Great expectations await

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Expectations will be sky high next season for Storm Murphy and Middleton’s boys basketball team./File photo

Unfinished business.

If Middleton’s boys basketball team is looking for a theme for the 2016-’17 season, that would seem appropriate.

The Cardinals enjoyed one of their best seasons in years. Middleton went 19-5 overall, won a share of its first Big Eight Conference title in 15 years, and climbed as high as No. 2 in the state polls.

But after a 14-0 start, Middleton lost five of its final 10 games. The Cardinals had a chance to win the Big Eight’s outright title, but lost a home game to Janesville Craig on the final night of the regular season.

Then Middleton, a No. 2 seed, lost a home game to seventh-seeded Madison West in the regional finals.

Yes, the Cardinals accomplished many great things in 2015-’16. But there’s also a lot they left on the table.

“What might have been kept it from being fulfilling,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said of the season. “It will undoubtedly fuel our preparation for 2016-17.”

Middleton will bring back the majority of its key players next season. But Bavery was quick to praise a senior class that contributed in many different ways.

“It was a very special group of kids this season, and of course it always starts with your seniors,” Bavery said. “This group was so unique in that they not only provided the leadership that you need from your seniors, but they were willing to accept roles and work with younger players as their equals from start to finish — not always an easy thing to do. As coaches we loved it.

“It really was a special group from a basketball standpoint, but more importantly from a people standpoint. All of (our) accomplishments can never be taken away. They are there for this group to be a part of forever.

“Hopefully the seniors realized how much they were appreciated by players and coaches alike, and the returning players will use their leadership and example to fuel their efforts between now and next season.”

Everyone in the program expects next season to be a special one.

Middleton returns its top six scorers, led by first-team all-Big Eight players Tyree Eady and Storm Murphy. And Bavery knows expectations will be sky high.

“Well, there certainly is a talented group returning,” Bavery said. We also have a group returning who didn’t see much playing time that has an opportunity to jump in the mix. They will be heavily challenged by a quality group of JV players who had a great season as well.

“You never know who might move in, who might hit a big growth spurt from a younger group including current freshmen, or who just falls in love with being dedicated to the game. There are never any guarantees, but always opportunities. I think they will all take the challenge with a lot of time and energy, as they know that a number of other Big Eight teams return quality players as well.”

Eady, a silky smooth junior forward, was the top scorer in the Big Eight this season at 20.6. Eady was also Middleton’s top rebounder (5.1), led the team in steals (3.1) and added 1.8 assists per game.

Murphy is a dynamic point guard who can get into the lane or hurt you from beyond the three-point line. His challenge next season will be keeping everyone involved in the offense.

This year, Murphy finished second in the league in scoring (18.4), led the Cardinals in assists (4.4) and was second in steals (2.0).

Junior guard C.J. Fermanich averaged 11.7 points per game this year, which is the eighth-highest total among conference returnees next season. Fermanich also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

Bavery believes sophomore forward Brogan Brunker will be an all-conference player before his time at Middleton is done. Brunker averaged 7.5 points per game this season, shot 53% from the field and improved steadily throughout the year.

Junior forward Jack Smith started throughout much of the year, while junior guard Myron Ashford gave the Cardinals a lift offensively (4.5).

“We met with all the returning players as a group and have started individual meetings,” Bavery said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a group more dialed in on what they want next season to look like for our team.

“I have made a big point to tell them that the emotions (of the season ending) will fade. So jumping in hard right now will likely be temporary. Take some time off and then each player has to find their individual ‘go time’ and then be consistent in three areas: quantity, quality, and intensity.”

Bavery wants to see his team improve its scoring efficiency, from both inside and outside.

“We definitely need to establish a stronger inside game, and our three-point shooting needs to become more efficient,” he said. “We simply need to shoot it at a higher percentage.

“That comes with quality reps, quantity reps, and game-like reps, along with better shot selection. I think some of our guys can actually score more by shooting less and spreading the wealth around more. The more games that we can put three, four even five players in double figures the better. And we have to be able to win in multiple ways.

“We like a full court game, but we need to be able to win in the half court, both offensively and defensively. Our toughness in getting to loose balls, first to the floor, taking charges, and boxing out has to improve more than any other phase of our game because it’s as physical of a league as there is anywhere. We want to be built for it all.”

Madison Memorial, which shared the league title with Middleton and Sun Prairie, started five juniors this year and should be terrific next year. Janesville Craig returns a veteran bunch, as well.

Sun Prairie, Madison East and Madison West are all expected to be in the mix, as well.

But Middleton has the potential for its best team since its 1998 state runner-up squad. And Bavery knows next year could be a special one for his program.

“Potentially it’s a pretty special group returning, as well as challenging to move up,” Bavery said. “But potential is pretty elusive and it certainly doesn’t guarantee results. I believe in them and know they have it in them, but their actions are what will ultimately speak for them.”

• Awards night: Middleton recently held its postseason banquet and the following awards were given:
—   Co-MVP’s: Storm Murphy and Tyree Eady

—   Defensive player of the year: Jack Smith

—   Offensive player of the year: Tyree Eady

—   Intensity award: Brady Thomas

—   Sixth man award: Brogan Brunker

—   Rookie of the year: Brogan Brunker

—   Most improved: Myron Ashford Jr. and Brett Wipfli

—   Team captain: Cody Markel

—   Chaos award (awarded to the player that best exemplifies the characteristics that are cornerstones of the program): Brady Thomas

 

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