Parker rallies past Middleton girls

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Anna Bunyan (34) and Middleton’s girls basketball team gave Janesville Parker all it could handle before falling to the Vikings last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

It was all right there for the taking.

A four-point lead. Less than a minute remaining. A chance to make an enormous early-season statement.

And then it all slipped away.

Middleton’s girls basketball team led visiting Janesville Parker, 48-44, with 53.3 seconds left last Thursday. But the Vikings answered with a stunning 8-0 run and held on for a 52-50 win.

“Our inexperience really bit us in the butt,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “I’m really proud of how we hung in there. But we just don’t have people that have been in position where they’ve had to finish games. This is new to so many of our kids.”

Middleton, which has won at least a share of six straight Big Eight Conference titles, had the preseason favorite Vikings on the ropes throughout. The Cardinals, playing without all-state forward Liz McMahon (broken finger), were the scrappier team all night.

Middleton used a late 6-0 run — highlighted by a Darcy Dean three-point shot and two Shannon McCauley free throws — to take a 48-44 lead.

“We were definitely in trouble,” Parker coach Tom Klawitter said.

Or so it would have seemed.

Parker senior guard Dani Fugate was fouled with 53.3 seconds left and made the first free throw. Fugate missed the second, but got the rebound, and fed sophomore guard Morgan McCulloch, who banked in a three-pointer that tied the game at 48.

“We’ve just got to get that rebound,” Kind said. “We definitely had our opportunities.”

After a Middleton turnover, Parker’s Paige Smith scored, was fouled and completed a three-point play with 26.6 seconds left to give the Vikings a 51-48 lead. After another empty Cardinals’ possession, Parker added another free throw to push its lead to four.

Middleton couldn’t come closer than the final score.

Sophomore forward Cole Jordee led the Cardinals with 15 points, while Dean added 11. Senior guard Natalie Staples had nine, McCauley added eight and junior center Anna Bunyan had 14 rebounds.

Parker got 21 points from senior forward Ashley Hartwig. Smith added 11 and McCulloch had 10.

“I think we’re getting a lot better,” Jordee said. “This is definitely the best game we played so far. A lot of people thought we’d get beat by a lot, but in our locker room we believed it would be a close game.”

It certainly was that.

There were seven lead changes and seven ties in this thriller. And while Parker is the league favorite, the Cardinals showed they’ll be on the Vikings’ heels all year.

“Nothing’s ever easy here,” Klawitter said. “I can’t remember the last time we won here. We were very fortunate to win.”

Perhaps. But both teams had their moments in this nailbiter.

Middleton held Parker to 3-of-14 shooting in the first quarter and took a 13-10 lead after one. Both Staples and Jordee had five points in the quarter, while Bunyan had six rebounds.

The teams were tied four times in the middle of the second quarter. But Middleton ended the first half on a 7-1 run and surged to a 27-21 halftime lead.

Dean started the run with a 7-foot jumper with 1:25 left in the first half, then Leah Wolff drained a three-pointer to make it 25-20. After a Parker free throw, Jordee drained a pair of foul shots with 34.7 seconds left to put the Cardinals up six.

Middleton shot just 8-of-24 in the first half (33.3%), but held the Vikings to 6-of-23 shooting (26.1%).

“I liked how hard we played,” Kind said of Middleton’s first half. “For being so young, we certainly weren’t intimidated.”

That didn’t change in the second half, either. After the Vikings closed within 29-24, Middleton got baskets from McCauley and Staples and took their biggest lead of the night at 33-24.

“We were playing not to lose,” Klawitter said. “Once we were down nine, we were playing with nothing to lose.”

The Vikings answered with an 8-2 run and pulled within 35-32 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. And by the end of the period, Middleton’s lead was an uncomfortable 40-36.

Parker’s Hartwig — the daughter of former all-state player Jenna (Burkhalter) Hartwig — led the charge with eight points in the quarter. Many of those came after the Vikings broke Middleton’s pressure defense and got lay-ups on the other end.

“We gave them too many easy shots,” Kind said.

Parker kept surging, opening the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 42-40 lead. That was the Vikings’ first advantage since 17-15 midway through the second quarter.

But Middleton wouldn’t go quietly. The Cardinals answered with an 8-2 burst — highlighted by five straight points from Dean — and took what appeared to be a relatively safe 48-44 lead with 1:09 left.

“Nobody gave up,” Jordee said. “Even after they came back on us, we kept fighting.”

They did. But Parker made all the plays late and prevailed.

Middleton held a 37-27 rebounding advantage. And after struggling from the foul line early this season, the Cardinals shot a respectable 13-of-21 from the charity stripe (61.9%).

There was some consolation in those numbers, just not enough.

“We really thought we could win the game,” said Jordee, who added eight rebounds. “We’ll get ‘em next time.”

• On deck: Middleton is at Madison East Friday at 7:30 p.m., then hosts Madison West Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

• Ms. Versatility: Middleton sophomore Jenna Blair started the game, but had to leave for roughly one quarter for a choir concert that she was required to take part in.

 

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