Pine River's new girls basketball coach expects competitive season

Bucks open on the road this week

Amanda Hill

Amanda

Hill

John Raffel

LEROY -- Steffen Halvorsen takes over as the new Pine River girls basketball coach this season, replacing Paula Justin, and will test the Bucks on  Friday at Roscommon.

“We graduated our top two scorers, Avery Sumpter and Haley Wanstead, who committed to play at Alma. We are going to miss their leadership and tenacity.”

Madi Sparks, a senior forward, “is primed to have a breakout year. She’s committed and working hard in practice to leave a positive impact on the program,” Halvorsen said, adding senior forward Amanda Hill “is as  tough as they come. She’s our go-getter, does the right things and is not afraid to do the dirty work needed to win games.”

Taylor Steward, a senior guard, “has been putting in time to develop some shooting and ball skills. We’re looking forward to that paying off this season,” Halvorsen said. “(Senior guard) Allyson Haney is looking to take a step up and contribute as a senior this year after a tough season last year.”

Junior guard Emily Lockhart “is expected to play an improved role this year after rebounding from several injuries last year,” Halvorsen said.  (Junior forward) Miriam Johnson’s size, shot and smarts are going to be an important part of our team. Her decision making has improved.”

Halvorsen has three freshman guards.

“Emma Tice “has the drive that every coach wants,” Halvorsen said. “She’s going to create some havoc this year. She’s exciting to have on a team. Her natural leadership skills are going to help shape our team for years.

“Aubrey Lewis has the athleticism and size to be a major threat defensively this year. Lilly Felsk is developing court vision and confidence with each day that we have together. Her basketball savvy is going to pay off throughout the year.”

Halvorsen has unique expectations for this team.

“By losing our two of our top three contributors from last season, I expect some girls to step up and fill roles that are available,” Halvorsen said. “In the conference, I am hoping to be able to steal a couple of games by out working, out hustling, and hopefully overlooking us.

“Defense is key to our team. Our team defense may create some problems. Our team will need to work on developing a couple of contributors to replace the graduates. Developing and understanding our roles will be crucial to our success. We have great teammates, great people, but we need to be a great team in order to be successful.”

Halvorsen expects to see a strong Highland Conference.

“I see Lake City and McBain at the top tier of our conference again,” Halvorsen said. “I’m hoping we can surprise some teams and challenge some of the upper echelon schools in the area.”

Manistee 43, Pine River 38

LEROY – Steffen Halvorsen’s debut as Pine River coach was spoiled in this loss on Monday in the season opener.

Pine River trailed 18-13 after the first quarter but led, 29-25 at halftime and trailed 33-31 after the third period.

Freshman Emma Tice led the Bucks with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Madi Sparks and Amanda Hill had six points apiece.