DULUTH -- It wasn't the Crosby-Ironton Rangers but the result was the same.
For the fourth straight year the top-seeded Pine River-Backus Tigers boys' basketball team was denied a trip to state. On Friday the Tigers lost to the International Falls Broncos 44-28 In the Section 7AA final at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
In the crowd one Broncos fan wore a shirt that read, "Offense wins games but defense wins championships." International Falls won the section championship with smothering defense, holding Pine River to its lowest scoring output of the season.
The Tigers shot just 9-57 (16 percent) from the field. They scored just three points in the second quarter and four points in the third to fall behind 29-16 after three.
"They really played good defense," Tigers head coach Bob Nelson said. "It was a more physical game than we are used to. It seemed like they (referees) didn't start calling fouls until the last three minutes.
"I'm not taking anything away from their victory. They really came out hard. We didn't shoot the ball well. It was a combination of stuff."
PR-B was down by only 12-9 after one quarter as senior Joe Bueckers scored six of his team-high 14 to keep the Tigers close.
In the second quarter a total of four shots were made with Micah Johnson's three-pointer the only one for the Tigers.
After the break PR-B came out on fire, getting the first four points to pull within three, but then the Tigers were shut out for the rest of the third quarter. The Broncos went on a 10-point run to build a 13-point lead going into the final frame.
"To me on the shots I was thinking the next one would go in or the next one will go in," said Nelson. "It just kept going and we weren't hitting anything. They really rebounded well. They only gave us one shot.
"When you coach high school one night it could be like last Tuesday where everything goes right and then the next night it can be a night like this.
"The kids played hard the whole time. I've been telling them, I know we've been second the last four years but there's 14 other teams in this section that haven't even been this far."
Down 29-16 the Tigers were forced to foul, putting the Broncos on the line 14 times. They made nine to maintain the lead as PR-B could only manage 4-21 shooting, led by six more Bueckers points.
"Clay Nelson and Derek Dowty did an outstanding job inside rebounding," said Broncos head coach Matt Urbanek. "Rebounding was a key factor. I think rebounding and defense won the game."
The Broncos' Derek Dowty had a game-high 16 points, but it was his work on the boards that was the difference. Along with their defense the Broncos were able to control the tempo, turning the game into a half-court contest rather than the up-tempo, run-and-gun style the Tigers prefer.
"We knew we couldn't get into a full-court game with Pine River," Urbanek said. "They are an outstanding full-court team. They really do a nice job of pushing the ball and getting nice shots. They are a very explosive team.
"We truly tried to slow the game down and play a half-court game. We didn't want to push the ball too much. We had two guards getting back against the fast break on every position. We thought our defense would win in a half-court game."
The Broncos now face Section 8AA champion Staples-Motley at the Concordia College Fieldhouse 8 p.m. Tuesday.
International Falls 12 7 10 15 -- 44
Pine River-Backus 9 3 4 12 -- 28
INTERNATIONAL FALLS (44)
Geoff Dowty 3, Derek Dowty 16, Clay Nelson 11, Luke Zika 8, Eric Helleloid 1, Brian Trask 5. Team totals: FG 15-37 (41 percent). FT: 13-19 (68 percent). Record . Next game: vs. Staples-Motley at Concordia College in Moorhead at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
PINE RIVER BACKUS (28)
Joe Bueckers 14, Adam Nelson 3, Micah Johnson 6, Justin Kelley 4, Brandon Schwegel 1. Team totals: FG 9-57 (16 percent). FT: 6-12 (50 percent). Final record -4.
3-point baskets: PRB-4 (Bueckers 2, Johnson 2); IF- 1(Trask). Total fouls: PR-B 16, IF 13. Fouled out: PR-B Johnson, IF Zika.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.