2/22/2013 10:09:00 AM Lakeland will host Medford in playoffs Friday Teams split season series with each winning on their home floor
Michael Fossen (right) contests a shot by Medford guard, John Keefe (center), during the first meeting of the two teams. Lakeland will face Keefe and the Raiders to open the WIAA playoffs Friday. Bryan Rose photograph
There may not be a playoff game Friday that pits two teams more evenly matched than the Lakeland Union High School and Medford basketball teams. The two split their season series with each team earning wins on their home floors. Medford downed Lakeland back in December, 79-53, while the Thunderbirds turned the tables in late January with a 65-56 win over the Raiders at Lakeland. In the first meeting of the two teams, the Thunderbirds were without leading scorer Dylan Lerdal for the entire game and starter Michael Fossen for half the game. Lakeland was never really in the game at Medford, losing by 26 points. In the second meeting between the two squads, Lakeland made a switch on defense using Dewey Goff and Fossen to harasss Medford’s leading scorer, John Keefe, throughout the game. Keefe averages 18.2 points per game and is Medford’s only player to average in double digits. He also leads them in assist. During the game at Lakeland, Goff and Fossen bothered Keefe throughout and took Medford out their sets which usually run through Keefe. While the Medford senior still scored 26 points on the night, he could not get his teammates going. In the first contest, Keefe had 22 points and nine assists. He averages 7.1 assists per game. But with Fossen and Goff making it difficult for Keefe to get his own points, the Raiders point guard could not set up his teammates, collecting just three assists in the contest. Lakeland also used that defensive strategy in subsequent games, including a win over Merrill where coach Rich Fortier applied the same strategy to the Blue Jays top player, 6-8 forward David Jesperson. Jesperson was held to eight points and Lakeland won a game that probably locked up the two seed and bumped Medford down to the three seed. While Lakeland may have a good defensive strategy going into the playoff matchup, offensively the Thunderbirds could be slowed by injury. Tom Bruckner has been an offensive spark for Lakeland down the stretch and was key in the win over Medford. In that game, Bruckner had 17 points mostly by blowing by the Raiders post defenders and getting to the basket. “There was not a player on that floor for Medford that could stay with him,” Fortier said after the game. “Tommy could pretty much get to the basket any time he wanted to.” Bruckner was also key in wins over Prentice, Tomahawk and Merrill in the week leading up to the seeding meeting. But last Tuesday, Bruckner suffered a leg injury against Rhinelander that knocked him out of the next game against Mosinee. The Thunderbirds dropped both contests, including a 52-43 loss to the Indians, a team Lakeland had defeated earlier in the year. Bruckner is expected to play Friday but how limited he could be by the injury is unknown. While both teams will have to overcome difficulties to earn a win Friday, it should make for an entertaining match up as the game in January was close until the final minute. The winner of Friday’s game will have to turn around and most like face top seeded Rhinelander. The Hodags, who won the Great Northern Conference title this season, swept Lakeland in the season series and split with Medford. Rhinelander will face Merrill Friday after the Blue Jays downed Mosinee 41-40 in the opening round game Tuesday. Friday’s contest between Lakeland and Medford will tip off at 7 p.m. Bryan Rose may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.