Middleton survives scare from Arrowhead

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By: 
Rob Reischel
C.J. Fermanich (32) and Middleton’s boys basketball team earned a hard fought win over Hartland Arrowhead last Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They’ve been tested virtually every way possible.

They’re rallied from double digit deficits. They’ve held off charges from upstart opponents.

They’ve beat teams inside the top-10. They’ve blistered foes with more modest accomplishments.

But every test Middleton’s boys basketball team has been handed during this magical season has been aced.

The latest came last Saturday, when the Cardinals got a scare from visiting Hartland Arrowhead. The Warhawks rallied from a 16-point deficit and held a two-point lead with 2 minutes left, before Middleton battled back and notched an 81-78 win.

Middleton, ranked No. 2 in the latest wissports.net poll, improved to 14-0 overall. The Cardinals are also 10-0 in the Big Eight Conference and hold a two-game lead over Madison Memorial and Sun Prairie.

“There’s a target on our back and I think we understand that,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But I’ve told the kids to embrace that, because hopefully it’s not going anywhere.”

Arrowhead almost drilled the target.

Warhawks junior guard Trevell Cunningham drained what would have been a game-tying, 28-foot jumper from the right wing. But Cunningham’s shot came roughly one-half second after the final buzzer.

Instead of heading to overtime, the Cardinals escaped and added the latest chapter to the best start in school history.

Middleton got a game-high 27 points from junior point guard Storm Murphy, while junior forward Tyree Eady added 23 points and junior guard C.J. Fermanich had 12.

Cunningham had 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half to pace the Warhawks. Junior forward Alec Hamilton had 11 points and 10 rebounds, while senior post Brian Willman and junior forward Ben Seefeld both added 11 points.

“This is a lot of fun right now,” Fermanich said. “We’re trying to just go one game at a time and not think about being undefeated. Myron (Ashford) likes to talk about it a little bit, but we’re just trying to go game by game.”

This game was one of Middleton’s most thrilling of the season.

The Warhawks used a 9-2 run over a 3-minute stretch late and took a 70-68 lead with 2:45 remaining on a driving, left-handed layup by Cunningham. That was Arrowhead’s first lead since 2-0.

But Middleton answered with six straight points to seize back control.

Fermanich had the shot of the night, when he got loose and stuck a 15-footer with 2 minutes left that tied the game at 70.

“I really like that pull-up shot from there,” Fermanich said. “That’s one of my favorite shots. I think I make it about 80- or 90% of the time.”

After an Arrowhead miss, Murphy was fouled and drilled a pair of free throws to put Middleton ahead, 72-70. Murphy then made a nifty hesitation move and basket to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to four.

Murphy then drilled four straight free throws as Middleton built a 78-73 lead with 33.3 seconds left.

“They’re a great team,” Murphy said of Arrowhead. “They played us really tough. I knew they wouldn’t go away.”

They didn’t.

First, Cunningham stuck a 25-footer that pulled the Warhawks within 78-76 with 19.8 seconds remaining. Fermanich then made 1-of-2 free throws with 17.1 left to extend Middleton’s lead to three.

Bavery told his team to foul with less than 10 seconds remaining and make sure it was on a two-point shot. But Seefeld made a nifty move and enticed Murphy into fouling him from behind the arc with 5.8 seconds left.

Seefeld, an 80% free throw shooter, calmly drained the first two foul shots. But his third shot caromed off the back iron and Middleton rebounded.

“He’s the kid I want at the line,” Arrowhead coach Craig Haase said of Seefeld. “I’m proud of him and I told him, ‘You gave us a chance to tie the game,’ because he double pumped and got the kid in the air. If he doesn’t double pump, we don’t even have a chance to tie it. He gave us that chance and I thought that was huge.”

Middleton wasn’t free yet.

After Eady made a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds left, the Warhawks had one final chance. Working the length of the court, Arrowhead brought a man to the middle of the floor, who caught the inbound pass, then hit Cunningham streaking down the right side. Cunningham got a look from the right wing and buried the 28-footer, but it came just a split second too late.

