarah (Laposky)," said Lupella. "We told Sarah the key thing she had to do is keep her head up and be watching. If they double-team her she had to be looking for other people."
Brooke Rollins scored 12 points for PR-B and Nelson contributed eight. For Pequot, Arns scored 18 followed by Joan Ebnet's 10.
Poor foul shooting was a key as the Patriots shot just 43 percent (10-23). Larson chalked it up to a lack of experience.
"They have juniors and seniors and we have every grade possible out here," said Larson. "If you do the math it showed they should win. They had the leadership. They had the team continuity, having playing together for so long."
Larson mentioned that the loss isn't all bad considering that it should make his team stronger come section tournament time, a tournament that could feature another Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes thriller.
For now the Tigers will just savor the sweet taste of victory, especially their seniors who had been tormented by Pequot for many years.
"This is the first in my varsity career and it's the best feeling," said senior Whitney Rollins. "I didn't have a really good shooting night but I felt awesome about my defense and I think our team really came together and played well."
Pequot Lakes 10 12 8 14 -- 44
Pine River-Backus 14 11 13 14 -- 52
PEQUOT LAKES (44)
Joan Ebnet 10, Julie Redebaugh 3, Megan Arns 18, Flecia Foster 6, Ashley Meschke 4, Teresa Parker 3. Team totals: FG 16-47 (34 percent), FT 10-23 (43 percent). Conference -- 3-1. Overall -- 11-3. Next game: vs. Sebeka 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
PINE RIVER-BACKUS (52)
Brooke Rollins 12, Brittany Nelson 8, Sarah Laposky 28, Meg Tabaka 4. Team totals: FG 17-41 (41 percent), FT 13-21 (62 percent). Conference -- 4-0. Overall -- 14-4. Next game: at Pillager 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
3-point baskets -- PL 2 (Ebnet, Arns), PRB 4 (B. Rollins 2, Laposky 2). Total fouls -- PL 21, PRB 20. Fouled out -- PRB Tabaka.
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