Boys basketball team bounces back

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MTT News Desk's picture
Dennis Semrau/Special to the MTT
Kenji Passini (left) and Middleton’s boys basketball team split a pair of games last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

When it comes to playing games on back-to-back nights, Luke Schafer said a little depth can go a long way.

Schafer’s layup off a backcourt steal helped spark a key scoring surge in the third quarter as Middleton rolled to a convincing 68-45 victory over visiting Madison West in a Big Eight Conference boys basketball game Saturday night.

The quick turnaround couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cardinals, who dropped a hard-fought 61-53 decision at Madison East on Friday night.

“West has great personnel. They have quick kids and one prolific scorer and they’ve some size inside and we knew it would be a tough matchup,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “A couple of people after the game hit me up with that (Madison) Memorial took a lot out of (West) last night in a tough game. But I told our kids don’t let anybody tell you that we didn’t have a tough game with East.”

Derek Rongstad and Demond Hill paced Middleton (3-2 overall, 3-2 Big Eight) with 12 points each. Schafer and Chris Little chipped in with 11 points apiece.

“We can distribute the ball and we have a lot of guys who can create,” Schafer said. “We’re not a one-player team at all. Tonight we created a lot and fatigued them. We ran the court well and we were tired, but we executed our game plan and did what we had to do.”

Rongstad scored a game-high 23 points against East, but said having four players reach double figures poses a tough challenge for future opponents.

“We have 11, 12 different players who can score in double figures on any given night,” Rongstad said. “Chris (Little) happened to be the guy tonight off the bench. You never know who will step up and that’s where our strength is this year.”

Rongstad scored six points in the first period, which featured six lead changes and two ties. West’s Semaj Graham sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Regents (2-4, 2-2) even at 15.

Terrell McFadden then made the second of two free throw attempts midway through the second period to knot the score at 23-23.

But Kade Schultz came off the bench to drain a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 3:30 mark to give Middleton the lead for good at 26-23.

“Kade’s kind of struggled a little bit, but he’s a shooter and we told him last night to ‘just relax.’ Now you get the lid off and that helps other areas of your game,” Bavery said. “We need several guys at different times of the game to stretch the floor and he’s one of them. So it was good to see him get going.”

Malik Clements pulled West within 26-25 with a rebound basket with just under 3 minutes left in the first half.

But Little followed with a runner in the lane to ignite an 8-0 run that included a layup off a turnover and a three-pointer — both by Schafer — to help Middleton head into halftime with a 36-29 lead.

West coach Keith Stewart said the Cardinals taught his team a few lessons to file away for their next meeting.

“They’re not the talented teams that I’ve seen from Middleton in the last couple of years, but (Bavery) still has those kids playing and they’re going to be a contender,” Stewart said.

“We have individual talent. But we’re working on that discipline aspect and you can see that. We’re a very talented team, but talent doesn’t win games. We have pockets of guys who are working together on this team. I’m challenging my guys right now. That was a lesson to be learned playing Middleton’s kids today.”

Rongstad said the Cardinals made a key adjustment at halftime to make sure West didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

“(West) scored 29 points (in the first half) and about half of them were off offensive rebounds and and-ones,” Rongstad said. “We tried to stop that and it was a lot easier to get our offense going.”

Schafer’s layup on the opening possession of the second half ignited a 16-4 third quarter surge for the Cardinals that helped put the game away.

“We had a pretty good first half and we just knew coming into the second half, West would come out strong,” Little said. “We just had to keep our foot on the pedal.”

Seven different Cardinals scored during that span as they increased their lead to 52-37 entering the fourth quarter.

“We created some defections and turnovers which helped set up our press,” Bavery said. “We had one in the third quarter where we had a good trap right in front of our bench and then Schafer knifed in and got the easy lay-in.

“That’s more than two points because it really demoralizes the other team. You just scored and now you scored again. So we had a couple of flurries like that and its 19.”

Bavery said the Cardinals showed their resiliency and ability to refocus quickly.

“For some reason against East we struggled to catch the ball,” Bavery said. “I think we were in too much of a hurry to do things. Tonight we settled down and when they sped us up a little bit we were able to make them pay. That was the difference in the two games. To come back and beat a quality team after a tough loss like we did, I’m really proud of our guys.”

Bavery was also pleased the Cardinals were able to keep Clements — who entered the game averaging more than 20 points per game — in check for most of the game.

Clements scored eight points in the second quarter, but finished with a team-high 12, including just two in the second half.

“I started on him and then it was me and Luke (Schafer),” Rongstad said. “We had one guy on him, but it was really the help-side, it was a five-man defense.”

Karon Brown sank a jumper with 1:34 to play to give Middleton its largest lead at 66-40, which drew a loud ovation from the Cardinals student section.

All 15 Cardinals on the roster played and 10 scored at least one point.

“Most of the teams have a group of five or six they count on, but we have 15 guys who can help us and contribute to the team,” said Hill, who scored nine points in the second half. “We had a lot of help from everyone.”

Bavery said that comes from the Cardinals’ willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful in practice as well as during the games.

“When you can send in two, three, four and even five guys at a time and not have any real drop off in a league like this when you play back-to-back on Friday and Saturday like we do, that’s a positive,” Bavery said.

“We told our guys last night — in five games we’ve probably started four different lineups. We’re trying to find out who gets us off to a good start, but we’re always conscious of bringing offense off the bench. Last year our leading scorer came off the bench in Eric Hagstrom. Hopefully they continue to buy into that.”

• Madison East 61, Middleton 53 — Derek Rongstad scored 23 points for the Cardinals, but it wasn’t enough in a loss to the Purgolders last Friday. Demond Hill added 11 for Middleton.

• On deck: Middleton is at Verona Thursday at 7:30 p.m., then hosts Sun Prairie Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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