The Lakeland girls basketball team faced a much taller opponent when they traveled to Antigo on Friday, Feb. 8.

Nonetheless, they used their quickness and aggressiveness to defeat the Red Robbins 59-43 in a Great Northern Conference showdown.

“Antigo is a lot taller than us,” Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette said. “I tried to focus my team on getting steals and rebounds, and making Antigo play faster than they wanted to.”  

The plan worked and the Thunderbirds were able to control the first half thanks to their patent full court defensive pressure.  

“Our press was successful for the most,” Ouimette said. “We managed to cause a fair share of turnovers and get some really nice steals.”

In particular, Lakeland’s Emma Salquist caused all kinds of problems for Antigo guards.

“Emma had a nice game defensively,” Ouimette said. “I liked her pressure on the wings. She caused a lot of turnovers just with some man to man pressure on the wings.”

By keeping Antigo ball handlers rattled and the pace of the game fast, the Thunderbirds established control of the game in the first half and jumped out to a 31-21 lead at the break.

Melissa Bruckner’s 12 first half points also helped out.

“Melissa Bruckner did a great job of getting to the rim,” Ouimette said. “She had a couple bigger defenders guarding her but she was able to split them pretty consistently.”

Bruckner would add another 12 points in the second half and finish with 24.

Also in the second half, Abby Parris came alive and scored 11 after a six point first half.

“Abby was also able to get to the rim with a quick little euro step move and finished with 17,” Ouimette said. 

With the one-two punch of Bruckner and Parris working, the Thunderbirds outscored the Red Robbins 28-22 in the second half.

But beyond the points and forced turnovers, Ouimette said an improved rebounding effort was vital in securing the 59-43 win.

“We have been struggling with our rebounding efforts this season, so I really pushed that effort tonight,” she said. “I even decided to run an offense that would keep my bigs a little closer to the basket to help us get some offensive boards.”

Playing close to the rim also helped out because three pointers, usually a steady part of Lakeland’s arsenal, were not coming fast and furious. The Thunderbird’s only had three makes from behind the arch.

“We had minimal practice time this week because of the weather, so I thought we might be a little rusty with our outside shooting,” Ouimette said.

All and all though Lakeland hit enough inside shots and transition layups to make up for the lack of deep shooting and get the win.

Lakeland’s Bruckner led all scorers with 24. Abby Parris had 17 for the game, and Joeli Koehler and Camille Quade, who each had a three pointer, chipped in five a piece for the Thunderbirds.

Antigo was led by Lily Nagel’s 15 points. Alonne Weix pitched in nine for the Red Robbins.

With the win Lakeland improves to 12-6 overall and 8-2 in the GNC. They are in second place behind undefeated Rhinelander who is 9-0.

The Thunderbirds next played Marshfield on Monday past deadline. Coverage will be in Friday’s paper. 

Lakeland takes on Medford at home tonight at 7:45 p.m.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@ or