Free throws, defense and depth were all important in a road victory for the Lakeland boys’ basketball team.
The Thunderbirds defeated Wausau East 77-56 on Monday night.
“I think it was just a big motivator for us going into our last regular season game against Medford and into our playoff games so it’s just a big momentum builder, so it was a big win,” senior Collin Quade said.
It took a couple of possessions, but the Thunderbirds got rolling on a Michael Ouimette jumper.
Sometimes people say “you live and die by the 3-pointer”. Well the 3-pointers were successful on Monday night.
Jacob Borak hit a 3-pointer, assisted by Nolan St. Germaine and then Quade did the same thing.
The Thunderbirds used free throws to their advantage all game long. They made 25/32 free throws. Ouimette knocked down 3/4 in a span of a few short minutes.
Quade got a steal and scored two points, prompting the Lumberjacks to call a timeout. The Thunderbirds led 13-3.
Both of the Fortiers were scoring. Will Fortier made two free throws and then Alex Fortier made a basket, cutting to the rim on a pass from Ouimette.
The shots kept falling. Quade drilled another 3-pointer followed by a Borak shot, assisted by Alex Fortier.
“It’s important not to let them get back into the game because that might hurt our morale a little bit maybe so yeah it was nice to keep pouring on the lead and playing good defense,” Quade said.
Will Fortier got an offensive rebound which then resulted with an Alex Fortier 3-pointer.
The Thunderbirds led 28-14 with 3:19 to go in the half. Lakeland called a timeout.
The Lumberjacks’ Gabe Krueger came into the game averaging at least 27 points per game. The Thunderbirds were able to get him in foul trouble, drawing three fouls on him in the first half.
“We didn’t shut (Krueger) down but we stopped him and we all contributed and they just couldn’t stop us cause they only had three decent scorers that they went to,” senior Borak said.
At halftime, the Thunderbirds led 32-18.
The hot shooting continued into the second half. Quade hit a corner 3-point jumper right away. He finished with 14 points on three 3-pointers. Then Borak cut to the hoop for two points, assisted by Ouimette.
Borak came right back to score two points on the fast break pass from St. Germaine. Borak also drew the foul and made the free throw, scoring a career-high 10 points.
Ouimette took it himself for two points and Alex Fortier stole the ball and scored. Lakeland maintained their lead and led 44-29.
Back at the line, Will Fortier made one of his two free throws. After missing the second, Ouimette gobbled up the offensive rebound and put it back up for two points.
Just as it seemed the Lumberjacks were going to cut the lead to under ten points, Lakeland came back with a huge basket. That was the case when Alex Fortier dropped in another 3-pointer, giving him 11 points for the night.
“You can let them back in, but then you need to continue what you just carried through in the first half,” Borak said. “All of our guys played extremely well, especially the freshman who this is their second game playing full time.”
The Lumberjacks had their press on and Lakeland broke it with ease. The end result came when Quade threw it down low to Will Fortier for the easy deuce.
Krueger ended up getting his season average in points, using his length to grab offensive rebounds and make layups in the paint. He connected on 12 field goals for 28 points. But it wouldn’t be enough to change the outcome of the game.
Both Brayden Wiczek and St. Germaine made both of their free throws to keep the score where it was. Wiczek went a perfect 6/6 from the line for six points.
Ouimette broke the game open when he took it to the rim for two points and got fouled. He completed the 3-point play and the Thunderbirds led 67-45 with 4:24 left. Ouimette totaled 18 points and made 6/8 free throws.
Will Fortier scored two more points on another Quade assist to give him double digit points. Will Fortier finished with 11 points. In fact, five different Thunderbirds scored in double figures, something that has not been done in awhile.
“Nobody really made any big errors except for some inbound plays, but all the rotation players did their part and did what they had to do and that’s what accomplished the job for us tonight,” Borak said.
The Thunderbirds traveled to Medford on Thursday night for their final conference game. Coverage of that game will be in the March 3 edition of The Times
Then they open up regional play against Antigo on Tuesday, Mar. 3 at Ted Voigt Court. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]