HIBBING -- The Pine River-Backus Tigers boys' basketball team was in unknown territory Tuesday.
For the first time in school history a team made it to the state basketball tournament. While growing up, this group of Tigers fantasized about making it to state. They did and showed they belonged as they gave the Glencoe-Silver Lake Panthers all they could handle.
It was a game they could have won and maybe should have. Regardless of the outcome their dreams of making it to state were fulfilled.
"I'm extremely proud of them," said Tigers coach Bob Nelson. "They've gone further than any other Pine River-Backus team. I'm real proud of them. They had a great season."
Pine River-Backus Tigers senior guard Cory Anderson used his shirt to wipe a tear after the Tigers' loss.
With a 25-5 record the Tigers were one of the dominant teams in Minnesota. Yet, with their great record and strength of schedule they were never ranked in the top 10. PR-B played Staples-Motley and Becker, both of whom made it to state, Crosby-Ironton twice and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, which both made it to their respective section finals.
"It's awesome," said Tigers forward Micah Johnson about making it to state. "It's a dream come true. It doesn't feel good right now but it's just amazing. We'll remember this for the rest of our lives."
Unlike the Tigers, the Panthers did have tournament experience, just not on the hardwood.
G-SL won the Class 3A football state championship and made it to the state cross country meet. That postseason success might be what put the Panthers over the top.
Pine River-Backus Tigers senior guard Micah Johnson drove into Matt Johnson of the Glencoe-Silver Lake Panthers as he headed up court.
"I think these guys know how to win and that's the bottom line," said Panthers coach Don Tangen. "Last year we lost some really close games and we told our kids that good teams find ways to win. I think that's what we're doing this year."
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