It's usually one of the better games in the lakes area when the Pine River-Backus Tigers and Staples-Motley Cardinals square off in boys' basketball.
In the past, the game has usually meant bragging rights as the best team in the area. This year it's for the Mid-State Conference standings when the teams face off 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Pine River.
Both programs are a little down from their previous dominance. The Tigers (0-2) opened the season with an 87-40 loss to Class 3A's fifth-ranked Grand Rapids followed by a 58-44 loss to Bemidji.
"The first game we really didn't play very well and we had a lot of turnovers," said Tigers head coach Bob Nelson. "The second game we played a lot better but Bemidji is a tough team.
"We got rid of our first-game jitters. With conference games against Detroit Lakes and Staples, hopefully we will be ready to go."
In two games senior center Doug Hamilton is averaging 13.5 points per game. Logan Sasse has averaged 7.5, Gary Anderson 6.0 and Ryan Laposky 5.5 ppg. Kyle Everton rounds out the Tigers' starting rotation.
"We like to run when we have a chance, but we're going to have to be a little more patient on offense than we have in the past," said Nelson.
The Cardinals opened with a 67-58 loss to Park Rapids. Nick Doll scored 20 points followed by Aaron Kelly and Nathan Sather who both added 12. Senior post Josh Smith contributed nine.
The Cardinals own a 17-3 advantage over the Tigers in the history of the matchup. Last year the Cardinals won 57-37 at Pine River. The last time the Tigers knocked off S-M was during the 1992-93 season when they won 53-50.
"We always know that when we play Staples they're going to play hard all the time and play really good defense," said Nelson. "We need to improve on a lot of stuff. The things we're really stressing is not making turnovers, boxing out and concentrating on defense.
"We need to work on a lot of things, but those are what we're trying to stress."
The Tigers have a difficult week starting with Detroit Lakes tonight and finishing with Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Saturday. The Cardinals travel to Fergus Falls on Saturday.
The Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew have one of their most competitive weeks. On Monday, they battled Class 2A's eighth-ranked Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday the Road Crew squares off with former Park Region Conference nemesis Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale. The Raiders are ranked 11th in 1A and feature four ranked wrestlers.
PL/PR-B senior Shane Walton is the only ranked wrestler on a young Road Crew squad. Walton, 119 pounds, is ranked seventh in 2A after finishing sixth at 103 pounds in last year's state tournament.
Heavyweight Phil Shequen is coming off an individual championship at the Wadena-Deer Creek Invitational and also defeated Mike Jenson of Detroit Lakes Dec. 3. Seth Baker also captured a championship at W-DC and pinned Cory chlauderaft of DL in 56 seconds.
B-H-V is coming off a second-place finish at the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Invitational.
The Raiders feature top-ranked 215-pound Casey Finck. The starting fullback for the state champion Verndale Pirates hasn't wrestled yet. Cullen Captain and Jared Oyster are ranked third at 140 and 130 pounds, respectively, and Trevor Balbach is ranked ninth at 125.
Captain and Oyster are fresh off championships at the LP-GE tournament.
B-H/V finishes the week at the Eagle Valley tournament Saturday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.