Sun Prairie slips past Middleton

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Myron Ashford and Middleton's boys basketball team fell to Sun Prairie, 71-69, Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — Kevin Bavery didn’t want to hear about the Big Eight Conference boys basketball race. Bavery didn’t care about postseason seeds.

Middleton’s boys basketball had just watched his team drop a 71-69 decision to Sun Prairie last Friday. And all Bavery cared about was getting his suddenly slumping group back on track.

“I could give a rats (tail) about seeds,” Bavery said. “I don’t care if we’re (seeded) 1 or 18. We just need to be playing our best basketball at tournament time.”

Right now, that certainly not the case.

Middleton dropped its second straight game and suffered its third loss in five outings. Middleton’s four losses have been by a total of 12 points, with its largest defeat being four points

Middleton fell to 10-4 overall, dropped to fourth place in the league at 7-4, and sits two games behind co-league leaders Madison Memorial and Janesville Craig (9-2). Sun Prairie jumped to third in the conference after improving to 7-3, 10-3.

“I go back to last year and at the start of the year we pulled out these close wins,” said Middleton wing Tyree Eady, who led all scorers with 24 points. “At the end of the year we couldn’t really do that. We’ve just got to figure out how to close people out again.”

Eady and senior forward Ben Jackson (14 points) carried Middleton’s offense. Sun Prairie got 16 points from freshman forward Jalen Johnson and junior forward Marlon Ruffin, while Marty Strey added 12.

The game was a thriller throughout, with eight ties and 14 lead changes. Sun Prairie’s biggest lead was seven points and Middleton’s was six.

Sun Prairie held a 71-68 lead with 4.7 seconds left when Middleton junior forward Brogan Brunker made the first of two free throws. Middleton called timeout and Bavery told Brunker to intentionally miss the second shot, hoping his team could grab the rebound and get the tying basket.

Brunker did exactly as asked and his free throw caromed off the back, left iron. Jackson beat his man inside the lane, grabbed the rebound, but missed the putback. Eady got a hand on Jackson’s miss and tried to tip it in, but his attempt missed at the horn.

“We just thought that was our best chance,” Bavery said. “Even with an immediate foul, it’s probably going to be under 4 (seconds). Now, the odds of getting them to miss (a free throw) and getting something on the run in less than four seconds is pretty low.

“(Brunker) missed it right where we wanted him to miss it. We got a couple, three good looks.”

The thrilling ending capped a game that had the near capacity crowd on the edge of its seats throughout.

Jackson, who has been red hot the last two weeks, had seven points in a 46-second stretch early as Middleton jumped to an 11-6 lead. Jackson, whose instant offense has been reminiscent of former Detroit Pistons star Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, had a rebound basket, stuck a three-pointer and a scored on a cut to the basket.

“I had a heart to heart with the coaches over winter break and just started working my butt off,” Jackson said. “Now it’s really paying off in the game.”

Johnson, the No. 1 rated freshman in the state according to wissports.net, had five points in an 8-0 run as Sun Prairie surged to an 18-13 lead. Middleton answered with a 10-2 burst that was highlighted by a pair of three-pointers by junior forward Davis Roquet and reclaimed a 23-20 lead.

Sun Prairie grabbed a 34-33 halftime lead, though, thanks to a sizzling shooting half (12-of-22, 54.5%). Middleton held a 21-8 rebounding advantage and had 12 second chance points in the first half to hang tight.

“Our defense isn’t where it needs to be,” Bavery said. “It’s nowhere near good enough right now.”

The entertaining second half featured more back and forth.

Eady had five points in a 9-0 run early in the second half as Middleton grabbed a 42-36 lead — its biggest advantage of the night.

Middleton still led, 45-42, when Sun Prairie embarked on a 13-3 run and grabbed its biggest lead of the game at 55-48.

Middleton came charging back, though and used a 7-0 burst to take a 63-60 lead. Eady had the first four points in that surge, then senior guard Myron Ashford drilled a three-pointer.

“If we make the simple play, we’re as good as anybody,” Bavery said. “We’re just doing that consistently enough right now.”

Sun Prairie reclaimed a 67-66 lead after a three-point play by Strey with 1:49 left. Eady gave Middleton the lead back, but Middleton had three straight empty possessions.

That allowed Sun Prairie to score four consecutive points and take a 71-68, lead with 40 seconds left.

Brunker’s free throw pulled Middleton within 71-69 with 4.7 seconds left. But Middleton’s final attempt came up short and its frustrations in close games continued.

“We were better in close games last year,” Jackson said. “We just have to believe in ourselves. That’s about it.

“We’ve got plenty of talent. Everything’s set up in the right place. We just need to believe and execute. We have to believe in each other and trust each other. We need to execute and get it done.”

Eady believes that’s still possible and that Middleton can get things figured out soon.

“We’re not as good as we were last year yet,” said Eady, whose team began last season 14-0 and ended 19-5. “We’re still working. We’re still getting better. We’re going to hit our stride soon.”

 

Jan. 20

Middleton ……………….. 33 36 — 69

Sun Prairie ………………. 34 37 — 71

MIDDLETON — Ashford 1 0-1 3, Brunker 1 2-4 4, Eady 8 8-10 24, Fermanich 2 1-2 5, Jackson 6 0-0 14, Murphy 4 1-2 9, Roden 0 1-2 1, Roquet 2 0-0 6, Smith 0 3-4 3. Totals 24 16-25 69.

SUN PRAIRIE — C. Schaefer 2 0-0 5, Johnson 6 3-3 16, Nelson 0 0-1 0, Ruffin 6 4-8 16, Strey 3 5-6 12, Suchomel 1 2-5 4, Verstegen 3 0-0 7, White 4 1-2 9. Totals 26 15-25 71.

3-point goals — SP 4 (C.Schaefer 1, Johnson 1, Strey 1, Verstegen 1), Mid 5 (Ashford 1, Jackson 2, Roquet 2). Total fouls — SP 19, Mid 20.

 

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