Last Friday night, Lakeland Union High School squared off against the only remaining fellow unbeaten in the Great Northern Conference and on Tuesday, the Thunderbirds faced a team in the basement of the conference when it made the trip to Antigo.
Not only was Lakeland coming off a win in which it was able to take sole possession of first place in the GNC, but it was an outing in which Abby Parris tied school records with 43 points and six 3-pointers, while Melissa Bruckner added 30 as the pair outscored Medford as a team, 73-72.
Naturally, the Red Robins would have an eye on both players, but they were still able to combine for 43, matching the entire Antigo total in a 54-43 win.
"The first four or five minutes were outstanding," LUHS head coach Melissa Ouimette said. "We played out of our minds for the first four or five minutes and then it just became a grind after that. Antigo's very physical, very athletic, good jumpers, good sprinters and they're taller than us too. It just became one of those grinds and we didn't hit every shot we put up either. I think they're just a very physical team and the second half they did a 2-1-2 zone on us the whole time. They had someone glued to Melissa and Abby the whole time. It was just one of those games."
Parris was held in check from beyond the arc, knocking down two 3-pointers and scoring 19 points. One of the better athletes in the conference, Hannah Zenkovich, had the task of guarding her and she racked up 16 rebounds in the process.
Bruckner, meanwhile, scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the first half, before getting all 11 of her second half points from the charity stripe as she attempted to fight off triple teams in the paint.
"They had [Zenkovich] glued to Abby. Everywhere Abby went, this girl was glued to her," Ouimette said. "She was a very good athlete. Melissa Bruckner, whenever we put her on the inside, they had three people around her. That's why I was telling Riley (Curtis) and Olivia (Killian) and Zoey (Ziebart) they have to score."
Despite a closer than expected score, it was yet another learning experience for Lakeland.
It's not often team plays as physical as Antigo, so the T-Birds were able to get some work in against a different type of opponent, which continues to prepare them for the postseason.
"As a coach you always worry about the next game after a big win so I wouldn't say we were looking past Antigo at all. We always respect the competition," Ouimette said. "We took off like crazy. Everybody in the gym probably thought it was going to be a huge blowout, but after we got up by 20 points, they just hung with us. They just kind of hovered around and at halftime we were up by 14. Sometimes they would break our press and score a layup and other times we would get a steal, but turn the ball over afterwards. It just became one of those things, where a little more contact than we're used to put our passes off a little bit, but I'm proud the girls hung in there and came home with a victory."
Lakeland (9-5, 5-0 GNC) hosts Mosinee tonight, which is the only final opponent in the first round of conference play.
The teams played three times last year, including in the WIAA Division 2 semifinals, with Lakeland winning all three. The Indians gave the T-Birds a scare the first time around, but the final two games were decided by double-digits.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. and it is parents night for Lakeland.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.