Middleton routs Madison East

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton junior guard Storm Murphy had 20 points as the Cardinals routed Madison East, 93-75, Tuesday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Nine months ago, Middleton’s boys basketball team came to Madison East and saw its season end in heartache.

Just two weeks into the 2015-’16 campaign, it’s clear these Cardinals are older, wiser, better.

In an early-season showdown of Big Eight Conference heavyweights, Middleton used a pair of huge runs to topple the host Purgolders, 93-75. The Cardinals took control of the game with a 17-0 run early in the first half, and when East pulled within five points midway through the second half, Middleton uncorked a 16-0 burst.

It was a far cry from the WIAA Division 1 regional final in March, when the Purgolders edged the Cardinals, 56-53.

“All year, all summer that motivated us,” said Middleton junior forward Tyree Eady. “We felt like we shouldn’t have lost that game. We really wanted to get them back.”

Eady was a big reason why the Cardinals got measure of revenge. Eady pumped in a career-high 29 points and added nine rebounds and five steals.

Junior guard Storm Murphy had 14 of his 20 points in a memorable first half, while junior guard C.J. Fermanich made 7-of-8 shots from the floor and all four of his free throws on his way to 20 points.

Cardinals sophomore forward Brogan Brunker had a big night, too, with 11 points and seven rebounds. Madison East star guard Deang Deang led the Purgolders with 26 points.

Middleton displayed an impressive amount of skill, speed, athleticism and depth while improving to 3-0 both overall and in the league. The Cardinals now share first place in the Big Eight with Sun Prairie, which defeated Madison Memorial Tuesday.

The Purgolders, who returned a large contingent of their WIAA Division 1 state semifinal team, slipped to 1-2, 0-2.

“We talked about last year in our pregame talk,” Murphy said. “I looked around and saw the same chairs, the same benches and thought about how we were so sad after that game and a lot of the guys were crying. We came in and wanted to pound them.”

And that’s what the Cardinals did early.

Middleton used a stunning 17-0 run early in the first half to take a 21-5 lead it would never relinquish.

Murphy scored the first six points of the run, all by attacking the rim and finishing with a series of acrobatic moves in the paint. Eady scored five points during the surge, while Fermanich added four and Travis Raffel had a basket.

Middleton’s run lasted exactly six minutes and the Cardinals shot a whopping 8-of-11 during the burst (72.7%). East, on the other hand, went 10 straight possessions without a point and committed eight turnovers during that time. Eady led Middleton’s defensive effort with three steals during the run.

“That’s three games in a row we’ve had big runs,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But I think the way we play, we’ll be able to do that. We can wear on teams over time.”

Middleton later used a 10-2 surge to push its lead to 35-15 — its largest of the half.

Murphy picked up his second foul, though, with 4:09 left in the half and the Purgolders quickly smacked Middleton with an 8-0 run to pull within 35-23 with 2:13 left in the half.

The Cardinals steadied the ship, and a rebound basket by Brunker gave Middleton a 42-27 lead with seven seconds left in the half. East quickly turned the ball over, though, and Bavery put Murphy back in the game.

The dynamite guard received the ball in the backcourt, took one dribble over center court and launched a 38-footer. Much like Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary pass five days earlier, this prayer was answered and Murphy’s shot hit nothing but net, giving Middleton a 45-27 lead at the break.

“I saw the clock and just pulled it,” Murphy said. “It felt good the whole way. It felt really good.”

East charged back, though, early in the second half. The Purgolders knocked down five three-pointers in the first 5:15 and quickly pulled within 52-47.

Middleton was still clinging to a 57-52 lead midway through the second half when it embarked on a game-changing 16-0 run. Eady knocked down a pair of three pointers in the burst and had 10 points, while Fermanich had four points and Murphy added two.

Middleton scored on a remarkable seven straight possessions during the burst that lasted just 3:12. And when the run was over, so were the Purgolders.

“At halftime, we said East is a great team and they’d make a run at us,” Eady said. “They did that, but we settled down. And when I hit that first three, it really helped us.”

East pulled as close as 84-73 with 1:33 left. But Middleton made 7-of-8 free throws to finish off the Purgolders.

“The thing is, we still don't know how good we can be,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of turnovers and made some mistakes, but we’re only going to get better. And when we do, the sky’s the limit.”

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