The Lakeland Union High School boys' basketball team hosted Medford last Friday to open WIAA regional basketball play and lost the Raiders as their last second shot missed the mark. Tuesday, it was the girls' turn as they hosted Rhinelander to open the girls' regional tournament.
Unfortunately for Lakeland, the results were similar as Rhinelander hit two free throws with two seconds left to earn the 39-38 win and end the Thunderbirds season in heartbreaking fashion. The free throws came at the end of a Hodag run that saw Rhinelander erase a 10-point Lakeland lead in the fourth quarter.
Early in the game, both teams struggled offensively as Lakeland took the first quarter lead at 9-5. The Thunderbirds picked up some momentum heading into halftime as Leah Van De Loo grabbed a long rebound hitting the shot from the free throw line as the buzzer sounded. Van De Loo was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to put Lakeland up 19-15 at halftime.
In the second half, Rhinelander opened up on a 6-2 run to tie the game at 21-21 with five minutes left to play in the third. But Lakeland again gained the momentum as the clock ran down in the period. Van De Loo made a lay up and Rhinelander was whistled for a foul away from the shot.
The basket was good and the foul gave the Thunderbirds the ball with 15 seconds left in the third. Lakeland in bounded and Becca Butkus knocked down a three-point basket to convert the five-point possession and give the Thunderbirds a 32-24 lead going into the fourth.
But in the fourth, Rhinelander would start their comeback. The Hodags went on a 13-2 run in the first six minutes of the quarter to take a 37-34 lead with less than two minutes to play.
Jamie Lee ended the Rhinelander run as she hit a two-point basket with 1:04 left. Seconds later, Hannah Hallstrom gave Lakeland the lead as she hit two free throws with 37.2 seconds to make the score 37-36 Thunderbirds.
After that, the game got crazy as Rhinelander attempted to get back into the game. The Hodags went to the free throw line but missed their two free throws. On the ensuing rebound the ball went back to Rhinelander who then threw up shots that would not fall but the Hodags kept getting the offensive board.
With 2.2 seconds left, the Hodags were fouled and went to the free throw line, this time making both shots. Lakeland did not get off a final shot at the basket as their heave from half court was waved off by the referrees and the T-Birds were handed the tough 39-38 loss.
For more on this game, including comments from coach Kellen Anderson, see the Tuesday print edition The Lakeland Times.