The Lakeland girls’ basketball team opened up its season Thursday, Nov. 21 with a non-conference home match against Wausau East.
The Thunderbirds started slow, but cruised their way to an 80-58 victory over Wausau East to start the season 1-0.
“I was really hoping for the best of this team cause this team works hard in practice, they work well together as a unit, they’re very unselfish, always looking for that better pass,” coach Melissa Ouimette said. “And when you see a team that is such a joy to coach and when they excel at something, it’s all the better.”
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm early on as there were a number of travels and turnovers.
The first basket of the season came from Camille Quade, giving the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead. Vivian Trapp followed that up with some free throws and they took a 4-0 lead.
Those would be the last points for a while. The scored remained 4-0 until the 13:53 mark, when Abby Parris hit a three.
“I think our defense is intimidating right before they even take that first dribble,” coach Ouimette said. “The girl who has the ball is already worried about where she’s going to go with it.”
Julianna Ouimette made her official debut for the Thunderbirds. Even though she wasn’t scoring early on, she was still making an impact. Her pass to Quade set up a foul where Quade hit a free throw.
Julianna Ouimette and Parris teamed up to force a lot of turnovers by Wausau East. They worked well off of one another — one would pressure the ball and the other would steal it. Together they combined for 19 steals.
“I thought (Julianna) and Abby worked beautifully together at the top of the zone,” coach Ouimette said.
Wausau East’s Savannah Spees finally got them on the board with a basket in the 11:32 mark of the first half.
A couple minutes later, Julianna Ouimette scored her first points on two free throws. Those free throws broke the ice as she took off from there.
One basket came off a steal. On another basket, Julianna Ouimette got fouled, giving her an and-one bucket. Then she went coast-to-coast for a layup.
“I thought (Julianna) did well, I thought she handled the pressure,” coach Ouimette said. “She went by two or three defenders and could’ve taken the shot, but was looking for the open teammate.”
The Thunderbirds raced to a 20-3 lead.
Later in the first half, Lacy Valliere and Amaya White got on the board for their first points of the season.
Maddy Krueger got Wausau East another basket as they finally started to settle in. The score favored Lakeland 27-8.
Then Parris got going. She made three straight baskets, one off a steal and another a three-pointer.
“Tonight I told the girls ‘I’m not worried about what Wausau East is going to do to us’,” coach Ouimette said. “Go out there, have confidence in what we’ve practiced in practice.”
Another part of Julianna Ouimette’s game is passing. She finished the game with seven assists, one of those a pass to Jenna Whitman for her first bucket of the season.
Joeli Koehler also scored and Quade had a putback basket off a miss. Quade finished with 13 points.
Lakeland led 43-24 at the half.
“For them to go out there and have the confidence to excel and do the offense and do the defenses and just bring it, it was great,” coach Ouimette said.
In the second half, a number of Thunderbirds got their first minutes of the season. One of those girls was Hailey Curtis, scoring her first points off a putback. Another girl who scored her first points of the season was Ali Wassen.
Wausau East kept fighting with threes by Gabby Braatz and Krueger. Braatz and Elizabeth Boulanger finished with a team high 11 points.
But it was too much to overcome as Julianna Ouimette and Parris put the final touches on the game.
Julianna Ouimette finished with 28 points, a team high five free throws made. Parris finished with 17 points, a team high three three-pointers made.
Up next, the Thunderbirds host Marshfield tonight at the Lakeland fieldhouse starting at 7:15 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]