“It was close,” Bavery said. “But he had a little hesitation there or a bobble, which forced him to shoot it a little late.

“We’ve been on the wrong ends of those kinds of shots too many times in the past. So it was nice to escape for once.”

This was the first of a two-year series between the two programs, with next year’s game coming at Arrowhead. And both sides agreed it was a terrific test for both schools.

“They were really good,” Fermanich said of the Warhawks. “They could definitely hang in the Big Eight. They’re long, they’re athletic. That quick guard (Cunningham), Wow! He could get to the hole any time he wanted. I think they could hang with any of us.”

Arrowhead’s Haase left just as impressed with Middleton.

“They’re really good,” Haase said of the Cardinals. “Not only can they hit you with big runs, they come really fast. This was a great test for us.”

Two of those runs Haase talked about came early in the game.

After the Warhawks scored the opening basket, Middleton went on a 16-2 run to take control early. Murphy had five points in the burst, Eady added four and reserve guard Daydrian Spears knocked down a three-pointer that gave Middleton a 16-4 lead.

Arrowhead made five first half three-pointers, though, and closed within 29-27 with 2:10 left in the half. But Middleton finished the half with 11 straight points — including seven from Murphy. Murphy capped the burst by draining a three-pointer from the left corner at the halftime buzzer to give Middleton a 40-27 lead at the break.

Middleton’s lead grew to as high as 49-33 early in the second half, before the Warhawks began chipping away to set up the dramatic final minutes.

“I was just telling the guys not to panic,” Murphy said. “We’ve been through games like this before and just needed to keep our composure.”

Middleton did just that. And it’s perfect season is still intact.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Bavery said. “This is a great group and we’re having a ton of fun. But hopefully, we’ve got a lot more basketball and a lot more big games like this ahead of us.”

• Middleton 75, Janesville Parker 67 — Murphy had 27 points and Eady added 20 as the Cardinals defeated the Vikings last Friday.

 

Middleton 81, Hartland Arrowhead 78

Hartland Arrowhead ....... 27 51 — 78

Middleton ...................... 40 41 — 81

HARTLAND ARROWHEAD — Cunningham 8 3-3 22, Durant 2 0-0 6, Meister 1 0-0 2, Hamilton 4 3-3 11, Durand 2 0-0 6, Loke 3 0-0 9, Seefeld 4 3-5 11, Wilman 3 4-4 11, Peret 1 3-3 6. Totals 26 16-21 78.

MIDDLETON — Ashford 1 0-0 2, Bacon 2 1-2 5, Brunker 2 1-2 6, Eady 8 5-8 23, Fermanich 4 3-4 12, Markel 1 1-2 3, Murphy 8 8-10 27, Spears 1 0-0 3. Totals 27 19-28 81.

3-point goals — MID 8 (Brunker 1, Eady 2, Fermanich 1, Murphy 3, Spears 1), 10 (Cunningham 3, Durant 2, Durand 2, Loke 3, Wilman

1, Peret 1). Total fouls — MID 18, 21.

 

Middleton 75, Janesville Parker 67

Janesville Parker ............. 31 36 — 67

Middleton ....................... 42 33 — 75

JANESVILLE PARKER — Brooks 3 4-5 10, Campos 4 7-13 18, Davis 3 1-2 9, Ellis 1 0-0 2, Empereur 3 0-0 7, Weis 1 0-0 2, Young 4 4-7 12, Zane 2 0-0 6. Totals 23 17-29 67.

MIDDLETON — Ashford 1-2 1, Brunker 3 0-0 6, Eady 8 3-9 20, Fermanich 3 0-0 8, Markel 1 2-2 4, Murphy 9 7-7 27, Raffel 1 0-0 2, Smith 1 0-0 2, Spears 1 0-0 3, Thomas 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 13-22 75.

3-point goals — MID 6 (Eady 1, Fermanich 2, Murphy 2, Spears 1), JP 4 (Campos 2, Davis 1, Empereur 1, Zane 2). Total fouls — MID 22,

JP 16.

 

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