CROSBY -- In a battle of Section 7AA boys' basketball teams Tuesday, the Pine River-Backus Tigers showed why they deserve top billing.
The Tigers traveled to the Woock Gymnasium and dunked the Crosby-Ironton Rangers 48-43, thanks to an imposing low-post presence and an arsenal of long-distance snipers to improve to 17-4.
"This is a big game for seedings on Saturday," said Tigers coach Bob Nelson. "We don't play all the teams in the section, like Chisholm, so when Chisholm plays Crosby and we play Crosby, teams look at that for the seedings."
Despite a one-point lead going into the second half, the Rangers lost their intensity. A lapse of defensive pressure helped the Tigers outscore C-I 17-7 to take a nine-point lead.
"Defensively the score was right where we wanted it to be," said Rangers coach Dave Galovich. "We thought if we could keep it under 50 points that we would be in the ballgame and we were until the third quarter.
"They just seemed to beat us to the punch (in the third quarter). They outscored us by 10 points. They came out and just beat us on numerous occasions."
Ross Kleiner scored seven of the Tigers' 17 points in the quarter and Nick Keefe and Micah Johnson each hit threes.
Unfortunately for C-I, which shot 28 three-pointers in the game, only seven went in. With their inability to connect from outside, the inside game for the Rangers suffered.
"Their were many times that we just settled too quickly for the three-point shot," said Galovich. "When you take the long-range shot, you're not going to get to the free-throw line. We didn't stay with the continuity of our offense. The first good look we saw from the perimeter we took."
C-I's three post players, Joel Anderson, Kyle Bartels and Ben Baratto, combined for only 13 points. They shot 3-17 on their two-point attempts, but with a collapsing defense and the presence of 6-5 Justin Kelley and Kleiner, scoring was nearly impossible.
"It's a thing where we're giving up size inside and some of those easy baskets aren't easy baskets when you're going against guys who have good athletic ability," said Galovich. "It looks easy from the stands but it's not. They certainly weren't missing them on purpose."
In the fourth quarter C-I battled back to within five on four straight free throws. The Rangers could have used more free ones as they only shot four all night.
With the score 39-34 the Tigers took over. Corey Anderson scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter. Justin Kelley, off a missed shot, soared through lane, snared the rebound and in mid-air dunked with authority.
After two straight threes from Gideon Avelsgard the Rangers were within three points at 46-43 with 35 seconds left. But the Rangers couldn't find the bottom of the net for the tie. After an unorthodox shot by Avelsgard missed, the Rangers were forced to foul. Two free throws by Micah Johnson brought it to the final score.
Kleiner led the Tigers with 13 points, followed by Kelley's 12. Keefe and Johnson each scored eight. C-I was led by Earl Villebrun and Gideon Avelsgard, who had eight apiece.
This an important section game and the Tigers needed to bounce back. After a 10-game win streak the Tigers were handed a 75-42 pounding by Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Saturday. PR-B hasn't lost two games in a row all season and wasn't about to start.
"After that game we came back to practice and watched the whole game film to learn from our mistakes," said Tigers point guard Nick Keefe. "We tried to come and shoot a little better than we did against Long Prairie. We just had to regroup as a team."
Pine River-Backus 10 12 17 9 -- 48
Crosby-Ironton 9 14 7 13 -- 43
PINE RIVER-BACKUS (48)
Nick Keefe 8, Corey Anderson 5, Micah Johnson 8, Ross Kleiner 13, Justin Kelley 12, Lee Swanson 2. Team totals: FG 16-40 (40 percent), FT 11-18 (61 percent). Conference -- 5-0. Overall -- 17-4. Next game: at Sebeka 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Tom Mount 5, Gideon Avelsgard 8, Chad Van Horn 7, Kyle Bartels 6, Joel Anderson 5, Ben Baratto 2, Steve Perpich 2, Earl Villebrun 8. Team totals: FG 16-53 (30 percent), FT 4-4 (100 percent). Conference -- 4-4. Overall -- 13-9. Next game: at Hermantown 7:30 p.m. Friday.
3-point baskets -- PRB 4 (Keefe 2, Johnson 2), CI 7 (Villebrun 2, Avelsgard 2, Mount 1, Anderson 1, Van Horn 1). Rebounds -- PRB 31, CI 23 (Avelsgard 7). Turnovers -- PRB 12, CI 9. Total fouls -- PRB 8, CI 19. Assists -- PRB 9, CI 8. Steals -- PRB 6, CI 6. Blocks -- PRB 3, CI 3.
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