Sun Prairie rolls past Middleton

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Dennis Semrau/For the Times-Tribune
It was a rough Thursday night for point guard Storm Murphy, coach Kevin Bavery and the rest of Middleton's boys basketball team./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — Junior forward Jack Smith was stunned at what he saw when host Sun Prairie sank six consecutive 3-pointers and jumped out to an early 18-point lead over Middleton on Thursday night.

But Smith expected the visiting Cardinals to take it in stride.

“It’s just one of those things,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to play through it.”

Much to its chagrin, though, Middleton couldn’t. Sun Prairie rode the early scoring spree and posted a 64-53 victory over No. 4 Middleton in a critical Big Eight Conference game.

Sun Prairie’s win — plus Madison Memorial’s loss to Madison West — created a three-way tie atop the conference.

“Every team is giving us their best,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to expect them to come out and shoot like that. They were excited to play us, so that’s the way we’ve got to play.”

Sun Prairie (14-4 overall, 11-3 Big Eight) was without senior forward and leading scorer Rod Johnson (14 ppg). Johnson missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain suffered in a loss at Madison Memorial on Jan. 30.

But senior guard Sam Kerr finished with a game-high 22 points, including four free throws in the final 70 seconds. Sun Prairie senior guard D.J. Jones scored 11 points in the opening six minutes to deal Middleton (15-3, 11-3) its third loss in four games.

“Maybe it was the first loss, maybe it’s just an old (Duke coach) Mike Krzyewski term he called ‘slippage’. That’s what this team is fighting through right now,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “When you’re 14-0, you don’t notice things. Coaches notice things, but players don’t want to believe it.

“But it’s hard to stay humble, it’s hard to stay hungry when you’re 16, 17, 18 years old. You’ve got to keep it in perspective. Yes, we were 14-0, but we’re really not playing anywhere close to where we need to play.”

Jones opened the game with a free-throw line jumper for Sun Prairie before Smith scored off an offensive rebound for fourth-ranked Middleton in the opening minute.


Junior guard Sean Suchomel then gave Sun Prairie the lead for good with a three-pointer that ignited a 20-2 run. When the blitz ended, Sun Prairie held a 22-4 lead with 11:46 to play in the first half.

“Any team would think it was easier when you see the other team’s best player sitting out,” Middleton junior guard Storm Murphy said. “But that can be scary, because anyone can come out like Jones and hit some shots. He came out and was the X-factor. There’s always going to be someone who steps out like that when their best player’s out.”

Jones drained three consecutive three-pointers before Kerr followed with back-to-back three-balls to highlight the opening surge and set the tone for the game.

“Usually when a team hits six threes, part of it’s them, but you have a lot to do with it,” Bavery said. “Whether we trapped and rotated late, whether we didn’t recognize shooters, whether we got pinned coming off screens and got there late.”

Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos was happy to see his team get off to a fast start after Middleton did the same thing in its 69-61 victory on Dec. 17.

“Anytime you get that kind of energy going it’s phenomenal,” Boos said. “It was one of those nights where they go in. You can have another night where they don’t.”

Jones scored 11 of his 17 points and Kerr added 10 in the first half to give Sun Prairie a 34-25 lead at the break.

“I told the guys, I wanted him to play so bad because you’ve got to get it out of your minds right now they’re not the same team,” Bavery said of Johnson’s absence. “They’re a better team. Usually teams are better when their leading scorer is out of the game.”

Meanwhile, Middleton’s three leading scorers — Tyree Eady, Murphy and C.J. Fermanich — entered the game averaging a combined 52 points. That trio was held to just 10 points in the opening frame, though.

Fermanich finished with a team-high 15, while Eady had 14 points and Murphy finished with seven. Sophomore forward Brogan Brunker came off the bench to chip in with 10 points, including eight in the first half.

“High school basketball has always seemed to be ignited by the offense. That just engaged our defense to play even harder,” Boos said after holding Middleton to 17 points under its season scoring average. “I thought we did a pretty good job for a while of containing them and making them take tough shots and not giving them everything they want.”

Jones made a pair of free throws midway through the second half to push Sun Prairie’s lead to 49-33, before Middleton used a late rally to trim its deficit to seven points in the final minute.

“I felt like our best ball was from the 10-minute mark to the 4-minute mark of the second half when we actually played hard,” Murphy said. “We attacked the rim and drew fouls.”

Kerr, though, converted two free throws and Jones sank a layup at the buzzer to cap the scoring.

“We were able to sustain the lead and not allow them to get back into it,” Boos said. “I thought it was real important to get into halftime with the lead near double digits. I knew they’re capable and they can come at you. They have enough firepower to make three’s and get on a roll.”

The drama continues Saturday, when Middleton is at Madison Memorial (12-5, 11-3) at 7:30 p.m. Sun Prairie is at Janesville Craig (12-6, 8-6).

“We’re excited for Saturday even though we’re shocked and sad about what happened (Thursday),” Murphy said. “We don’t want to think about conference champs. We don’t want to think about state. We don’t want to think about anything but the next practice and the next game.

“It seems like we’ve been playing the opposite way we’ve been practicing the last few games. We’ve just got to get back to the way we’ve practiced as hard and focus on our team and no one else.”


Feb. 11

Middleton ....................... 25 28 — 53

Sun Prairie ...................... 34 30 — 64

MIDDLETON — Jack Smith 2 0-0 4, Storm Murphy 2 2-2 7, Tyree Eady 4 4-5 14, C.J. Fermanich 5 2-2 15, Cody Markel 0 0-1 0, Brogan Brunker 2 5-6 10, Kevin Ripp 1 0-0 3, Brady Thomas 0 0-1 0. Totals 16 13-17 53.

SUN PRAIRIE — Sean Suchomel 2 0-0 5, Sam Kerr 6 8-11 22, Ben Hauser 2 0-2 4, D.J. Jones 6 2-2 17, Deshawn Black 2 3-4 7, Nate Verstegen 1 0-0 2, Marlon Ruffin 3 1-2 7. Totals 22 14-21 64.

Three-point goals — S 6 (Jones 3, Kerr 2, Suchomel 1), M 8 (Brunker 1, Eady 2, Fermanich 3, Murphy 1, Ripp 1). Total fouls — S 20, M 21.



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