Boys basketball team stumbles twice

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Gregg Hammill/Special to the Times-Tribune
It was a rough week for Kevin Bavery and Middleton's boys basketball team./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Unbeaten no more, but still on top.

That’s where the Middleton boys’ basketball team stood after tasting defeat for the first two times all season.

Middleton dropped a hard-fought 59-52 decision at home to Madison East in a Big Eight Conference battle on Saturday night just days after losing its first game of the season at Verona on Thursday.

After opening the season with 14 consecutive victories, the Cardinals have now lost two straight and share the Big Eight Conference lead with Madison Memorial at 10-2.

“The 14-0 was pretty special,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But, on the one hand, if anybody had told me at the beginning of the season that we would be 14-2 and tied for first place after 16 games, I would have thought, ‘Boy, I know we’re going to have a pretty good team, but I’m not so sure I would have guessed that at the start.’ ”

The Purgolders (7-5 in the league and 10-6 overall) avenged a 92-75 loss to the Cardinals back on Dec. 8.

“We honestly thought we were going to win the game until the final buzzer,” said junior forward Tyree Eady, who led the Cardinals with 15 points. “(The loss is) something we haven’t been accustomed to. Tonight they came to play. Their demeanor was that they did not want to lose. They were not going to lose and we didn’t come with that demeanor.”

Junior point guard Storm Murphy, the Cardinals’ second-leading scorer at 19.1 points per game, was held to just eight points, all in the second half, and felt East’s defense was the difference.

“It was the defense that East played,” Murphy said. “They’re just a great team. They apply so much pressure, and when they do that, it’s going to be really hard for us to get our shots to fall. It’s going to take a lot of work for them to fall.

“There was nothing open every time. There were no lanes open every time for me to drive and no three-pointers wide open every time. They were applying so much pressure that’s just why it was very hard.”

Added Eady: ”Shots just weren’t falling. That’s just a downfall. That happens every once in awhile, but we’ll be back on (Friday) against La Follette and we’re going to get that one.”

The Purgolders boast great size with three starters — Deang Deang, Keshawn Justice and Steve Wooten — all standing 6-foot-4, or taller.

“They have three or four potential Division 1 prospects who are long and athletic,” Eady said. “You’ve got to work around that. You should come harder. You’ve got to play with more energy with guys like that. We didn’t come like that (Saturday).”

Bavery said the Cardinals needed to make more plays as they had throughout their 14-game winning streak.

“We had to make plays that we’ve been making through the first 14 games that we didn’t make,” Bavery said. “(Assistant coach Jerry Raffel) said it best, ‘You’ve still got to make plays, you’ve still got to knock down shots, you’ve still got to finish layups, you’ve still got to knock down free throws,’ and we just didn’t do that.”

Similar to what happened in their first game against East, the Cardinals got off to quick start against the Purgolders. An inside basket by sophomore forward Brogan Brunker gave the Cardinals a 9-0 lead three minutes into the game. Back-to-back baskets by Eady extended the Cardinals lead to 18-5 with 8:14 remaining in the first half.

East slowly chipped away at the lead and pulled within 24-23 on a field goal by Trevone Irby. Eady answered with a pair of free throws, but East’s Oliver Allison drilled a 3-pointer to tie it at halftime, 26-26.

“They kicked to the corner and hit a big three at the half,” Bavery said. “We came in at halftime and felt that’s a game that probably should have been 35-20 in our favor at the half, but we just didn’t capitalize.”

Bavery pointed specifically to missed opportunities at the free throw line, where Middleton was only 6-of-11 in the first half.

In the second half, Middleton took a 31-27 lead on a 3-pointer by senior guard Brady Thomas. A basket by Brunker gave Middleton a 38-36 lead, but East went on a 10-2 run fueled by junior guard Cameron Cratic.

After a basket by East’s Courtland Cuevas and a free throw by Deang, Cratic scored on a driving layup. Cardinals’ junior guard C.J. Fermanich answered with a short jumper, but Cratic put back his own miss and then drilled a 3-pointer for a 46-40 East lead.

