The Northland Pines boys basketball team split a pair of Great Northern Conference (GNC)?games last week to finish 5-7 in league play and 8-12 in the regular season.

The WIAA tournament will start this week as the second-seeded Northland Pines Eagles will host third-seeded Amherst Friday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Division 3 Regional opener. The winner will likely play at top-seeded Witten­berg-Birnamwood this Saturday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.

The Northland Pines Eagles celebrated senior night with a nice 60-45 win over visiting Lakeland last Thursday night in the final GNC game of the season.

The Eagles started their five seniors who played well defensively and got Northland Pines an early 5-0 lead. The Eagles then went to their regular line-up and took off from there, building a 20-6 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the first half.

The Thunderbirds went on a little run of their own to cut the lead down 23-16 before the eagles closed out the half up 36-20.

“This was a fantastic first half. Our guys were dialed in on both sides of the ball. Our seniors did their job and put us in a very good position early on,” said Pines coach Terry Klemett. “Lakeland posts harder than any team we have faced and our game plan was very good and the guys played it to a tee.”

The second half was no different for the Eagles as they controlled the game from the very first possession and went up 44-28. Slick ball movement and hard-nosed defense kept the Thunderbirds at bay. 

At the 4:30 mark of the second half, the Thunderbirds changed up their defense and got a couple turnovers. A few missed shots at the rim by the Eagles allowed Lakeland to storm back 49-42, but a hot shooting Ryan Muench and the solid floor play by Nolan Lurvey proved to be too much, as the eagles closed out the thunderbirds 60-45.

“This was a fantastic game our guys played. Nolan had his best floor game; he was just fantastic and when he plays like that we are tough to beat,” said Klemett.

Muench led Pines with 23 Points, followed by Lurvey with 12 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Griffin Steimke added 10 points.

“Ryan Muench, who is finally recovering from a badly sprained ankle, was flawless as well. It was great to see him playing at that level again. He was torching the nets. Deven Millis was great tonight as well,” said Klemett. “Again, this was a total team win. Our seniors did a fantastic job, and we wanted to treat this game as a tournament game and we did. We had two really intense practices before this game and you could see the guys wanted it. Their focus right now is amazing and we need to be focused because we finally get to play the tourney against our own level and we have a good shot at bringing the Regional title home.” 

Loss at Medford

The Northland Pines Eagles traveled to Medford on a very cold night last Monday and lost to the No. 4 ranked Raiders 76-53. 

The Eagles had seven turnovers to start the game and the Raiders cruised out to an early 21-0 lead. 

Pines started to claw their way back into the game with crisp ball movement and defensive stops to pull within 12 with a minute left in the half, but a couple miscues cost the Eagles four late points and they trailed 41-25 at the half.

“This was one of those starts that you want to forget about. We didn’t come ready and it showed. For most of the season we have always taken really good care of the ball and tonight wasn’t very good,” said Klemett.

The second half saw the hot shooting Raiders build their lead to 29 before the Eagles’ tireless never-say- die attitude got them to within 14 late in the game. Eventually, the Raiders were able to stop the Eagles’ run and close the game with a 76-53 win. 

“This was one of those games where you can’t spot the team 21 points. Medford is too good for that. I was pleased with the way we continued to play despite that horrible start. But all in all, games like this will prepare us for the tourney.”