The Northland Pines girls basketball team let a 16-point halftime lead slip away in a 60-48 loss to Antigo in the Northland Pines field house last Friday night.

“This was a classic tale of two halves, one in which we played reasonably well and one in which we played tight and showed our inexperience,” said Pines coach Josh Olivotti.

Pines took a 25-9 lead into the intermission, but got outscored 51-23 in the second half of the Great Northern Conference (GNC) game.

“We felt going into this game that we could effectively pressure Antigo’s guards with some press and trap action,” said Olivotti. “In the first half we saw success with this as Paige (Hickson), Sami (Huelskamp) and Teresa (Kopanski) were able to force some hurried passing and put Antigo into turnover positions. In the second half, we were not able to make this happen, even in our full-court man defense. We were in foul trouble early and we played passive man pressure in the second half and did a lot of reaching rather than moving our feet.”

In the first half, the Eagles shot just shy of 50% from the floor and 33% from behind the arc.

“I was very pleased with this aspect. What we did not balance this out with was any free-throw attempts,” said Olivotti. “It is frustrating when we did not get to the line a single time in an entire half of play. We need to do a better job attacking off the catch and penetrating seams. We can also do a better job using shot fakes and footwork when finishing around the basket and that should help produce free throws.”

Olivotti did see some things in building the 25-9 halftime lead.

“Teresa did a great job from the point and we did a really good job with ball reversal action to get open shots,” he said. “Sami had a strong first half as well. She did a nice job on defense initiating trap action and hit some good jump shots. One of the most impressive elements these two brought to the game was their rebounding — 14 rebounds between the two of them and seven of those were offensive boards that gave us another opportunity to score.”

Kopanski led Pines with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Huelskamp had 13 points and seven rebounds. 

Olivotti said Lucy Lurvey and Lizzy Gauthier took a step up in the second game of the season and made some solid plays. Lurvey finished with six points and Gauthier had five points.

“They are getting more comfortable on the offensive side and starting to see more shot opportunities,” said Olivotti.

Taylor Olivotti was in foul trouble in the game and was quite limited with her minutes. 

“This hurts us in a lot of ways as she is a good senior floor leader who can play physical with the other team’s bigs,” said coach Olivotti. “She still made good contributions, but we need to have her on the floor.”

In the second half, Olivotti said the Eagles played really tight and did not do well against Antigo’s half-court trap. 

“We could see the options and took multiple timeouts to adjust how we could attack it,” he said. “I believe we saw a lot of our youthfulness with this as we did not execute what we drew up very well at all. I am confident that when we go over film together the girls will recognize this and we will all improve from it.”

Pines shot 37% overall from the field, but had 26 turnovers. The Eagles only got five steals. 

“It is frustrating to give up 51 points in a half of play, regardless of who you are playing. We are capable of playing pretty good man defense and running some trap zone action, but we have to play with our feet and play to win, rather than playing not to lose,” said Olivotti.

Pines, 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the GNC, was scheduled to play at Hurley in a nonconference game on Tuesday of this week and will play at Mosinee in a GNC game this Friday, Dec. 7, at 6 p.m.

“I am excited to get right back to game play on Tuesday in Hurley and think the short break this time around will help us,” said Olivotti. “This is a young squad with only two games under their belt, but they are an exciting group to coach. We have a lot of potential and they are showing that in game play. We just have to clean up the simple fundamental aspects and keep improving.”