The Lakeland boys’ basketball team opened up its season Tuesday night with a non-conference matchup.
The Thunderbirds took an 82-63 loss to Merrill to open their season.
“They made shots, we turned the ball over too much,” coach Rich Fortier said.
Both teams looked to settle in and establish their identity. Instead there were a number of turnovers. Cody Wolfe took a charge that jump-started the Thunderbirds.
The first basket of the season came from Nolan St. Germaine. Then Wolfe hit a jumper and Lakeland led 5-2 five minutes into the game.
Then St. Germaine took it himself for a layup with a foul. The first 3-pointer of the season came from Alex Fortier on a kick out off the missed free throw.
Merrill started to make shots and the Bluejays led 13-12 midway through the first half.
“Give them credit, they’re a good team, they made shots and it wasn’t just one of them,” coach Fortier said.
Michael Ouimette found himself in the post for much of the game. He finally scored his first basket on an inbounds play. It didn’t take too long before he scored again.
Ouimette finished with 15 points.
The Bluejays continued to make shots and then followed that with a press. The Thunderbirds figured out the press as Alex Fortier hit another one of his team-high three 3-pointers.
“We did some nice stuff,” coach Fortier said. “We had a lot of nice things.”
The Bluejays went on a run and led 35-25 minutes before halftime. The game looked to be in danger of getting away from Lakeland.
That’s when the Thunderbirds made their run.
“Their run in the first half I thought we stemmed with solid play to end the first half,” coach Fortier said.
It started with a Ouimette make off a Quade miss. Then St. Germaine found his way to the basket for a shot and a foul. He made the free throw.
Both teams were in the double bonus toward the end of the first half. Wolfe made four free throws to get some points without the clock running.
With the score at 38-34, the Bluejays were looking for one more basket with just 30 seconds left in the first half. The Thunderbirds played excellent defense and ended up with a stop. Ouimette went up for a last second layup that was just a fraction of a second late.
Lakeland ended the half on a 9-3 run. The Bluejays led 38-34 at the half.
In the second half, Merrill took it to Lakeland. It didn’t take long before Merrill’s lead grew to 12. They were making seemingly all of their shots.
“It got away from us with turnovers and with them making shots,” coach Fortier said.
Conversely, the Thunderbirds struggled to find any offense. St. Germaine finally took it to the paint and got fouled. He made one of his free throws. Whenever it seemed liked Lakeland needed a bucket, St. Germaine found a way to get some points.
St. Germaine finished with 17 points.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Merrill had a 62-42 lead and Lakeland took a timeout.
Tim Crisco scored his first points of the season off a steal on the Lakeland press.
“We had guys make their first varsity baskets, so it was good,” coach Fortier said.
Jacob Borak scored his first points off a St. Germaine pass. The last Thunderbird to get on the board came from Luke Larsen, making three of his four free throw attempts.
“It isn’t perfect, it wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but for the first game on somebody else’s floor against a team that’s pretty decent, we had a lot of nice things,” coach Fortier said.
The Thunderbirds played their first home game against non-conference Wausau West on Thursday.
Up next, the Thunderbirds play at non-conference Hayward tonight starting at 7:15 p.m. Coverage of both of those games will be in the Dec. 10 edition of The Times.
Then, the Thunderbirds travel to D.C. Everest for a non-conference matchup starting at 7:15 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]