Growing up

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Luke Schafer and Middleton’s boys basketball team won a pair of games last week.

They’re still young and inexperienced.

Raw and somewhat undeveloped.

But Middleton’s boys basketball team certainly grew up some last week.

The Cardinals notched a pair of huge wins, first rallying past host Beloit Memorial, 60-51, last Thursday. Middleton followed that with an impressive 70-48 rout of visiting Janesville Parker last Saturday.

“This group really practices and plays with great energy and they genuinely like one another,” said Middleton coach Kevin Bavery, whose team improved to 2-1. “Both of those traits go a long ways as you build a team.”

Middleton trailed the Purple Knights, 38-37, heading to the fourth quarter. But Cardinals junior Luke Schafer and senior Tyler Markel both scored nine points in the fourth quarter as Middleton rallied for a huge road win.

Beloit was also whistled for back-to-back technical fouls in the final minute and Markel made 5-of-6 free throws to put the game away.

“We consistently came up with the big play whenever the Purple Knights would get within a possession,” Bavery said.  “We played hard and kept our cool in a heated game.”

Schafer finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Markel added nine points, and senior Kenji Passini had eight points and five rebounds. 

In all, Middleton had 10 players score.

“You see 10 players score in blowouts, but to have 10 score in a tight game is a great sign for this team as a lot of players are contributing,” Bavery said.

Beloit led, 26-21, at halftime and extended that advantage to 36-25 midway through the third quarter. But Middleton finished the third quarter on a 12-2 run and closed within one point heading to the fourth.

Schafer and sophomore Ian Hokanson both had five points during the Cardinals’ third quarter burst, as each hit a three-pointer. Hokanson also added an acrobatic finish off a Kenji Passini assist.  

“Kenji ignited us with a steal and ironically a missed dunk,” Bavery said. “Normally a missed dunk upsets a coach as you just want the two points no matter what. But he was way above the rim and tried to put it down hard and just caught too much back rim. But it showed his teammates that he was ‘all in’ and I think it was a key part of our second half tenacity.”

Middleton took control from there, passed the Purple Knights in the fourth and notched its first win of the season. The only drawback was Middleton shot just 10-of-24 (41.6%) from the free throw line, including 1-of-8 (12.5%) in the first half.

“Obviously it’s an area we have to improve in,” Bavery said. “But to go 10-of-24 and still win shows we are playing well in a lot of areas, particularly on the defensive end.  

“And we are playing hard and we are playing aggressive and getting our hands on the basketball a lot with deflections, getting on the floor, and getting after the offensive glass. Offensively it’s a work in progress as far as decision-making, but that will continue to get better.”

It appeared to get better against Janesville Parker, as the Cardinals cruised to an easy win.

Junior guard Derek Rongstad led the way with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Junior forward Chris Little had 15 points, while Schafer added 11 points, five steals and four assists.

Middleton raced out of the gates and took a 6-0 lead on ‘Parents Night.’

“We attacked right away on both ends of the court and it was great to see the early energy,” Bavery said. “Sometimes though, it can come a little too easy and players think it will be that way all night and that caught up with us.”

It wasn’t.

Parker closed within 11-7 by the end of the first quarter and knotted things up at 11 early in the second quarter. That’s when Bavery acted like a hockey coach, and made a five-for-five substitution.

“Sometimes you just have to communicate to all five in a way other than a timeout,” he said. “We’re confident in our depth and various combinations.”

With good reason.

Middleton’s five reserves bumped the lead up to five, and by halftime, the Cardinals held a 34-24 advantage.

Little had seven points in the second quarter and Rongstad added six.

“If Derek lets the game come to him he can be really special at times,” Bavery said. “He likes the ball in his hands as a point guard, and when he gives it up early and lets it come back around, so much more is available to him and his teammates.”

The teams traded blows in the third quarter, and Middleton’s lead was 47-37 heading to the fourth. But the Cardinals closed with a flourish, outscoring the Vikings, 23-11, in the fourth.

Rongstad had seven points in the fourth quarter and Little added six.

“Lots of little things have to get better,” Bavery said. “We reach too much on the press instead of playing position, we gamble with the wrong hand at times, and we aren’t nearly as physical as we need to be on blackouts. But those areas are all correctable with time and repetition and emphasis.”

• On deck: Middleton is at Madison East Friday and hosts Madison West Saturday. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.

“Both teams have high skilled and athletic personnel,” Bavery said. “We’ll have our work cut us for us, but we’ll show up ready to play both nights.”

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