Craig ends Middleton's season

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By: 
Dennis Semrau/For the Times-Tribune
The season ended Thursday for Jeff Kind and his Middleton girls basketball team./File photo

 

Live by the three, die by the three.

That adage rang true for the second-seeded Middleton Cardinals girls’ basketball team Thursday night.

The Cardinals missed 16 consecutive three-point attempts to open the game and not even a furious second-half rally could undo the damage.

Janesville Craig’s Delaney Schoenenberger finished with a game-high 30 points and Anne Schumacher chipped in with 17 points as the third-seeded Cougars pulled away for a 74-57 victory over Middleton in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal at Madison La Follette High School.

“It was an uphill battle all the way tonight,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind admitted.

Middleton, which defeated Craig twice during the regular season, finished the year 21-4. The Cougars (19-6) advanced to meet top-seeded Verona (22-3) in a sectional final on Saturday at Janesville Parker at 1 p.m.

“We needed to work it into the post more. We needed to run our offense and we weren’t really doing it,” Middleton junior Bria Lemirande said. “I definitely think they came out wanting it more than us. That was the biggest thing they had going.”

Added junior Alyssa Lemirande, who scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half: “We just couldn’t get anything to fall and they played strong defense. They weren’t letting us drive to the basket.”

Junior Carlee Lemirande and sophomore Claire Staples scored 12 points each for Middleton, which made just 17-of-56 field goal attempts (30.3%), including a dismal 3-of-28 (10.7 percent) from three-point range.

While the Cardinals did sink 20-of-25 free-throw attempts (80.0%), including 13-of-16 in the second half, it proved to be too little, too late.

“We were settling for outside shots instead of getting the ball inside,” Kind said. “Part of the process all year long has been learning what kind of intensity you have to have all of the time. I think we had some ups and downs with our intensity. Unfortunately this isn’t a good time to have one of those downs.”

Janesville Craig, though, had something to do with Middleton’s struggles on both ends of the court.

“Give them a lot of credit. They got to loose balls and they got to rebounds a lot quicker than we did,” Kind added. “They played an excellent game. You can’t afford to let anybody get up by 20 points on you and try to come back.

“They got 14 points on offensive boards in the first half. It’s tough to win that way.”

Middleton defeated Craig, 87-74, in the regular season finale on Feb. 20. Sophomore post Halle White led Middleton with 22 points in that game.

But White was held to just four points as Janesville Craig employed a 2-3 matchup zone to force Middleton to shoot from the outside.

It certainly did the trick.

“Defensively, they hurt us inside so what we said — we didn’t plan on them missing their first 16 threes — was we were going to pack it in a little bit,” Janesville Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “The bigger the game, the harder it is to make them. You live and die by (threes) and they died tonight.”

Middleton scored first when junior Alexis Thomas converted a putback off a missed three-pointer by Alyssa Lemirande.

“That first possession was great. They got an offensive rebound but I knew when they took 30 seconds to score we were in good shape,” Storbakken said.

After both teams exchanged field goals, Schoenenberger sank a layup to jump-start a 17-2 surge as Janesville Craig roared to a 19-6 lead midway through the first half.

During that span, Middleton missed seven of eight field goal attempts, including all six three-pointers, and committed three turnovers in nine possessions.

That set the tone for the Cardinals, who made just 7-of-26 field goal attempts (26.9%) — and were 0-for-13 from three-point range — in the first half as the Cougars cruised to a 37-21 lead.

“We came into it not realizing how strong they would come out,” Carlee Lemirande said of Janesville Craig, which missed its first four field goal attempts, but shot 48.4% (15-of-31) the rest of the opening frame. “Once we got the first basket, we backed off and they went really hard after that. We didn’t pick up the pace until the second half.”

Craig didn’t miss a beat after halftime, using a 9-2 spurt to pull ahead 46-23 with 13:58 to play after Kamryn Brittingham found Schoenenberger open for an easy layup.

But instead of packing it in, the Cardinals regrouped.

Carlee Lemirande scored eight points, including a pair of threes, to lead a 13-4 surge and bring Middleton within 50-36 and forced the Cougars to a call a timeout.

“I realized we needed the points so I started shooting it,” said Carlee Lemirande, who sank her third and final three-pointer moments later to help ignite another spurt that breathed more life into the Cardinals.

Alyssa Lemirande converted a three-point play and Thomas made two free throws to cap a 14-4 run and trim Middleton’s deficit to 56-50 with 5:28 to play.

“We had more energy and people were cheering for us when we made shots and we fed off that,” Carlee Lemirande said. “We realized it could be the last game so we picked up our intensity.”

The Cougars, though, weren’t finished. Craig quickly responded to the challenge when Schumacher found Schoenenberger open at the top of the key for a clutch three-pointer.

The Cardinals never got any closer than nine points the rest of the way.

“Since we beat them last year in this position, we knew they wanted to come out and get us,” said Thomas, whose team rallied to defeat Craig in a sectional final last year. “Whichever team came out and wanted it more was going to win. We came out and gave it our best, but we didn’t come through.”

Storbakken agreed last year’s loss to Middleton in the sectional finals played a role in the Cougars’ quick start and determined finish.

“We start four seniors and our kids are locked in, they are dialed in,” Storbakken said. “They remembered last year. It’s hard to beat a good team three times. It is. We had a lot more to play for.

“When we went up there at the end of the season, they had the conference title to play for. It’s not that we didn’t have anything to play for, but they had a lot more to play for. Here, it was even stakes winner moves on to the sectional championships.”

Fighting back her tears at the sudden end of the Cardinals’ season, Alyssa Lemirande said the game would serve as motivation over the next 12 months.

“We will have a really good team next year but we’ve got to keep working hard so we don’t end our season short like we just did,” Alyssa Lemirande said. “We have to work hard every day in practice and never give up. I don’t want to feel like this again.”

 

March 3

Janesville Craig …………………… 37 37 — 74‌

Middleton ………………………………. 21 36 — 57‌

JANESVILLE CRAIG — Anne Schumacher 7 0-0 17, Nikki Foster 1 0-3 2, Ali Carlson 3 4-6 10, Delaney Schoenenberger 11 6-6 30, Kamryn Brittingham 2 0-0 4, Emily Pierson 2 6-7 11, Totals 26 16-22 74.

MIDDLETON — Alyssa Lemirande 3 8-11 14, Alexis Thomas 1 2-2 4, Bria Lemirande 3 3-4 9, Carlee Lemirande 4 1-2 12, Staples 4 4-4 12, Flottmeyer 1 0-0 2, White 1 2-2 4. Totals 17 20-25 57.

Three-point goals — JC 6 (Pierson 1, Schoenenberger 2, Schumacher 3), M 3 (Carlee Lemirande 3). Total fouls — JC 21, M 17.

 

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