Lakeland sophomore guard Amaya White had the night of her life Dec. 27 and hit seven three-pointers in the Thunderbird’s semi-final game of their holiday tournament against Unity High School.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ Raegan Sorensen had a career night also, as she went off for 39 points, helping defeat the T-Birds 78-74 

Nevertheless, it was an epic performance by White and one which will get her name on the fieldhouse wall, as she broke teammate Abby Parris’ previous record of six threes in a game.

“Amaya did not a nice job,” Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette said. “I told her look for your shot. Have confidence. Shoot the shot.”

White followed that plan perfectly, and her stellar shooting display also contributed to the Thunderbirds’ setting the record for most team threes in a game with 10.

Therefore, it was fitting the night began with hot shooting as senior Emma Salquist came out hot, scoring six of the T-Birds’ first eight points with a pair of three pointers to start the game. 

But Unity quickly began to take away the perimeter, though that was no problem for Lakeland, as they began to find Melissa Bruckner cutting through the lane and Joeli Koehler down on the block for easy hoops and midway through the first half Lakeland led 20-16. 

But Sorensen, who had 19 in the first, and the Eagles would stay right with the Thunderbirds and take a 36-30 lead into halftime.

“We couldn’t stop one player,’’ Ouimette said in reference to Sorensen.

Lakeland, though, began the second half the way they began the first and went on a 6-0 run to tie the game.  

But then Unity almost pulled away for good with a 15-0 run of their own before White began shooting the lights out, keeping the Thunderbird’s in the game. The Eagles put all their defensive pressure on Bruckner and Parris, and White made them pay.

Lakeland, though, could just not stop Sorensen. The Eagles time and again found her on the fast break for lay-ups or on quick cuts to the block for bunnies. The sophomore scored 20 in the second half.

But Lakeland continued to battle and after a pair of three pointers by White and Vivian Trapp, the Thunderbirds trailed by only two with seven and a half minutes to play.

The rest of the half would go back and forth, with White hitting from the outside for Lakeland and Sorenson almost unstoppable down low for Unity, but in the end the Eagles made key free throws when they counted and held on to a 78-74 victory.

On the night Unity shot 28 free throws and hit 21 of them, which nearly doubled the amount of points from the charity stripe that Lakeland scored and greatly contributed to the victory.

And, of course, it was Sorenson who did the most damage from the free throw line.

“She was good at initiating contact and drawing the foul,’” Ouimette said. “Some of those shots, there was no way she was going to make them but she drew the foul.”

Sorensen, who was 12 of 15 from the free throw line, led all scorers with 39 ponts for the Eagles. Sierra Swanson and Myah Nelson also had nice games for Unity, scoring 15 and 14 respectively.

As for Lakeland’s scoring leaders, White finished with 25, Bruckner chipped in 15, and Emma Salquist scored 10.



Portage

In a consolation game on Dec. 28, Lakeland would face another strong combination of players in Portage’s McKena Yelk and Mackenzie Roth. The two Warriors combined for 40 points and helped Portage hand Lakeland their second loss in as many nights, 65-53.

But in a battle in which both teams pressed and pushed the ball the entire game, it was Roth’s ability to handle the T-Birds’ traps, which enabled an early 12-2 Portage run.

“They were able to break our press and score on it. Number 22 (Roth) is a heck of a ball handler. She was able to get the ball to the open person in the press,” Ouimette said.

And when Roth got the ball across half court she found Yelk, who was red hot from the outside, scoring 17 of her 25 points in the first half.

But halfway through the first half Lakeland began to chip away with the help of Mel Bruckner, Abby Parris, and the bonus.  

Bruckner began to burn by Portage defenders on fast breaks from steals, and Parris got aggressive in the lane, drawing fouls and free throws, and by halftime the Thunderbirds, who were down 30-18 at one point, cut the Warrior lead to 35-31.

But in the second half Portage came out firing and went on a 14-0 run which included marvelous shooting from Yelk and Roth and again the Warriors were well in control.

The Thunderbirds did not score a bucket until 12:52 left to play.

However, when the chips were down Parris and Bruckner once again put on a full court attack that rattled the Warriors and through a steady series of steals, forced turnovers and fast break layups the Thunderbirds cut the lead to two, 53-51, with four minutes to play.

In that second half surge Parris and Bruckner combined for 22 comeback points, but it wasn’t enough as Portage would make a final run to the buzzer and win the game 65-53.

Despite the tough losses over the weekend, Ouimette found great benefit for her team in facing such good competition.

“I told them that was a good experience,” she said. “We got to work on things we normally don’t get to. In the past years we haven’t seen a lot of 1-2-2 zone defense. We haven’t seen a lot of certain presses. We haven’t seen people be able to do those cross court passes and do the things that these teams were doing on us  So it’s all things we can work on and get better at.”

The T-Birds return to conference play on Thursday Jan 3 at Medford for a 7:15 p.m tip.

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