After a tough weekend in the Great Northern Conference in which they lost close, hard-fought battles against Mosinee and Antigo, nothing could’ve been better for the Lakeland boys basketball team then a trip down south to Amherst.

The Thunderbirds beat the Falcons, of the Central Wisconsin East Conference, 73-62 Monday night and restored some confidence as the postseason nears.

“It was one of those get right games that we needed to have and I think it couldn’t have been positioned any better for us,” Lakeland head coach Rich Fortier said. “After playing games the last couple weekends and not faring as well as we wanted to, for us to get a feel right game, it was good timing for us.”

Lakeland commanded the first half with aggressive defense and took advantage of Amherst’s mistakes with the ball.

“We pressed them,” Fortier said. “We played some of our 1-3-1, some our 2-3, some of our man. We definitely put pressure on them so we caused turnovers. We got easy looks. We did a nice job. We had scoring from multiple places”. 

Five or more T-Birds had over eight points, led by Jonathan Jurries’ 18 and Michael Ouimette’s 14. And four different Lakeland players hit a three-pointer.

This balanced attack kept Amherst chasing the ball around all night as Lakeland passed the rock around.

“We want everybody to get a bucket or two and feel good about what’s going on, and we did,” Fortier said. “It just feels good when we’re sharing the ball. Extra Pass. Extra Pass.”  

Fortier had trust in his entire roster to produce. Midway through the second half, Fortier gave his entire starting a line-up a break and subbed five for five, with Colton Ellis, Cody Wolfe, David Wolfe, Jacob Borak, and Alex Fortier on the floor. 

Lakeland didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they extended their lead to 18 at one point.

While they were never in jeopardy, Lakeland was never able to be fully comfortable with their lead and that’s because Amherst had Cyle Zblewski shooting over the top of the T-Birds’ zone.  

Zblewski went for 30 on Monday night, including six 3 pointers to lead the Falcons.

“Made a ton of tough shots,” Fortier said of Zblewski. “Really kept them in the game and that’s what kept the score close. He made some shots. He made plays.”

Carson Sneller had a good night for Amherst as well, scoring 20, but after him not another Falcon scored over four points. 

In the end Lakeland had too much fire power from too many directions, taking the game 73-62.

Lakeland improved to 11-10 overall and the Thunderbirds finished 6-6 in the Great Northern Conference.  

They had one more regular season game Thursday night at home against D.C. Everest past deadline. Coverage will be in Tuesday’s paper.

Lakeland plays at Medford in the regional round of the WIAA state tournament at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.