The Lakeland boys basketball team battled tough all weekend against some good teams and they came away even, splitting a pair of Great Northern Conference match-ups over the weekend.  

After going to toe-to-toe all night with Medford on Feb. 8, the Thunderbirds eventually fell to the Raiders and their grueling press, losing a close one 52-47, but they bounced back on Saturday, Feb. 9, after trading blows with Northland Pines for almost three quarters of the game before running away with a 74-56 victory.

On Friday against Medford, though, nothing was easy according to Lakeland head coach Rich Fortier.

“They guarded us so hard.  The tenacity was unmatched for what we’ve seen this year,” he said of the Raiders.  “We knew it was coming. They did it to us at their place. They were all over us.”

Despite the swarming Medford defense and the turnovers it caused, Lakeland made enough shots to stay with the Raiders.  

This was despite the fact that Lakeland’s Jonathan Jurries, who has been red hot lately, was held to just five first half points and nine total for the game.

Two three-pointers by Mason Wolfe, another by Collin Quade, and another by Michael Ouimette. helped keep Lakeland in the game. They even had a one point 25-24 lead at halftime, though the half ended on a 4-0 Medford run.

The Raiders would extend that to an 11-2 run to start the second half and according to Fortier, that was the punch the T-Birds couldn’t come back from. 

“We didn’t take care of business to end the first half and we didn’t take care of business to start the second half and that was the run they used to propel themselves to victory,” he said.

Medford needed every bit of that lead as Lakeland fought and clawed their way back and even had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer inside of 30 seconds to play, but the shot missed and the Raiders sealed the game, 52-47, with free throws.

“It was very close,” Fortier said. “It looked like a five point game and that’s a five point game that’s right there for us to take. And for as many things as we did incorrectly, we gave ourselves a chance to win, which I love.”

Michael Ouimette led the T-Birds with 13 points. Collin Quade had 11.

For the Raiders, Peyton Kuhn had 16 and Justin Sullivan had 11

Only five players scored for Lakeland against Medford.

Things would be drastically different against Northland Pines on Saturday when nine different Thunderbirds scored en route to a 74-56 victory 

But, again, it was tough night’s work. 

For the entire the first half neither team separated themselves by more than four points, matching each other almost shot for shot.

At halftime the score was 33-32 Pines. 

But in the second half, Lakeland came out ready to roll and broke away using a combination of zone and trap defense that caused a slew of Pines turnovers.  

“We had some urgency about us. We had some fire. We had some tenacity,” Fortier said. “We did a much better job in the second half just playing with our hair on fire. Playing hard. Every time we threw a press or our trapping stuff at them we created problems for them.”

The elevated defensive intensity allowed the Thunderbirds to take a 47-39 lead midway through the second with the help of a series of fast break lay-ups and a couple three-pointers from Alex Fortier and Michael Ouimette, and Lakeland would continue to add to that lead.

“We just put the wood to them for awhile there and turned what was an even game into a 12 point game but we used that lead from there,” Fortier said.

The Thunderbirds would eventually take the game by 18 points thanks to a very balanced scoring attack.   

Of the nine different T-Birds who scored in the game, five of them had nine or more points. Jurries had 19 points, Ouimette had 15, Fortier had 11, and both Mason Wolfe and Collin Quade had nine.

Defensively, in addition to the multiple turnovers they caused, the Thunderbird’s defense was able to keep Pine’s Ryan Peterson, a major scoring threat, to just 13 points.

“Mason (Wolfe) and David (Wolfe) I thought just did a great job on Ryan Peterson,” Fortier said. “They just said, ‘you’re going to be uncomfortable here.’”

Max Lurvey led Northland Pines and all scorers with 26 points.

“It was a good bounce back game after a tough way to end yesterday,” Fortier said.

Lakeland’s overall record is now 10-8 and they are currently 6-4 in the Great Northern Conference.

The Thunderbirds next play at Antigo tonight at 7:15 p.m.

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