PINE RIVER -- In a gymnasium packed with energy and excitement, one of the area's greatest sports rivalries took place as the Pine River-Backus Tigers squared off against the Pequot Lakes Patriots in boys' basketball for the last time this season.
In a closely contested Park Region Conference game, that could've gone either way, it was the Patriots' ability to maintain their led and hold off a PR-B second half run, taking the small-town grudge match by the score of 62-61.
"We needed to come back and win this game," Patriots coach Rad Royer said. "We've only had four wins since Christmas so this is a real tribute to the kids.
"Pine River gave us everything they had. They played with such determination. They made some big shots and kept chasing and kept after us. It was a fun game."
Leading the way for the Patriots were Cody Nelson and Luke Schramm with 15 points each. Teammate Matt Royer poured in 14 points in the Patriots' cause.
In the early going, the Tigers wrestled the led away from Pequot by the end of the first quarter at 14-13, but it would be the last time PR-B would have the lead.
Pequot started the second quarter with an 11-2 run to build its lead to eight. But the Tigers displayed their grit as Lee Swanson, who scored a game-high 17 points including four three's, scored five consecutive points to pull within three.
But the Patriots, who answered the Tigers all night, opened their biggest lead of the game at ten with a 9-2 run capped off by a Nelson three.
"Cody found himself in some great positions for shooting tonight," Rad Royer said. "He also did a good job of bringing the ball up the court against Pine River's press."
Down by eight at the start of the second half, PR-B chipped away at the Patriots' lead. Slowly that lead dwindled as the Tigers found themselves back in the game with a chance to win.
Leading by three, Nelson and Schramm scored consecutive buckets for the Patriots to open the lead to seven.
Undeterred, Swanson hit back-to-back three's for the Tigers, pulling them to within a point.
After a missed shot by the Patriots on their next possession, PR-B watched their chance to take the lead slip away as they turned the ball over on the ensuing possession.
The Patriots hit their free throws down the stretch and had a four point led as Swanson hit a harmless three at the buzzer to finish the game.
"I thought our kids really played well," Pine River head coach Bob Nelson said. "We got down, but we just kept plugging along. I kind of thought we'd get them at the end, but things just didn't work out. You have to take your hat off to them."
Win or lose, the capacity crowd was given another great chapter in this rivalry and it will be the seniors of both teams that will remember these games for a long time.
"It's unbelievable," Pequot senior Jeremy Wiczek said about the win. "We're 2-0 against Pine River this season and it's just the sweetest thing."
"Pine River's always been a nemesis in basketball," said Matt Royer. "This is what basketball is all about. The atmosphere, the crowd going wild and a close game, it'll be something that I'll definitely miss."
Pequot Lakes 13 22 11 16 -- 62
Pine River-Backus 14 13 14 20 -- 61
PEQUOT LAKES (62)
Joe Neznik 2, Matt Royer 14, Jeremy Wiczek 4, Cody Nelson 15, Luke Schramm 15, Justin Biebighauser 4, Shane Blowers 6, Chad Foster 2. Team totals: FG 26-60 (43 percent), FT 7-11 (63 percent). Conference -- 2-2. Overall -- 11-4. Next game: vs. Sebeka 6 p.m. Thurs. Feb. 7.
PINE RIVER-BACKUS (61)
Nick Keefe 15, Lee Swanson 17, Travis Bristow 2, Doug Hamilton 10, Logan Sasse 3, Ryan Laposky 10, Dustin Alexander 4. Team totals: FG 21-63 (33 percent), FT 11-14 (78 percent). Conference -- 2-1. Overall -- 7-10. Next game: vs. Wadena-Deer Creek Tues. Feb. 5.
3-point baskets -- PR-B 8 (Swanson 4), PL 3 (Nelson 2). Total fouls -- PR-B 14, PL 14.
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