The Pine River-Backus girls’ basketball team’s hopes of making a first state appearance were dashed by Upsala in a 47-41 loss in the Section 5A final on Friday, March 8, at Crosby-Ironton High School.
The Tigers finish 24-5 overall while the Cardinals improve to 26-4 and advance to the Class A state quarterfinals against Bethlehem Academy on Thursday, March 14, at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena.
The game featured two different halves as the Tigers were in control of the first half – building a large lead early and remained ahead 29-25 at intermission. The Cardinals took over in the second half and limited PR-B to just 12 points.
”We missed a lot of layups tonight, and turned the ball over too many times,” said PR-B coach Randy Schwegel, whose squad made just four of 25 field-goal attempts in the second half. “After a great start, we couldn’t get our 3-pointers or other shots to fall. We missed three or four wide-open layups in the second half, and had too many unforced turnovers.”
The Tigers were on fire early as they scored 11 straight points to assume a 13-2 lead. The rally was sparked by seven points from senior Tatum Sheley. PR-B eventually led 15-6 as Kendra Brasel sank a 3-point shot, and they extended the advantage to 21-6 with 7:08 left in the opening half.
“We really got off to a super start,” Schwegel said. “I just hoped the bubble wouldn’t burst, but it did as (Upsala) went on a 13-0 run.”
In less than a three-minute span, the Cardinals rallied behind a pair of 3-point baskets by Aimee Pelzer to cut the deficit to 21-19 with 4:10 left before intermission.
A 15-foot basket by Brasel ended Upsala’s run as each team scored six points in the remaining minutes of the half.
The Cardinals quickly tied the score with four points to start the second half as the Tigers lost their final lead of the game. Pelzer later made a 3-point shot to give Upsala a 34-31 lead. A free throw and layup by Sheley tied it, but Pelzer drained her fourth 3-pointer with 10:00 remaining. The Cardinals extended the lead to five points as Sara Herzog had a steal and layup.
Sheley’s final 3-point basket cut the deficit to 45-39, but that’s as close as PR-B would come as Upsala held on for the victory.
Sheley finished with a team-high 17 points and five assists while teammate Autumn Ackerman added 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Sheley, the all-time scoring leader in program history, is one of six seniors on the Tigers’ roster. Sheley finishes with more than 2,000 points, Ackerman had more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Other seniors on the PR-B roster include Brittany Kelley, Brasel, Nicole Arends and Brooke Richards.
“The six seniors are a really special bunch,” Schwegel said. “We won the (Northwoods) conference title with 13-0 records each time with this bunch. Although we didn’t make it to the state tournament, we had a super year.”
Pelzer finished with a team-high 14 points for Upsala, which had a 28-21 rebounding edge. The Cardinals committed 15 turnovers while forcing the Tigers to make 16.
Herzog finished with 10 points for the Cardinals.
PR-B advanced to the section final with a 60-52 win over top-seeded Isle in the East Subsection 8AA championshp game on Tueesday, March 5, in McGregor.
Upsala 25 22 — 47
Pine River-Backus 29 12 — 41
Brooke Westrich 6, Aimee Pelzer 14, Katie Ripplinger 2, Sara Herzog 5, Tracy Herzog 10, Alissa Zehrer 6, Katlin Welinski 2. FG 14-45 (42 percent), FT 4-7 (57 percent). 3-point 5-14 (36 percent).
Kendra Brasel 6, Tatum Sheley 17, Brittany Kelley 2, Megan Felthous 2, Autumn Ackerman 14. FG 17-49 (35 percent), FT 5-10 (50 percent). 3-point 2-14 (14 percent).