Jacob friede/lakeland times

Senior guard Emma Salquist jumps to steal a pass during Saturday’s game against Hayward. Salquist and the rest of the T-Birds would force over 20 Hurricane turnovers.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Senior guard Emma Salquist jumps to steal a pass during Saturday’s game against Hayward. Salquist and the rest of the T-Birds would force over 20 Hurricane turnovers.
During tough times, teams look to their toughest player to lead them and that’s exactly what the Lakeland girls’ basketball team did Thursday night at DC Everest. 

But even Great Northern Conference player of the year Melissa Bruckner cannot win a game by herself without anyone helping her, and the Thunderbirds fell at Everest 61-45.

“There was a lid on the hoop for everyone but Melissa Bruckner,” Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette said. “We got her the ball because she was the only one that could score.”

Bruckner did not let her teammates down, keeping them afloat with 17 points on the game.  

The only problem was DC Everest took notice of Bruckner’s one-woman show and sought out to put an end to it in the second half. 

“DC focused their defense entirely on Bruckner in the second half and when no one else can hit a shot, we are going to suffer offensively,” Ouimette said. “Abby Parris started to hit a few shots at the end, but it was jut too little too late.

Parris did score 18 on the game, but most of those points took place after the game was locked up.

Thankfully for the T-Birds, they had a game Saturday to right the ship and put Everest behind them, with a 68-61 victory over Hayward, and to do that, they did what they do best: they pressed. 

The T-Birds made every move difficult for the visiting Hurricanes, who faced a pretty strong storm of Lakeland pressure all night.

The Thunderbirds were able to cause over 20 turnovers, and the second they stole the ball there were at least two girls running to the hoop in masterfully executed transition, orchestrated the majority of time by Bruckner.

“I think we look to attack better after a forced turnover so we like to press,” Ouimette said. “Bruckner is very intimidating on the top of the press. She makes the (opposing) offense speed up and turn the ball over.”

There was never a time in the game where the T-Birds were seriously threatened, though Hayward never completely went away, thanks to some nice performances from senior Emily Neff and junior Emily Morgan. They had 25 and 21 points respectively, but no one else was close to double figures.

The Thunderbirds found out where that gets you against Everest, so on Saturday they spread the ball around and the points.  

Senior guard Emma Salquist chipped in seven points and was a force in the middle of the press. Parris went off for 20, spread throughout the game, which was more typical of her and was also lethal in transition. Camille Quade, filling in down low for the injured Joeli Koehler, had five points including a three, and off the bench Amaya White had 14 points, including six from the free throw line.  

“I thought Camille Quade and Amaya White also did a nice job,” Ouimette said. “Camille got some great steals and rebounds and Amaya connected on some nice shots and drives as well.”

Now back on the winning track, the T-Birds will face Rhinelander at home at 6 p.m. on Friday night.

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