The Lakeland boys basketball team traveled to Aquinas High School in La Crosse over the holiday weekend and walked away with two more victories to add to their impressive start of the season. 

The first win, a 59-55 victory, came Dec. 27 against St. Croix Central of the Middle Border conference.  

In that game the Thunderbirds established an early eight-point lead that was cut to three by halftime.  

With the game close, the Panthers came out firing in the second half and went on a 19-2 run to claim the lead, but the Thunderbirds were not phased. 

“They went 19-2 on us and went up seven,” Lakeland head coach Rich Fortier said. “Then we dug in and made some plays.”

Collin Quade hit a three to spark the comeback, then Jonathan Jurries, who led all scorers with 24 points, made a shot and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but got the ball back off the rebound and then nailed a three for a make-shift five point play.  

From there the T-Birds were able to battle for a few more hoops and hold on to win the game, but to do so they had to overcome a night of very loose ball handling.

“A good win,” Fortier said. “That was a really good team. They were an athletic, guard-oriented, suffocating defense. We had 22 turnovers, we only forced nine, but again we shot 50 percent from the field and we played good defense.”

Lakeland kept that momentum going in the second game of the tournament Dec. 28 against the host, Aquinas Blugolds.  

In that game Mason Wolfe came out hot after failing to score against St. Croix Central. Wolfe hit a series of field goals and a couple of free throws to contribute to an early 16-point lead established by Lakeland, but hot shooting by Aquinas’ Jacob Salvodelli took that lead away and forced the Thunderbirds to reestablish themselves at halftime.

They did so, and went up 14 in the second half and then ran away with a 22-point victory, 68-46.

Jurries again led all scorers in that game with 20 on the night. Collin Quade and Michael Ouimette also had nice games, scoring 12 apiece.

Jurries, Quade, and Alex Fortier each had a pair of threes in the game.

“There was no doubt at the end,” Fortier said. “Our defense was very good and we shot the ball well.”

The victories improve the Thunderbirds to 7-2 overall and they currently stand at 3-0 atop the Great Northern Conference. 

Lakeland returns to action on Friday night in Medford for a 7:15 p.m. tip.

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