Verona KO's Middleton

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Halle White (left) looks for room to operate during the Cardinals’ loss to Verona Tuesday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

VERONA — When the night began, the large contingent of Middleton students chanted ‘We’re No. 1. We’re No. 1.’

When the night was over, that seemed certain to change.

Middleton’s top-ranked girls basketball team went to No. 3 Verona Tuesday with a Big Eight Conference title and the top seed in the sectional at stake. The Wildcats then proceeded to play like the No. 1 team in the state.

Verona’s trio of senior guard Cheyenne Trilling, and senior forwards Grace Mueller and Kira Opsal combined for 64 points and powered the Wildcats to a 73-56 win.

Verona moved into first place in the Big Eight with a 15-1 mark and improved to 17-2 overall. Middleton slipped to 14-1 and 16-3.

“I told (Verona coach) Angie (Murphy) at the start of the year that you should be the No. 1 team in the state,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “And they probably will be now.”

Trilling led all scorers with 23 points, including 17 in the first half. Mueller, a University of Wisconsin recruit, added 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Opsal — a Winona State recruit — had 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Middleton junior guard Bria Lemirande had 13 points, while sophomore forward Halle White added 10.

Verona now seems almost certain to land the No. 1 seed in the Janesville Craig Sectional. The coaches meet Sunday to vote on postseason seeding.

“The girls really executed the gameplan well and played confident and strong,” Murphy said. “We’re not the same team we were back in November.”

Middleton rolled past the Wildcats, 83-60, back on Nov. 24. That night, the Cardinals kept the pace to their liking and wreaked havoc with their pressure defense throughout. This time, Verona adjusted and the result was a 40-point swing.

The Wildcats — who have unique size with three 6-foot-2 players in their lineup — kept Middleton from turning the game into a track meet. Verona also protected the ball much better and played zone throughout, after playing strictly man-to-man the first game.

When Middleton couldn’t get much out of its press — and struggled in the halfcourt against the Wildcats’ length — it made for a long night.

“The biggest thing is just the height and their posts,” Bria Lemirande said. “They adjusted to what we do and their post defense is really good.”

Middleton couldn’t get its offense on track and trailed, 36-26, at halftime. The Cardinals shot just 37.9% from the field (11-of-29) against Verona’s zone.

Trilling shot the lights out for Verona, knocking down four three-point shots on her way to 17 first half points. Mueller also had her way inside, making 5-of-6 field goals and had 10 points and six rebounds in the half.

Bria Lemirande had nine first half points for Middleton.

“We knew the team we played at the beginning of the year was going to be a completely different team from the one we’d see this time,” Bria Lemirande said. “It’s Verona. You know they’re going to be motivated to beat us.”

Middleton’s only lead of the night came at 4-2 just 90 seconds into the game. The Wildcats quickly answered with a 15-3 run to take a 17-7 lead and kept its advantage in double digits the majority of the half.

Middleton had a mini-run midway through the half, scoring five straight points on a three-pointer from Bria Lemirande and a basket by Alyssa Lemirande to pull within 24-18. But Verona answered with a quick 8-2 burst and regained full control.

“We just couldn’t make any kind of run,” Kind said. “It was a frustrating night.”

The second half was more of the same.

Middleton pulled within 42-36 three minutes into the half after a three-pointer by sophomore Claire Staples. Amazingly, though, Middleton never could get any closer.

The Cardinals trailed, 48-41, after a three-pointer by junior Alexis Thomas with 12:33 remaining. But Verona went on a 7-0 run, took a 55-41 lead and the closest Middleton came over the final 9 minutes was 12.

Middleton finished the night shooting just 35.0% (21-of-60), while Verona shot 48.9% (23-of-47). Verona also held a 42-26 rebounding edge and outscored Middleton, 22-3, from the free throw line.

“We’ve just got to find a way to get better at our zone offense,” Kind said. “We were getting the ball into the middle at will, but we’ve got to convert.

“That’s tough to do against them because they’re so big. But we need to have better composure in there and make some better passes out of there.

“We’d like to get another chance at them. Hopefully we’ll get there.”

• On deck: Middleton is at Madison West Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Cardinals are then off until Feb. 18 when they host Beloit Memorial at 7:30 p.m.


Feb. 9

Verona 73, Middleton 56

Middleton ........................... 26 30 — 56

Verona ................................ 36 37 — 73

MIDDLETON — Flottmeyer 2 0-2 4, Hibner 1 0-0 3, A. Lemirande 2 0-0 5, B. Lemirande 5 1-2 13, C. Lemirande 3 0-0 9, Staples 2 0-0 5, Thomas 3 0-0 7, White 4 2-2 10. Totals 22 3-6 56.

VERONA — Luehring 2 5-6 9, Mueller 9 3-4 21, Opsal 5 10-11 20, Trilling 7 4-8 23. Totals 23 22-29 73.

3-point goals — V 5 (Trilling 5), M 9 (Hibner 1, A. Lemirande 1, B. Lemirande 2, C. Lemirande 3, Staples 1, Thomas 1). Total fouls — V 11, M 17.

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