The Lakeland boys’ basketball team looked to avenge its home loss to Tomahawk by going on the road and find its second straight victory on Feb. 7.
The Thunderbirds found a way to close the game and win 49-45.
“When you have that many things go amiss and you’re still able to come away with a victory,” coach Rich Fortier said. “As I get older, those are victories that I cherish a lot more than the ones that are easy and cake walks.”
Alex Fortier came out shooting. He made a 3-pointer right off the bat, assisted by Nolan St. Germaine.
Michael Ouimette used his inside game following the make. One basket came off an offensive rebound and another off a Collin Quade assist in the paint.
The Thunderbirds led 8-3 at the 15:40 mark.
St. Germaine scored two points on a drive to the basket, increasing Lakeland’s lead.
Later, Ouimette scored six straight Lakeland points. One basket came on a post move and couple dribbles in the paint. Ouimette finished with 18 points.
Another came on an inbounds play and the other on an offensive rebound. The Hatchets and Thunderbirds were trading off baskets.
With 4:34 left, the Thunderbirds led 19-16, even if it wasn’t the prettiest way.
“And the bottom line is we won a game with a lot of things done in a way we could have done differently,” coach Fortier said. “I am well past worrying about cosmetics in my coaching career.”
Quade made two huge baskets near the end of the half. One basket was a 3-pointer after a long possession.
Another scored two points with a foul. He made his free throw to complete the 3-point play.
In a weird sequence of events, the Hatchets cut into the lead a bit with some free throws with under a second left on the game clock.
Still, the Thunderbirds led 25-20 at the half.
If there was any doubt who had the momentum coming out of halftime, the Thunderbirds cleared it up early. Lakeland started the half on a 9-0 run.
It all started when Quade hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key. Then Tim Crisco scored two on the fast break. Ouimette also scored two points followed by Quade on a jumper.
And then back came the Hatchets. They went on a 12-2 run to cut it to 36-32 with 7:45 left and Lakeland took a timeout.
Quade took matters in his own hands and went on the fast break, dishing it out to Ouimette for the sweet assist and easy score. St. Germaine went behind-the-back and passed it to Ouimette for a score.
After St. Germaine’s nifty assist, he drove to the basket for two points.
But the Hatchets kept coming at the Thunderbirds. The score was 44-42 in favor of Lakeland with 1:34 to go in the game.
Free throws would decide the contest. St. Germaine made both of his to extend the Lakeland lead. Fortier only made one of his and the Hatchets went down and made a shot. Lakeland still led 47-45 with 53.9 seconds left.
Quade missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Cody Wolfe got the huge offensive rebound. Quade went back to the line and made a free throw. Quade finished with 16 points.
Up by three points, the Thunderbirds got the stop they needed and only needed one free throw to essentially ice the game. Quade made it and the Thunderbirds won their second straight game.
“The strategy was to defend their shooters as best we could,” Fortier said. “Nolan did a nice job of sliding off his guy and bothering Collin’s guy for just a second, then they got rushed, and before you know it they turned it over.”
Up next, the Thunderbirds host the Hodags tonight at the Lakeland fieldhouse starting at 7:45 p.m.
“We’ve won two in a row. After going 4-10, we set a goal of six straight,” coach Fortier said. ”We’ve dug ourselves in a hole and now we’re trying to climb ourselves out of it and try to put it together next week.”
Then they play at Northland Pines on Thursday, Feb. 13 starting at 7:15 p.m.Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]