PHOTOS?BY Jacob friede/lakeland times

Abby Parris shoots a sweet looking jumper against Newman Catholic on Friday. Parris went scoreless in the first half but lit up the Cardinals for 24 in the second in a 60-53 Lakeland loss.
PHOTOS?BY Jacob friede/lakeland times

Abby Parris shoots a sweet looking jumper against Newman Catholic on Friday. Parris went scoreless in the first half but lit up the Cardinals for 24 in the second in a 60-53 Lakeland loss.
The Lakeland girls’ basketball team found out more about themselves this past weekend at the Bill Kislow Thanksgiving Classic tournament in Antigo, where they split a pair of games, losing to Newman Catholic 63-50 on Friday and beating Marathon 78-38 on Saturday.

The girls got a glimpse of what their opponents see when they face Lakeland.

In their first game of the tournament they saw a Newman Catholic team coming off a state qualifying season looking every bit like a team that makes it to Madison, much like Lakeland.

They pressed relentlessly, they pushed the ball up the court and were either on fire from downtown or dangerous driving the lane.

The Thunderbirds were a bit shocked going up against a team with speed and tenacity like their own.

“I really talked about who we were playing and what they could do and I think I might have put my girls in a little intimidation mode,” Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette said. “They’ve (Newman) had a very successful couple years here. We just seemed very intimidated. We were missing shots, which didn’t help, we weren’t running our fast break, we were turning the ball over. Every loose ball we tipped bounced towards Newman.”

As if all that were not enough, Abby Parris, the T-Birds top scorer so far this year, went without a bucket in the first half.  

To add injury to insult, Lakeland lost its top post player when freshman Joeli Koehler went down with a knee injury. 

Add to that 16 first half points by Newman junior Julie Seidel, including three from beyond the arc, and you have all the makings of a half worth forgetting.

Fortunately for the T-Birds, they remembered what was important at half time: who they were.

Coach Ouimette reminded them that a bad half should not be forgotten, but can in fact be valuable.

“I told the girls at half time you can be all down in the dumps about it or we can come back and try and chip away at this and use it as a game that we learned a few things from,” she said.

The T-Birds did just that. Parris came out on fire in the second half and scored 24 points, assisted by exquisite full court defensive pressure by senior Melissa Bruckner, which enabled Parris to get open looks and cut the lead.

The press was so effective Newman could not establish any rhythm in the second half and they turned the ball over constantly while relinquishing half of a 20 point lead with a minute left in the game. But the Cardinals hung on and defeated the T-Birds 63-50.



Marathon

The second game of the Kislow Classic for the Thunderbirds was not as lopsided, at first. The opening half was back and forth the whole time between Marathon and Lakeland, with the Red Raiders getting their points from down low, or the foul line, while the T-Birds pushed the ball up the court for transition buckets or stole the ball on the full court press and took it back the other way.  

The main culprit in that respect was Bruckner, who went well over her average of five steals a contest and she made a mess of Marathon’s passing game.

When Lakeland did set up offense they found openings in the lane and drove them. Bruckner was brilliant on the drive as well, scoring 16 in the first half, mostly in the paint and she inspired fellow guard Emma Salquist to also try her hand among the trees.  

The senior did and was aggressive all game, taking a lot of hits down low on her way to the hoop where she was dropping them in or getting to the line on her way to a double digit scoring night.  

Amaya White also had a nice game coming off the bench as she found her stroke and hit a couple threes to help the T-Birds as they built up a lead that went from nine at halftime to 30 in a flash.  

A flash like Bruckner in front of a pass, which was the weapon of choice for the Thunderbirds as they pulled away.

Coach Ouimette said Bruckner was not only valuable for her results, but the results she inspired over the weekend.

“Melissa has a contagious attitude,” Ouimette said. “So she gets this group going and even when we were down she kept them up. Great leadership.”

Bruckner and the rest of the T-Birds (2-1) travel to DC Everest Thursday night for a 7:15 p.m. tip off.

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