There will be plenty of intrigue at the Lakeland Union High School fieldhouse tonight when Rhinelander basketball comes to Minocqua to play both the varsity girls and boys in a Great Northern Conference doubleheader.  

Both Lakeland head coaches are riding notable streaks into their games against the Hodags, and both want drastically different results concerning them.

Head Lakeland girls’ coach Melissa Ouimette has won 29 conference games in a row, which includes back-to-back GNC seasons, but she is leery of the streak and choses to disregard it and put her concentration on her teams preparation for each game.

“I just want to have my girls as prepared as they can be and tackle one game at a time,” Ouimette said at the start of the season. “People can really get too attached to keeping that record going and I don’t want to do that.”

What she does want to do is beat the Hodags, but to do that her lady Thunderbirds are going to have to stop Kenedy Van Zile.

The Rhinelander junior point guard averaged over 20 points a game last and was the only other player besides Lakeland’s Melissa Bruckner to do so.  

The Hodags are going to look to Van Zile to do the bulk of the scoring but if the Thunderbirds shut her down, her supporting cast is going to have to take over.  

That includes Payton Van Zile, Brooke Mork, Rebecca Lawrence, and Marissa Martin.  

These are girls coach Ouimette has great respect for and she doesn’t believe Rhinelander is a one trick pony.

“Rhinelander has a very nice support staff around Kenedy Van Zile,” Ouimette said. “They can shoot, handle the ball, and get to the rim.” 

They can also run.

“Rhinelander has changed its style from a team that never press or ran the ball, to a team that has several different presses and runs the ball every chance it gets,” Ouimette said.

Lakeland should be ready for an up-tempo challenge because they play nothing but. 

Bruckner will definitely score, but almost as vital, she will cause all sorts of headaches for the Hodags with her defensive pressure, and when she takes the ball away it goes back the other way fast. 

The usual recipient of a Bruckner fast break pass is junior Abby Parris. She has been the major points scorer for the Thunderbirds this year, using a dangerously accurate outside shot as well as aggressive drive in the lane, so Rhinelander is going to have to respect them both, or one could end up torching them.

They will also deal with a more than capable supporting cast of Emma Salquist, Camille Quade, Amaya White, and Vivian Trapp.  

All these girls work the press masterfully in conjuncture with Bruckner, so Lakeland makes it dangerous wherever their opponents go on the floor, and Ouimette expects the same from the Hodags.

“I anticipate it being a very fast, up tempo game, with lots of full court pressure,” Ouimette said. “It will be a lot like playing against ourselves.”

The Thunderbirds will look to make it 30 GNC wins in a row at the LUHS fieldhouse at 6 p.m.



Boys’ basketball

The Lakeland boys, on the other hand, hope to end a streak for head coach Rich Fortier.  

Fortier has not beaten Rhinelander since he’s been at Lakeland. He is 0-12 against the team he formerly coached. The man now at the helm at Rhinelander, Derek Lemmens, even played for Fortier on Rhinelander’s 2001 state tournament team.

“I always like coaching against Derek (Lemmens),” Fortier said. “I’ve known Derek a long time, I’ve known him since he was little boy, so it’s always special to see a guy across the way like that, but there’s no extra incentive to win.” 

Lemmens and the Hodags are going to face a Thunderbird team coming in hot after wins against Wausau West and Hayward, and though their most experienced player is sharp-shooting Jonathan Jurries, who averaged over 15 a game last year, they have also found great success this year by sending the ball down low to junior Michael Ouimette.

“He’s athletic, he’s strong and he’s big and he’s long and he’s wide, so he can carve a little space for himself,” Fortier said about his forward.

Joining him down low is senior Ray Rentmeester who has been a workhorse for the T-Birds this year, getting steals, saves, and rebounds, and his physical inside game is custom made for post play.  

By sending the ball down low, Fortier also hopes to get foul shots, which is something Lakeland recently did against Hayward extremely well. The T-Birds shot 41 free throws last week against the Hurricanes.

“You’re going to win a lot of games shooting 41 free throws,” Fortier said.

If they want to win on Friday, though, they’re going to have to handle some guys with some experience.

“They’ll come back with guys who have played a lot of varsity minutes in Brock Lieder and Junior Howard and Bryce Schickert,” Fortier said.

Most likely Rhinelander will look to their point guard Howard for the majority of the scoring. He had just over 10.7 points a game last year and shot over 42 percent from three point land. With a bigger role this year his numbers should increase as well.  If he gets hot, the T-Birds may be calling a time out.  

If he is cold, the Hodags will send the ball down seniors Lieder and Schickert for a battle with Ouimette and Rentmeester.

On the perimeter though, it will be a shoot out between Jurries and Howard, if Jurries is able to get his shots.

“Whether it’s a press or a half-court trap they’re definitely going to pressure our guards,”Fortier said.

Whatever he sees, Fortier will be treating the game like any other, despite the history.

“I think it’s business as usual,” he said, though the Thunderbirds will try to make the results of that business anything but.

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