The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team did not make a ton of shots Friday night but got enough offensive production down the stretch to get back in the win column.
Peyton Erikson and Quinn Lamers combined to score the final nine points for the Hodags over the final 2:17 of regulation and Rhinelander rallied to knock off Lakeland 53-47 Friday night at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. Rhinelander (3-5, 2-2 Great Northern) won despite shooting only 29.8% from the field (17 of 57). On the plus side, Rhinelander committed only seven turnovers, took 17 more shot attempts than Lakeland (3-5, 1-2 Great Northern) did, and made free throws down the stretch - converting 7 of their last 8 foul shots, and 12 of 15 overall.
"We didn't make shots tonight, and we talked about that," Rhinelander coach Derek Lemmens said. "If you're not making shots, you need to get a lot of them. We didn't give the ball up, and that also prevented them from getting a lot of easy baskets in transition. I thought guys took care of the ball. We took quick shots, which helps with the turnover battle. (I'd like) a little more patience but, overall, we're pretty pleased with what we did offensively."
Michael Ouimette scored a game-high 21 points for Lakeland, including a basket with 2:40 remaining to give the T-Birds a 46-44 lead. Erikson answered with a drive down the lane to tie it with 2:18 to play.
Following a Ouimette miss, Erikson was fouled on the offensive end of the floor and converted the front end of a 1-and-1 to put Rheinlander ahead with 1:28 to play.
After Lakeland's Tim Crisco missed an open look at 3 for the lead, Erikson was fouled again making both ends of a 1-and-1 with 47.3 seconds left. A Ouimette free throw brought Lakeland to within two, but Lamers made two free throws with 31.4 seconds left to make it a two-score game, and then got a steal defensively before icing the game with two more makes from the foul line.
"A lot of guys just stepped up and made plays late," Lemmens said. "I thought when the game was on the line the last three minutes or so, we showed great poise on offense, and just cracked down defensively."
Early on, it appeared the Hodag defense would struggle again as Alex Fortier, the son of former RHS and current LUHS boys' basketball coach Rich Fortier, drained his first two looks from deep. Fortier scored 10 of Lakeland's first 12 points as the T-Birds led 12-4 with 9:18 remaining in the half.
Rhinelander chipped away, using an 10-2 run to tie the game with 3:06 before halftime. The teams traded buckets the rest of the way, with Payton Johnson's 3 tying the game at 21 for the Hodags, who were only 2 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half.
"I liked our patience and not trying to get those eight points back right away, understanding there's a lot of game," Lemmens said. "We came out flat, did not execute the game plan, which was make Alex Fortier put the ball on the floor. They did a much better job of that in the second half."
Neither team led by more than three points in the second half until Rhinelander late push at the foul line in the final minute. The lead traded hands 11 times in the second half as Lakeland made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to the 6-4 Ouimette.
"That's a tough matchup for us. We're giving up size," Lemmens said. "I thought Drake (Martin) did a great job battling but, when Drake wasn't on him, we were in trouble. We need to get better at that. We're going to encounter teams like that and players like that. We've got to get better a positioning ourselves and not allowing deep touches for a guy like Ouimette. I thought when anyone other than Drake was guarding him, he got the ball where he wanted it."
Rhinelander kept pace thanks to some timely shooting. The Hodags made five 3s in the second. All five were go-ahead makes.
Lamers finished with 16 points for the Hodags, Martin had 13 and Erikson added eight after being held scoreless for the first 31 minutes of the contest. Collin Quade had 11 for Lakeland and Fortier did not score again following his early 10-point barrage as the T-Birds shot 42.5% from the field (17 of 40).
Lemmens said he hopes the win instills a little confidence into a team that has been in plenty of close games this season, but has struggled at times to close them out with victories.
"We're only going to get better with our continuity," he said. "We've done it three times. We haven't done it on the big stage. Guys, when things get a little uncomfortable, they go to what is comfortable for them. We went away from what we were trying to do but, hopefully as we continue to work on it, we get better and better and continue to execute it."
Rhinelander is back in action tonight, hosting Wausau East in a non-conference game at the Miazga Gym. Tip-off is set for 7:15 p.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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