Thomas, MHS knock off Mukwonago

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton senior forward Alexis Thomas (center of huddle) had a game-high 22 points and a pair of huge three-pointers late in the Cardinals' 71-66 win over Mukwonago Thursday night./Photo courtesy of Mary Bavery

For nearly four seasons now, Middleton’s Alexis Thomas has had a knack for making big plays.

There was a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cardinals a memorable overtime win at Janesville Craig in 2016. Thomas helped key a second half run in Middleton’s win over Janesville Parker in a regional final.

But Thomas may have had her signature moments in a Middleton uniform Thursday night.

With the Cardinals trailing top-seeded Mukwonago, 59-56, in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal, Thomas drained consecutive three-pointers in a 35-second span late in the second half. Those cold-blooded triples helped propel fourth-seeded Middleton to a 71-66 win over the Indians.

“I’ve definitely been working on my shot,” said Thomas, who led all scorers with 22 points. “I’ve been a little up and down this year. But I was mostly on tonight.”

Middleton improved to 22-3 and will face Madison East (19-5) in a sectional final Saturday at 1 p.m. at Janesville Craig. Mukwonago, which reached the state championship game a year ago, ended the season 22-3.

Middleton will be trying to reach the state tournament for the 10th time in school history and the seventh time since 2008. Madison East has been to state just twice, the last time coming in 1990.

Middleton drilled 15 three-pointers, including five from Thomas. Senior forward Carlee Lemirande made four three-pointers and added 14 points, while senior point guard Bria Lemirande had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

“Carlee had her best game in a long time,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said of Carlee Lemirande. “She was really good.”

Mukwonago freshman forward Angie Cera led four Indians in double figures with 17 points, while sophomore guard Grace Beyer had 16 points and nine rebounds. Mukwonago standout sophomore Natalie Andersen had 12 points and six rebounds, but sprained her ankle on the final play of the first half and didn’t return.

“There’s no doubt, that changed the game dramatically,” Kind said of Andersen’s injury.

Thomas did her part to change things, too.

Beyer’s driving basket gave Mukwonago a 59-56 lead with 5:30 remaining, but that was the Indians final lead of the night.

First, Thomas drilled a 21-foot three-pointer from the right arc that tied the game at 59 with 5:20 left. Then, Thomas canned another triple from nearly the identical spot to give the Cardinals a 62-59 lead with 4:45 remaining.

Those huge shots by Thomas keyed a 9-0 run. And when the blitz was done, Middleton held a 65-59 advantage with 3:11 left.

“That gave us a lot of momentum,” Thomas said. “Definitely some of my biggest shots ever.”

Mukwonago wasn’t done, answering with a 7-2 burst to close within 67-66 with 33.5 seconds left. Freshman Sarah Pavletich started the run with a lay-up, Beyer drilled two free throws and Cera knocked down a 22-foot three-pointer as the Indians refused to go quietly.

But Thomas drilled a pair of free throws with 19.1 seconds left to push the lead back to 69-66. Then with the Indians trying to tie things, Middleton sophomore guard Charlotte Dunn came up with a huge steal and knocked down two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to ice things.

“They just made a couple more plays than we did,” Mukwonago coach Rick Kolinske said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of a group. It’s always tough to lose your last game. Only one team goes out a winner.”

Middleton’s odds of leaving a winner increased when Andersen went down at the end of the first half.

There were three ties and five lead changes in the first half. But Mukwonago seemed to have all the momentum when it closed the half on a 7-0 run to take a 35-28 lead.

The Indians’ final points of the half came when Andersen drilled a 25-foot, three pointer at the buzzer. Andersen came down on the foot of a Cardinals player, though, badly twisted her left ankle and never returned.

“That was a big blow to our momentum,” Beyer said of losing Andersen. “We kept pushing. We really wanted to play for her and win it for her. But it was difficult.”

When Andersen went down, it crippled the Indians in two ways.

First, the 5-foot-11 Andersen sat at the top of Mukwonago’s 1-3-1 zone, where her length made things extremely challenging for the Cardinals. Second, Andersen — a first-team all-Classic 8 Conference player — has a dynamic offensive game that couldn’t be duplicated.

“I’d definitely trade that three-pointer for a second half with Natalie,” Kolinske said.

With Andersen sidelined the final 18 minutes, Middleton took full advantage.

The Cardinals opened the second half on a 10-3 blitz and quickly tied the game, 38-38. Carlee Lemirande led the charge with a pair of three-pointers.

Over the next 10 minutes, there were six lead changes and three ties as neither team led by more than four points.

Mukwonago was in the midst of a 10-4 run to take a 59-56 lead. But Thomas stepped up with back-to-back triples that helped vault the Cardinals into the sectional finals.

“The girls did a lot of good things and it’s a really good win,” Kind said. “But we’ve got to get one more (Saturday).”

 

March 2

Middleton 71, Mukwonago 66

Mukwonago ……………….. 35 31 — 66

Middleton ………………….. 28 43 — 71

MUKWONAGO — Andersen 5 0-0 12, Beyer 6 2-2 16, Cera 5 4-5 17, Henning 2 6-8 10, Huber 2 0-0 4, Pavletich 1 5-6 7. Totals 21 17-21 66.

MIDDLETON — A. Lemirande 3 0-0 7, B. Lemirande 4 2-4 12, C. Dunn 0 2-3 2, C. Lemirande 5 0-2 14, Flottmeyer 1 1-3 3, H. Dunn 1 0-0 3, Staples 2 0-0 6, Thomas 7 3-6 22, White 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 8-18 71.

3-point goals — MID 15 (A. Lemirande 1, B. Lemirande 2, C. Lemirande 4, H. Dunn 1, Staples 2, Thomas 5), Muk 7 (Andersen 2, Beyer 2, Cera 3). Total fouls — MID 19, Muk 17.

 

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