Middleton survives, advances to sectionals

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Brogan Brunker and Middleton's boys basketball team edged Janesville Craig, 82-79, in a regional final last Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

His best player had just fouled out of the game.

Visiting Janesville Craig had pulled even for just second time in the second half. And suddenly, Middleton’s boys basketball season was dangerously close to being over.

So, was Cardinals’ head coach Kevin Bavery worried?

“Yeah,” Bavery admitted. “Yeah, I was.”

The veteran Cardinals, though, made a bevy of key plays down the stretch of their WIAA Division 1 regional final last Saturday and edged the Cougars, 80-77, in an instant classic.

In the final 42 seconds, senior wing Myron Ashford Jr. and senior forward Ben Jackson — a pair of reserves — made some of the biggest plays of the night. Ashford Jr. drilled an enormous three-pointer to break a 75-all tie and Jackson hit a pair of free throws, then deflected a Cougars’ inbounds pass.

Middleton, the No. 3 seed in the sectional, improved to 19-5 and now meets second-seeded Madison Memorial (21-3) in a sectional final Thursday at 7 p.m. at Sun Prairie. Craig, the No. 6 seed, finished the year at 16-8.

Middleton senior forward Tyree Eady led all scorers with 24 points and added seven rebounds before fouling out with 1:22 remaining. Senior guard Storm Murphy had 19 points, while junior forward Brogan Brunker added 14 points and Jackson chipped in with 13.

Senior point guard San’Trell Payton led the Cougars with 22 points, while senior center Adam Anhold had 19 points and eight rebounds.

“It felt like a state game. It felt crazy,” Eady said afterwards. “Obviously, Craig is a great team. We had some close games with them early this year and we had to come out and show our toughness and play that way the whole game.”

Middleton did exactly that.

With Eady sitting, Craig’s Payton grabbed his own rebound, scored and was fouled with 58.6 seconds left. And when Payton drilled the ensuing free throw, the Cougars and Cardinals were deadlocked, 75-75.

On Middleton’s next possession, Ashford Jr. worked himself free in the left corner and Murphy found him. Ashford Jr. didn't hesitate and unleashed a three-pointer that hit all net and gave Middleton a 78-75 lead with 42.1 seconds left.

“I just work on that shot all the time at practice,” Ashford Jr. said. “That’s my place. That’s where I have most of my threes this year.

“And it feels good for our team. Great pass from Storm. Great pass.”

Middleton wasn’t out of the woods yet. Far from.

Craig’s Nick Lynch (13 points) hit a pair of free throws before Middleton’s Brunker answered with a lay-up that gave the Cardinals an 80-77 lead with 17 seconds left.

After both teams had empty possessions, Craig sharp-shooter Jake Negus (11 points) was fouled while attempting a 45-foot three-point shot with 2.8 seconds left. It appeared as though Negus was trying to make a pass, but the referees said he was shooting and awarded him three free throws.

Negus, a 73.0% free throw shooter, made the first two attempts and pulled the Cougars within 80-79. Bavery then called timeout to freeze Negus, a strategy that worked when the Craig senior missed his third attempt and Jackson rebounded.

“I know Nick is clutch,” Brunker said of Negus. “I played AAU with him and he’s got a head of steel. But we just had to trust ourselves and believe that even it goes to OT, we’ve got it. Just have confidence in ourselves.”

Overtime wasn’t needed.

Jackson drained two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to give Middleton an 82-79 lead. Then with the Cougars trying to heave a baseball pass for a final three-point attempt, Jackson tipped the ball and the Cardinals escaped.

“It’s really hard to beat a team three times, but we came out and did it,” Brunker said of defeating Craig for a third time. “I’m just really proud of the guys that we did it.”

There was a lot to be proud of following a game that felt more like a sectional final — or a state tournament game — than a regional championship.

There were six ties and five lead changes in the first half, and Middleton held a 38-34 lead at the break.

Murphy had four three-pointers and 14 points in the first half, while Eady added 11 points. Payton had 13 points for Craig, which shot a blistering 63.2% in the first half.

