Boys basketball team drills Verona

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Gregg Hammill/For the Times-Tribune
Joel Ticknor and Middleton's boys basketball team rolled past Verona on Feb. 2./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They’re back.

One week after suffering one of its worst losses of the season, Middleton’s boys basketball team bounced back by routing Verona, 64-29, in a Big Eight Conference game on Feb. 2.

“I really expected a pretty close game tonight,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “We established right away that we were going to go inside with it. Our guys did a nice job. The timing was there and the post moves were pretty quick.”

The Cardinals were especially sharp on both ends of the court in the first half, connecting on 7-of-11 three-pointers and limiting the Wildcats to just 14 points.

“It’s fun when everything works,” Bavery said.

The Cardinals improved to 10-8 overall and 8-6 in the Big Eight Conference. Verona dropped to 9-8 and 6-8.

“In practice we’ve just been firing on all cylinders,” Middleton senior Brogan Brunker said. “It’s just good to see that especially coming off the Craig loss. That was kind of a fluke game, but we’re back.”

Brunker was referencing the deflating 71-55 loss the Cardinals suffered at Janesville Craig the previous week when Middleton got off to a slow start and never recovered.

“We weren’t shooting the ball. I was out of shape, nobody had energy, it was a long trip down to Craig and they lit us up and we just couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brunker, who had just returned from an ankle injury against Craig. “It’s going to happen, but I told the guys to burn the film and move on from that one.”

Bavery worked his players hard at practice after the loss.

“We took that one to heart at Craig and it was a tough week of practice,” senior guard Joel Ticknor said. “One of our hardest practices of the year was on Tuesday. We were running all practice. (We ran) 17s which are 17 touches of the baseline.”

“We had our main core guys that were on the floor and coach kicked our (butt),” added Brunker. “We were running the entire practice and we were tired.”

It all worked out in the end as the Cardinals dominated the Wildcats, a team Middleton had also beaten 71-42 back in December. They did it by employing an inside-outside attack.

“Every day we try to be motivated just to get better and today we established our inside game which really helped us,” Ticknor said. “We need to always do that every game and then other things will come after that so I think that’s why we clicked today. We found open shots and we drove to the basket after we established our inside game.”

Middleton connected on 12 three-pointers in the game, including three apiece by Ticknor and senior forward Nick Michaels.

“In the past we’ve come down and we’ve launched a lot of threes without getting anything established inside,” Bavery said. “So we got this many threes tonight, but it was after they came in rhythm, they came with the ball going inside first. Now we’ve got things going in to the basket, we’ve got actions going to the basket that drags them inside and now it comes out. We were 7-of-10 outside the arc in the first half and we didn’t cool off much in the second half.”

“It’s the inside game first then three points,” added Ticknor. “We’re definitely capable. We have a lot of shooters on the team, but we just have to get it inside first, then we can drive and kick out.”

Ticknor helped the Cardinals jump out to an early 7-0 lead. The senior drilled a three-pointer, got a steal and fed Brunker for a layup, and then found Alan Roden inside on an inbound pass in front of the basket.

“I thought Joel Ticknor had his best game of the year,” Bavery said. “Obviously he’s shown the ability to hit the three in a timely manner, but sometimes, when he starts looking for it a little too much, it takes away from other aspects of his game. So tonight, he really let it come to him and he was more distributing. A couple of those drives he found people opposite (wing).”

Leading 17-10, the Cardinals went on a 20-2 tear over the next 10 minutes to blow the game open. Brunker, Ticknor, Michaels and junior guard Sam Close all hit threes during the run. A basket by Verona’s Grant Kelliher made it 37-14 at halftime.

It was more of the same in the second half as Ticknor drilled a three from the top of the key just seconds into the half. Even with its big lead, Middleton continued to hustle throughout.

Already leading 48-17, Middleton’s Davis Roquet scrambled to rebound a missed shot by Michaels, then passed to Jack Boyle for an open three-pointer. The triple gave Middleton its biggest lead at 51-17 and the Cardinals cruised the rest of the way.

“We haven’t passed the ball that well the entire season so hopefully that’s a trend that will continue,” Bavery said. “We have so many different guys that are capable. It’s not just about Brogan, it’s not just about Alan, I mean everybody is capable. Now, if we can continue to establish that we’re going to go inside no matter who we’re going to play and take care of the ball and have that same offensive presence inside, inside, inside, inside, outside, then we can play with anybody.”

The Cardinals also excelled on the defensive end, forcing the Wildcats into 13-of-40 shooting (32.5%) from the floor and just 29 points.

“We trapped well in the half court and we forced things defensively. The help was usually there and guys were getting in the passing lanes,” Bavery said. “To hold someone under 30 in this league you’re doing some pretty good things.”

Brunker paced Middleton with 12 points. Ticknor and Michaels added 11 points apiece and senior forward Alan Roden contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds.

With just four conference games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinals are hoping to finish strong heading into the playoffs.

“We’ve got a good chance to win out and, if we do win out, then that’ll give us a lot of momentum going into the playoffs and I’m really excited about where we could go,” Brunker said.


Feb. 2

Middleton 64, Verona 29

Verona .…………………. 14  15 – 29

Middleton ……..........…. 37  27 — 64

VERONA — Reangan Klawitter 0-3 0-0 0, Grant Kelliher 1-2 0-1 2, Seamus Reilly 1-4 0-0 3, Quinn Golden 1-6 0-1 2, Ryan Van Handel 2-5 0-0 4, James Kemper 2-6 0-4 4, Buie Clements 3-6 0-2 6, Crew Risgaard 1-2 0-0 3, Sam Pederson 0-2 0-0 0, Tommie McNight 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Poller 0-1 0-0 0, Ian Vander Mause 2-2 0-0 5. Totals 13-40 0-8 29.

MIDDLETON — Brogan Brunker 5-11 0-0 12, Davis Roquet 1-3 0-2 3, Joel Ticknor 4-5 0-0 11, Alan Roden 5-6 0-0 10, Nick Michaels 4-6 0-0 11, Chann Bowman 0-0 0-0 0, Sam Close 1-3 0-0 3, Jake Klubertanz 3-3 0-0 6, Jack Boyle 1-2 0-0 3, Brian Verganz 1-2 0-0 2, Ryan Lewis 0-2 0-0 0, Ben Scher 0-3 0-0 0, Casey Hellenbrand 0-1 0-0 0, Wyatt Wirkus 1-4 0-0 3, Casey McKean 0-0 0-0 0, Keegan Severn 0-0 0-0 0, Chandon Thomas 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 26-52 0-4 64.

3-point goals – V 3 (Reilly, Risgaard, Vander Mause), M 12 (Ticknor 3, Michaels 3, Brunker 2,Roquet, Close, Boyle, Wirkus). Total fouls – V 8, M 17.


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