Speed kills for girls basketball team

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Alyssa Lemirande and Middleton's girls basketball team are running foes out of the gym./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s girls basketball team was maybe 25 minutes into its season opener. And that’s when Bria Lemirande realized the method to the madness could yield enormous dividends.

Lemirande is the point guard for the Cardinals’ undersized, but remarkably speedy girls basketball team. And midway through the second half of the Cardinals’ first game of the year, their fast, aggressive, grueling style began paying off.

The opposing players from Stoughton struggled getting back on defense. Heads began to hang. The Vikings’ had lost their aggression.

Middleton, which trailed by eight points at halftime, stormed back for a 77-70 win. The Cardinals haven’t stopped rolling since.

There’s an old saying that speed kills — and these Cardinals are proof of that. Middleton knows just one gear — fifth.

The speedy Cardinals improved to 4-0 last week, following a 91-55 dismantling of host Janesville Parker on Tuesday and a 64-51 win over host Madison East last Friday.

Middleton’s four wins have been by an average of 20.3 points per game and have also come against high-quality opponents. The Cardinals’ best win was a 23-point victory over then-No. 2 Verona.

Even Middleton’s players are surprised by this sensational start.

“It’s surprising and exciting,” Lemirande said. “I knew we’d be fast, but when you see how well it can work in a game, that’s just awesome.”

Alyssa Lemirande, perhaps Middleton’s fastest player, agreed.

“Without having much height on the team, I didn't think things would go so well,” Alyssa Lemirande said. “It really is surprising.”

Middleton, which reached the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals last year, lost most of its size to graduation. Standout sophomore Halle White — one of the tallest players on the team at 5-foot-10 — is always out until 2016 with a torn labrum.

Cardinals veteran coach Jeff Kind has always been flexible enough to mold a team around its greatest strengths. And when Kind realized the type of speed this group had, he adjusted accordingly.

Kind has no issues right now going with five guards for stretches. He encourages his team to press and run at every available opportunity. And because the Cardinals’ have terrific depth — particularly in the backcourt — they’re simply running teams into the ground.

It's also helping Middleton that the games are 36 minutes this season instead of the traditional 32.

“I knew we’d be fast,” Kind said. “But what’s really impressed me is how good they are at making the extra pass. If that extra pass allows us to get a slightly better shot, then there’s a better chance of it going in.”

An enormous amount of Middleton’s shots went in against Janesville Parker last week.

The Cardinals made a whopping 17 three-pointers and crushed a Parker team some believed could contend for the conference title.

Carlee Lemirande — the third member of the gifted Lemirande family — knocked down five three-pointers on her way to a game-high 19 points. Bria Lemirande (17 points) and senior guard Alyssa Thomas both made three three-balls, while Alyssa Lemirande added 13 points.

Parker held a 26-25 lead midway through the first half. But in typical Middleton fashion, it began wearing the Vikings out.

The Cardinals closed the half on a 21-6 run and took a 46-32 lead at the break. Middleton then ran away and hid in the second half.

“I can't believe they only made 17 (3-pointers). It felt like they made 100,” Parker head coach Jennah Hartwig said. “But that's what they do.

“We just got sucked into their game. We'd take quick shots, didn't box out, then they'd be running.”

That’s the Middleton way right now. And it isn't going to change.

“We don't have a lot of height,” Bria Lemirande said. “So our speed is our best advantage.”

Middleton had to scrap a little more during its win over Madison East. The Cardinals led just 29-21 at halftime and steadily increased their advantage in the second half.

Middleton stretched its lead to as many as 21 late in the game, before a late flurry by the Purgolders made the final score more respectable.

Alyssa Lemirande and Thomas both led the way with 16 points, while sophomore Claire Staples had 11 points and Carlee Lemirande added 10.

Middleton also outrebounded East, 41-31. Carlee Lemirande and Hannah Flottmeyer led the way with nine rebounds each.

“We had to grind a little in our game at East,” Kind said. “They were able to cause us some problems with their extended zone pressure. They had good quickness on the perimeter, did some trapping and got us to dribble laterally, thereby limiting our court vision. As a result, we committed more turnovers than usual. 

“Defensively, we allowed them to run their offense too much instead of forcing them to make plays, so I would say they did the best job of moderating the pace of the game of any team we faced so far. That said, we were still able to pull away. We did some good things, as well, and will learn from it and move on. Good for us to learn that it won't be easy every night out and sometimes you just have to gut it out and compete.”

The Cardinals have done much more than compete so far. They’ve dominated.

Whether Middleton can continue this torrid start remains to be seen. But there’s nothing to indicate this speedy group will be slowed down soon.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Alyssa Lemirande said. “We’re trying to practice fast ,then play fast.

“The way we play, you go hard four or five minutes, get a break, then go hard again. Right now, it’s working great.”

Bria Lemirande agreed.

“What’s been great is we’re playing fast, but playing under control,” she said. “It’s been a great start to the season.”

 

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