Pines freshman guard Samantha Huelskamp drove to the basket against the Bluejays defense, as Volk attempted to take a charge on the play. —Staff Photos By GARY RIDDERBUSCH
Pines freshman guard Samantha Huelskamp drove to the basket against the Bluejays defense, as Volk attempted to take a charge on the play. —Staff Photos By GARY RIDDERBUSCH
The Three Lakes Bluejays girls basketball team avenged a loss to Northland Pines in the first game of the season with a 65-56 victory over the Eagles last Thursday in Eagle River. 

“This was a good competitive game against a well-prepared Three Lakes squad,” said Pines coach Josh Olivotti. “The first half was very tight and back and forth between the teams.”

Northland Pines took a 32-31 lead at the half in the nonconference game.

Olivotti said the Eagles ran a “mix-up defense” at Three Lakes in the first half and caused a lot of ball movement, but the Jays hit timely shots against it in the gaps. 

“We went into the first half with a one-point lead, due in large part to a strong offensive performance from Taylor Olivotti on the inside and several key baskets from Sami Huelskamp,” said coach Olivotti.  “Taylor Olivotti was very assertive on the interior and her teammates did a great job getting her the ball in a good position.  She did a great job all night long and finished with a career high. Sami continues to use her athleticism to get to the rim and get open for jumpers with her movement off the ball.” 

Three Lakes opened up the second half on an 8-0 run to take a 39-32 lead.

“That was a huge difference in the game. We never got over that hump. This has been an issue all year, coming out of the half, and we have to do a better job,” said Olivotti. “We had chances in the second half, but never put together a substantial run that gave us a lead. We cut it to four after a three by Lucy Lurvey late in the game and had a chance to cut it to two at the free throw line, but we came up short.”

The Lady Jays outscored the Eagles 34-24 in the second half to get the nine-point victory.

“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively overall with our game plan and missed some stops when we had an opportunity,” said Olivotti. “We held Sydney Lurvey and Taylor Kolling to the marks we wanted, but Kara Sowinski lit us up for 24. She hit shots consistently and had some real nice setups from her team for threes in the first half and got to the rim often in the second half.” 

Senior Taylor Olivotti led Pines with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Huelskamp,  a freshman, had  16 points and five rebounds. Junior Paige Hickson contributed seven points and three steals, and sophomore Lucy Lurvey had five points and four assists.

“I thought Three Lakes did a nice job forcing Teresa Kopanski to give up the ball and she was not able to get up a lot of clean looks,” said Olivotti. “Teams key in on her, and rightfully so, we have to do a better job creating shots for her within our offense.”

Olivotti said Pines needed a little more production from the outside and simply did not hit enough shots. 

“We had one of our highest shot attempt outputs of the season and this is a very positive sign,” said Olivotti. “Despite the loss, which stings, we made some strides in this game that were needed. Our movement was much better on defense and we eliminated a lot of positioning errors, and we showed a little more poise on offense. We have a ways to go to be calm and comfortable on offense, but the girls took a nice step.”

Pines, 1-9 overall and 0-4 in the Great Northern Conference (GNC), was scheduled to host Tomahawk on Tuesday of this week and will play at Medford this Friday, Jan. 11. Both are GNC games and start at 7:15 p.m.