Middleton pushed its lead to seven points on five occasions early in the second half, the final one coming at 55-48 with 12:05 left. But Craig scored on five of six possessions, embarked on a 9-2 run and tied the game, 57-57, with 7:55 left.

“We just couldn’t pull away and get it to 10 or 11 or something like that,” Bavery said. “They just kept hanging around.”

Brunker answered with a clutch three-pointer from the top of the key and Eady converted an old-fashioned three-point play as Middleton reclaimed a 63-57 lead.

But Craig scored on seven of eight possessions and closed within 74-72 when Eady fouled out.

“I’m a big competitor and it was my last game at this high school, so I wanted to be out there obviously,” Eady said. “But I just knew my team would pull it out. They said, ‘We’ll do it for you Tyree.’ And I trust them. I believed the whole time. We showed we were resilient.

“I didn’t want to end my career on the bench, but I trust my teammates. They got my back. It showed everybody else can step up when they need to step up.”

Eady’s teammates felt the same.

“I was looking to step up for my seniors,” Ashford Jr. said. “This is our last time on this court and I just wanted to put it all out there.”

Added Brunker: “We need all of our players. We can win without Tyree. If we play together, I don't think anybody can stop us.”

That will be determined in the days ahead. On Saturday, though, Bavery and the Cardinals were just glad to live another day.

“When you can foul out two starters (Eady and Jack Smith), foul out your leading scorer (Eady), put four guys in double figures, that’s saying something,” Bavery said. “It was a great win. Craig’s a great team. Now, it’s time to keep on going.”

• Middleton 87, Kenosha Bradford 43 — The Cardinals rolled in a regional semifinal game last Friday.

Murphy led four players in double figures with 16 points.


March 4

Middleton 82, Janesville Craig 79

WIAA Division 1 regional final

Janesville Craig .............. 34 45 — 79

Middleton ...................... 38 44 — 82

JANESVILLE CRAIG — Anhold 7 5-9 19, Blomgren 3 0-0 7, Lynch 4 4-4 13, McCann 1 0-0 3, Negus 4 2-3 11, Ngobi 1 2-2 4, Payton 6 7-9 22. Totals 26 20-27 79.

MIDDLETON — Ashford 2 0-2 5, Brunker 5 2-3 14, Eady 9 6-6 24, Fermanich 3 0-0 7, Jackson 4 3-5 13, Murphy 6 3-4 19, Smith 0. Totals 29 14-20 82.

3-point goals — MID 10 (Ashford 1, Brunker 2, Fermanich 1, Jackson 2, Murphy 4), JC 7 (Blomgren 1, Lynch 1, McCann 1, Negus 1, Payton 3). Total fouls — MID 17, JC 17. Fouled out — Blomgren, Eady, Smith.


March 3

WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal

Middleton 87, Kenosha Bradford 43

Kenosha Bradford ......... 27 16 — 43

Middleton ..................... 33 54 — 87

KENOSHA BRADFORD — Bell 4 0-1 8, Glass 0 2-3 2, Hall 1 0-0 3, III 1 0-0 2, Nelson 7 0-0 15, Williams 3 0-0 6, Horley 0 2-2 2, Arrington 1 0-0 3, Washington 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 4-6 43.

MIDDLETON — Ashford 3 0-0 7, Brunker 5 1-1 11, Eady 6 1-2 14, Fermanich 2 1-4 6, Jackson 2 2-3 7, Murphy 6 2-3 16, Ragsdale 2 0-0 6, Roden 2 0-0 4, Sigmon 4 0-0 11, Michaels 0 0-2 0, Smith 1 0-0 2, Ticknor 1 0-0 3. Totals 34 7-15 87.

3-point goals — MID 12 (Ashford 1, Eady 1, Fermanich 1, Jackson 1, Murphy 2, Ragsdale 2, Sigmon 3, Ticknor 1), KB 3 (Hall 1, Nelson 1, Arrington 1). Total fouls — MID 14, KB 18.



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