The Lakeland girls basketball team let one get away on Wednesday, Feb. 13.  

The Thunderbirds led by as many as 15 in the first half, but eventually allowed the visiting Medford Raiders to storm all the way back, force an overtime, and eventually take the game 69-65.

In the first half though, it seemed highly unlikely Medford would ever catch up with Lakeland. 

The Thunderbirds were reeking havoc on Medford ball handlers with their swarming defense and full court press and causing turnover after turnover.

At one point Lakeland stole the ball on five straight Medford possessions.

Lakeland was also playing at a blistering pace after their steals, running and gunning the ball up the court for one transition layup after the other.

Emma Salquist got the T-Birds started early with a couple aggressive fast break layups.

“I thought Emma had a great game,” Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette said. “She had lots of pressure all over the place, attacking, looking to get to the rim, following up and getting her rebounds. She was a big spurt of energy in that first half, just attacking, and that helped get us our lead.”   

Salquist’s energy was contagious as both Melissa Bruckner and Abby Parris began driving the lane as well and finding equally positive results.  

Bruckner had 10 points in the first half, Parris had 11, and Salquist had six to help Lakeland establish a 27-12 lead with the 6:36 to play in the first half.

“We came out right,” Ouimette said. “Everything was working, our press was working, our offense was working, we were scoring, we were looking great.”  

Then Medford started getting comfortable with Lakeland’s press. The Raiders began getting the ball across half court and started shooting lights-out from the three-point line, which opened up their inside game as well.

In the final six and a half minutes of the first half Medford outscored Lakeland 17-6 and they were within four points of the Thunderbirds at halftime with the score 33-29.

In the second half things would continue to fall apart for Lakeland. They began missing shots and rebounds, and therefore were unable to turn around quick transition points. 

“The more rebounds we gave up it seemed like the less things started working for us,” Ouimette said. “When you have a lead you can’t give the lead up, you just have to keep attacking, and we were attacking, our shots just weren’t going in and theirs were. Things just turned around.”

With the momentum in their favor, and in addition to their hot three-point shooting, the Raiders also began running the ball up the floor on fast breaks themselves.  

Bit by bit, as Lakeland struggled from the field, Medford clawed their way back and eventually took a 42-41 lead with 11 minutes to play. 

The Raiders then went on an 8-0 run to fully take over control of the game.

“They spread it out and just took three point shots all night long,” Ouimette said of Medford run.  

But Lakeland was not going away.

Bruckner countered with a 7-0 run of her own to bring the T-Birds back and with 4:19 left to play Lakeland trailed 51-50.

For the next few minutes both teams would trade shots and with 28 seconds to play the game was tied at 57.

Lakeland’s Joeli Koehler was then fouled and she hit both free throws to give the Thunderbirds a 59-57 lead.

Medford, however, came right back down the floor and tied the game to force overtime.

In the extra frame, led by Sierra Hanson’s six points, Medford outscored Lakeland 10-6 to take the game.  

“I told the girls let this be a lesson,” Ouimette said. “I don’t know if it’s that we just got up so much right away and thought things would work out. This one bothers me.”

Bruckner led Lakeland and all scorers with 26, Parris had 17, and Salquist had 10.  

For the Raiders, Sierra Hanson led the way with 15. Marissa Fronk had 14 and Desirae Weismiller had 12.



Senior Night against Mosinee

On Feb. 15, the Lakeland girls celebrated senior night and the three elder Thunderbirds all helped makes sure Mosinee would not ruin the festivities, as they all made key contributions to a 81-56 win at home.

Salquist was a force all night defensively on the press and then offensively on the fast break, cutting and slashing her way to 14 points. 

Elaina Irmick kept Mosinee’s Megan Priest in check. Priest torched the T-Birds for 25 the last time the two teams played and Irmick’s constant pressure kept her to half that on Friday night.

Bruckner was unstoppable wherever she was on the floor, much as she has been the last four years. That nigh,t Bruckner scored 30 points and with that she surpassed 1,500 career points at Lakeland, where she has started and scored in every varsity game for the last four years, averaging over 17 points a game.

“I told her just post up. Get the ball and score. They can’t stop you,” Ouimette said. “She has a way of getting the ball and then she can just get to the rim. You have to have that kid that can just get to the rim and she’s that kid. She’s been like that from day one.”

Most of Bruckner’s damage was done on the fast break in the first half as she her teammates caused multiple turnovers for transition lay-ups.

Mosinee had to work the entire first half to get the ball across half court and when they did they were rushed.

But the Indians stuck around, mainly because Lakeland struggled in the first half with their transition control at times.

“In the first half we would steal the ball frequently, but then we would turn it over half the time,” Ouimette said. “We were having some turnover issues because we were trying to score so quickly, which I do like, but there’s got to be a fine balance.”

Lakeland took a 33-25 lead into half-time and Ouimette made sure her girls knew they were not in the clear yet.

“We had a long talk at half time because we had lost our last two games being up close to 20,” she said. “I said, ‘We’ve worked too hard to come out her and give this lead up.’”

And they wouldn’t. In fact, they would only add to it as they got their control in check and began a blistering second half attack of steals and fast breaks that didn’t seem to stop until the final buzzer.

In addition to Salquist and Bruckner, Parris was fantastic on the press and the fast break, getting her fair share of steals and lay-ups on the way to an 18 point night.

Mosinee just never matched Lakeland’s intensity all night, and the Indians were constantly bogged down by trap and when the dust settled the final score was 81-56 T-Birds.

Lakeland finishes the Great Northern Conference season 9-3 in second place. Overall, they are 13-8 heading into the first round of the WIAA state tournament at home against Waupaca tonight at 7 p.m.

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