Cratic added a pair of free throws and two more baskets to keep the Purgolders’ lead at six. Cratic had scored just three points in the game before his 13-point outburst in just more than four minutes of action.

“I think we were just focusing on Deang and Justice the most,” Eady said. “When you do that, you still have to take into consideration other players that have the ability to score like that and we just lost (Cratic). They just took advantage of our defense.”

Middleton cut its deficit to 52-49 when Murphy was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free-throws with 2:52 remaining.

“I got a pull up in transition and knocked that one down and that got me going,” said Murphy. “Then I was just confident to pull it again. Luckily, I got fouled and knocked down all three free throws.”

East answered with a pair of free throws by Deang and a dunk by Wooten and Middleton could get no closer than five points the rest of the way.

While Bavery felt the Cardinals just didn’t play well against Verona in the previous game, he knew his team would have its hands full with East.

“East is a great team,” said Bavery. “They returned four starters from a state tournament team a year ago.

“They had some early season struggles and then got one of their best players back that we didn’t see the first time we played them in Wooten. So when you drive in the lane against them they’ve got a lot of size, a lot of length, and they’re very physical.

“East is really talented and athletic throughout their whole lineup and they’re a tough match for anybody.”

Despite the loss, Bavery was happy with his team’s effort, especially on the defensive end.

“I really loved the energy we brought tonight especially on the defensive end in the first half,” Bavery said. “But we struggle like any team does when we don’t make shots. You’ve got to find other ways to score. Our defense has got to create easy offense. When we had defense to create offense we didn’t convert very well.”

Starting with practice this week, the players were ready to get back to work.

“We have practice on Tuesday and that’s game day for us,” said Murphy. “We’re going to come back and we’re all going to be in it to win it. We’re going to go hard just like we played tonight. We’re looking forward to whoever our opponent is next. All we’re going to think about is our stuff, this team, and what we need to do to get better and work hard.”

Eady agreed.

“Just like with a win, we just go back the next day and work hard,” Eady said. “Go back harder, bounce back. We’ve got to get together as a team, instead of disperse. Come back see what we did wrong and work off of that. Nothing too bad.”

• Verona 62, Middleton 61 — Eady scored 24 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinals suffered their first defeat of the season. Fermanich and Brunker both added 11 points.

Nathaniel Buss led Verona with 20 points.

Buss made the second of two free throws with 12.5 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 62-61 lead. Middleton junior forward Myron Ashford had a potential, game-winning 16-footer with 2 seconds left that caromed off the backboard, allowing the Wildcats to prevail.


Jan. 30

Madison East 59, Middleton 52

Madison East ………. 26  33 — 59

Middleton ………..…. 26  26 — 52

MADISON EAST – Kenny Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Cameron Cratic 6-12 3-4 16, Deang Deang 5-11 6-7 17, Keshawn Justice 0-6 3-4 3, Steve Wooten 3-6 0-1 7, Davion Washington 0-1 0-0 0, Olliver Allison 4-12 0-0 10, Trev’one Irby 2-3 0-1 4, Courtland Cuevas 1-3 0-0 2, Chris Warren 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 12-17 59.

MIDDLETON – Storm Murphy 2-13 4-5 8, Tyree Eady 4-13 7-9 15, CJ Fermanich 3-8 0-0 6, Cody Markel 0-1 0-4 0, Jack Smith 0-0 0-3 0, Brady Thomas 3-4 0-0 8, Myron Ashford 2-3 0-0 4, Brogan Brunker 3-5 2-4 8, Kevin Ripp 1-1 0-0 3, Mitch Bacon 0-0 0-0 0, Travis Raffel 0-0 0-0 0, Cam Maly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-48 13-25 52.

3-point goals – ME 5 (Allison 2, Deang, Cratic, Wooten). M 3 (Thomas 2, Ripp). Total fouls – ME 19, M 16.



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