A swarming, trapping Medford defense made life miserable for the Lakeland boys basketball team Jan. 4 and the visiting Thunderbirds fell to the Raiders 58-40 in a Great Northern Conference showdown.

From the get-go the Medford pressure had Lakeland ball handlers flustered, forcing five turn overs in a row in the games opening two minutes.  

The Raiders used that momentum to build an early 11-7 lead.

“(Medford) had a lot of energy tonight and we didn’t match it,” Lakeland head coach Rich Fortier said. “They get a little lead like that, we get on our heels, and they made plays.”

The play they made most was getting in front of Lakeland passes, and because of that the T-Birds were never able to establish a comfortable offensive rhythm. They were forced non-stop, and they rushed up shots when they could get them, rather than waiting for the right one to take.

When the Raiders got stops, they took advantage when they had to. 

When Lakeland had cut the lead to 15-11, Medford made an unanswered run of a made field goal, a three pointer, and a steal for another field goal to go up 22-11 just like that. 

“They never relented,” Fortier said. “They just kept coming at us from every angle at every guy we put on the floor.”

That included Lakeland’s top two scoring threats, Jonathan Jurries and Michael Ouimette. The T-Bird leaders were held well in check with Jurries scoring only six and Ouimette held scoreless in the first, and at half time Lakeland had only scored 11 points total and was down 22-11.  

“They wanted to make sure everything Jonny and Mike did was difficult, and they did a very good job of that,” Fortier said.

Medford lost none of its momentum to open the second half and took a handful of Lakeland missed shots the other way for easy lay-ups and quickly established a 27-13 lead.

Then the ball started dropping for Lakeland shooters and the Thunderbirds made a run midway through the second half and was able to cut the lead to five at 38-33.

But again, just as Lakeland started closing in, Medford responded.

The Raiders’ Peyton Kuhn went off in the second half, scoring 14 points, and Zach Haynes got hot from deep and hit a couple threes.

After a trio of three-point plays and a series of backside cuts for lay ups, the Raiders were up 52-36 with three minutes left to play.

That was not nearly enough time for Lakeland to come back as Medford continued to score and press, and when the final buzzer sounded the T-Birds lost 58-40.

“They earned the victory,” Fortier said of Medford. “Their pressure absolutely rattled us. We didn’t have a double digit scorer tonight. We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game and they had a lot to do with that.”

Lakeland falls to 7-3 on the season and is currently in second in the GNC at 3-1, behind undefeated Mosinee, where the T-Birds will travel to Thursday for a game against the Indians at 7:15 p.m.

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