Middleton's 'Big 3' all in top 2

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Tyree Eady (21) has helped Middleton’s boys basketball team race to a 10-0 start./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Kevin Bavery has had a dream since arriving at Middleton High School 10 years ago.

Bavery, the Cardinals’ boys basketball coach, has a vision of seeing his program win a state championship one weekend, then watching the girls do the same thing.

This year, Bavery has added a third element to his utopian scenario.

“Add in a hockey championship,” Bavery said.

Why not?

Middleton’s ‘Big 3’ winter sports have always performed at a high level. But all three are taking it to new heights this winter.

Middleton’s boys basketball and boys hockey teams are both ranked No. 2 in the state. That’s the highest ranking either program has ever achieved.

The Cardinals’ girls basketball team — which was No. 1 in the state earlier this year — is also currently ranked No. 2.

It’s believed that’s the first time any school has had those three sports teams ranked in the top-two at the same time.

“It's an impressive accomplishment,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “It speaks well of our overall programs in the district. 

“I believe that we are providing opportunities for the student/athletes to be successful through our youth programs and organizations and extending through the high school's camps and conditioning programs, facilities and support organizations like the Booster Club and community supporters. And the athletes are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Middleton hockey coach Steffon Walby agreed.

“Winning is contagious,” Walby said. “And it’s fun to know you are part of a great school and athletic program.”

All three programs have enjoyed high levels of success through the years. But these are new heights for the trio — at least at the same time.

Middleton’s girls basketball program has been the best of the three programs. The Cardinals have been to nine WIAA Division 1 state tournaments since 1993 and reached the state finals on three different occasions.

The Cardinals were ranked No. 1 earlier in the year, and with an 11-2 record, sit at No. 2 today. Kind, who has built one of the most successful programs in the state, believes the success extends well beyond athletics.

“I really believe it takes a concerted effort from many areas to have the kind of success MHS athletics are having … and it's not just athletics,” Kind said. “You can look at academics, fine arts, music, clubs, etc. Across the board, we have an excellent school and support system from the community! Our athletic success is just an extension of that.”

Middleton’s boys basketball program has always been solid, but far from spectacular.

The Cardinals’ last trip to state came in 1998, when they lost to Milwaukee Vincent in the state finals. Overall, Middleton has qualified for state just five times since 1936.

But this boys basketball team is off to a 10-0 start and has achieved the highest ranking in school history.

“The bottom line is we have great kids,” Bavery said. “They put in a ton of work, in terms of high volume, high quality, and intense effort. They are tough, dedicated, driven, and willing to learn and to be coached.

“There is a high level of buy-in and they have the ability to tune out the noise when needed and just focus on the next practice, the next play. And they do it in the classroom, as well. It’s fun to walk in to practice every day.”

Walby, in just his second full season as Middleton’s hockey coach, is experiencing the same things.

Middleton’s hockey team is off to a 15-0 start — the best in school-history. And the Cardinals’ No. 2 ranking is also the best in school history.

Walby acknowledges he has gifted players and a dedicated staff, which has made the terrific start possible. But he added that the unsung heroes in the equation are the parents.

“I think it says a lot about the coaches in all three programs and the support from their parents,” Walby said. “Parents make the time and financial sacrifice, in order for the coaches to be able to do the best they can.

“You very rarely get to the top without the support of many. We as a hockey program recognize this. We hope everyone stays healthy and gets a chance to achieve something special.”

All three programs will have the chance at achieving special things over the next two months.

None of the programs have ever produced a state champion. But the Cardinals also haven’t had this many good teams at the same time.

Perhaps Bavery’s dream could come true in 2016.

“This is a great school to teach in, a top notch community, and the district is second to none — facilities and people,” Bavery said. “Simply put it's a great place to be.”

Especially in 2016.

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