Thomas lifts MHS past Sun Prairie

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Alexis Thomas (right) drained a game-winning three-pointer as Middleton defeated Sun Prairie Thursday night./File photo

Sun Prairie — Alexis Thomas isn’t one to seek out attention. But when the spotlight was thrust on Middleton’s standout junior guard Thursday night, she was ready with a virtuoso performance.

Thomas and her Cardinals were deadlocked, 67-67, with host Sun Prairie in a Big Eight Conference thriller. But Thomas changed that with a cold-blooded, 21-foot three-pointer with just 5.4 seconds left.

Thomas’ heroics gave Middleton a 70-67 win and allowed it to stay perfect in conference play. Middleton improved to 15-2 overall, 13-0 in the Big Eight and maintained a ½-game lead over second place Verona (13-1, 15-2).

Middleton, ranked No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll, travels to No. 3 Verona Tuesday night.

“You try not to make it seem like a really big deal when that shot goes in,” Thomas said. “But it’s a great feeling. It really is.”

Thomas also had that feeling Jan. 9 at Janesville Craig, when her 25-footer at the buzzer gave Middleton a 77-75 win. This game-winner was just as dramatic.

Middleton and Sun Prairie (9-5, 11-7) were engaged in a thriller throughout and knotted at 67 with 59.5 seconds left. After a timeout, Middleton coach Jeff Kind elected to hold for the final shot.

With 10 seconds left, junior guard Alyssa Lemirande drove the right baseline and fed her sister, Bria Lemirande on the left block. Sun Prairie immediately sent a double-team in Bria Lemirande’s direction, and she spotted Thomas outside the arc on the left wing.

Thomas caught the perfect pass, squared up and made her only field goal of the second half. Sun Prairie sophomore wing Carly Coulthard’s 35-footer to tie at the buzzer was short and wide right.

“Alexis just hits those shots when it matters the most,” Bria Lemirande said of Thomas. “She’s just really good in the clutch.”

Bria Lemirande was awfully good, herself. Despite feeling under the weather. Bria Lemirande finished with a team-high 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot.

Alyssa Lemirande and Thomas both added 14 points.

Coulthard had 15 of her 20 points in the second half. Sun Prairie standout sophomore guard Jayda Jansen added 14 points and nine rebounds, but Thomas limited her to 7-of-20 shooting (35.0%).

“I just think this group is really resilient,” said Kind, whose team won its eighth straight game. “They just keep finding a way to get it done.”

Nothing came easy on this night against a Sun Prairie team that looks capable of making a big postseason run.

Sun Prairie scored nine straight points over a 3-minute stretch early in the game and took a 9-3 lead. Middleton trailed, 11-5, when it went on a 10-0 burst of its own to grab a 15-11 advantage.

Thomas and Carlee Lemirande both had driving baskets. Bria Lemirande followed with a three-pointer, then Carlee Lemirande had a three-ball of her own.

Middleton didn’t trail again the rest of the first half, and its lead fluctuated between one and eight points. Sun Prairie pulled as close as 36-35 after a Jansen basket. But Bria Lemirande drained a three-pointer with 38 seconds left in the half to give Middleton a 39-35 lead at the break.

Middleton shot a scintillating 15-of-27 in the first half (55.6%) and made 8-of-15 three-pointers (53.3%). Bria Lemirande made 5-of-6 first half shots — including all four of her three-pointers — and led all scorers with 14 first half points.

Sun Prairie was white-hot, as well, making 16-of-30 of first half shots (53.3%).

“Bria was terrific for us all night,” Kind said. “She wasn’t feeling well, but you wouldn't have known it.”

Middleton’s biggest lead of the second half came at 50-42 when sophomore forward Halle White — playing just her second game since returning from a shoulder injury — scored inside with 12:35 left in the game. But Middleton went scoreless the next 3:40 and Sun Prairie used an 8-0 burst to pull even, 50-50.

Sun Prairie took its first lead since the opening minutes at 58-56 when Coulthard drained a three-pointer with 7:15 left. And that set up a back-and forth finish.

Down the stretch, there were four lead changes and three ties.

“Coming here, we knew they’d be really motivated,” Bria Lemirande said. “They’re a great team and we knew we’d get their best shot.”

Thomas gave Middleton the lead for good at 64-63 with a pair of free throws with 2:57 left. Bria Lemirande added a free throw, then Coulthard banked home a 19-footer with 2:15 left that tied the game, 65-65.

Alyssa Lemirande answered with a driving basket with 1:32 remaining to put Middleton back ahead, 67-65. But Sun Prairie senior Alyx Benzine made a pair of free throws with 1:15 remaining to tie things at 67.

Both teams had turnovers, and that set the stage for Middleton to hold for a final shot — and for Thomas to play hero.

“This team just always finds a way,” said Thomas, who was 0-of-6 from the floor in the second half before her heroics. “For a bit there, my confidence was going down and I was thinking, ‘I can’t keep shooting from out here. I have to drive.’

“But my teammates kept telling me to shoot and I guess it’s a good thing I did.”


Middleton …………….. 39 31 — 70

Sun Prairie …………….. 35 32 — 67

MIDDLETON — A. Lemirande 5 1-2 14, B. Lemirande 8 1-2 22, C. Lemirande 2 0-0 5, Staples 2 2-2 7, Thomas 4 4-6 14, White 4 0-0 8. Totals 25 8-14 70.

SUN PRAIRIE — Baker 2 0-0 4, Benzine 3 2-2 9, Blair 5 0-0 11, Coulthart 7 3-5 20, Hilber 1 0-0 2, Jansen 7 0-0 14, Moore 3 0-0 7. Totals 28 5-10 67.

3-point goals — M 12 (B. Lemirande 5, A. Lemirande 3, Thomas 2, C. Lemirande 1, Staples 1), S 6 (Coulthart 3, Benzine 1, Blair 1, Moore 1). Total fouls — M 12, S 10.


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