12/5/2017 7:27:00 AM Lakeland drops third straight to strong Wausau West team
Nick Sabato/Lakeland Times
Vivian Trapp attempts to get a shot past the outstretched arm of Wausau Westís Megan Vandehey (24) during Lakelandís 83-52 non-conference loss on Friday, Dec. 1, at Lakeland Union High School.
Lakeland Union High School has played a brutal non-conference schedule to open the girls' basketball season and that continued Friday night as the Thunderbirds hosted Wausau West.
Lakeland was able to hang around for most of the first half against a bigger Lady Warrior team, but the game took a drastic turn to flip a 14-13 deficit into a 46-29 halftime lead.
The T-Birds couldn't maintain pace with Wausau West as junior guard Kadie Deaton carved up their vaunted full-court press en route to an 83-52 loss.
While it may not show on the scoreboard, Lakeland head coach Melissa Ouimette felt it was an improvement from last weekend's games in the Tom Kislow Memorial Tournament.
"I thought they gave me a good effort and I thought we handled the press much better than we did against Hayward," Ouimette said. "We made some bad passes here and there, but I liked that we were attacking and trying to get the ball down the floor quickly rather than being passive."
While Lakeland made several passes that resulted in turnovers, Ouimette like the fact that her team attempted to make those passes rather than playing more reserved.
In previous games, the T-Birds wilted under the pressure employed by opponents, but not in this game.
"We did much better tonight handling the press than any other night we've been pressed," Ouimette said. "Tonight, I don't believe their press beat us, I believe we beat ourselves with some of the passes we tried to make, but I like that we were trying to make those in an effort to get the ball down the floor. We weren't shying away from the press. We were trying to have that attack mentality. I try to teach my girls to celebrate the fact that someone's pressing us, because now we can score."
Lakeland played Wausau West tough in the early part of the game and were able to force some turnovers, while the Lady Warriors struggled to score.
West was able to finally find a way to solve the press thanks to the astute ball handling by Deaton, who broke the press and found teammates for open outside shots, open layups, or to find her own shot.
"In the first half we were right there with them. It was a one-point game for a good chunk of the first half," Ouimette said. "Then we made some poor passes towards the end of the first half and they converted those into layups. (Deaton) is a phenomenal player. When she gets her hands on the ball she's either going to the rim or she's going to dish it to someone who's standing right under the rim. She was starting to eat up the press a little bit so we took the press off. Of course without the press, it's hard to make those points up so the spread kept getting a little wider."
During Ouimette's tenure at Lakeland, the press has been the program's calling card.
It was one of the main reasons the T-Birds ran through the Great Northern Conference last season, so to go away from it in this game was a tough call to make for Ouimette.
"It was hard, but whenever (Deaton) would get her hands on the ball, she didn't have a lot of difficulty with the press," Ouimette said. "She's just a phenomenal ball handler. She sees the court well. Sure, she had a couple turnovers but it didn't hurt them. She's always looking to do the right thing as far as penetrating, finding a teammate or looking for that nice shot. She's a great player."
Thankfully for Lakeland, it can put the non-conference slate away as the GNC schedule begins this week.
It has been a tough couple weeks, but Ouimette believes it has prepared them for conference play.
"It's tough to lose, but we've played some great teams. It's just getting us ready for conference," Ouimette said. "We've been working on some things and I like that we are moving in the right direction. I know someone might look at the score and say we lost by 31, but I feel like every game we're improving certain aspects of our game. Every experience that we've had has been a learning experience and I'm going to use that to help the girls get better."
Deaton scored 22 points, while Maddie Schires had a game-high 28 points for Wausau West.
Lakeland (1-4) was led by Abigail Parris, who scored 19 points, while Melissa Bruckner pitched in 16.
The T-Birds look to snap their three-game losing skid on Friday with a game at Rhinelander.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.