Girls basketball team holds off Verona

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Claire Staples and Middleton's girls basketball team defeated Verona on Feb. 1/Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The ball hung in the air for a second, maybe two.

But to Middleton’s girls basketball team, it felt like a decade.

The Cardinals, mired in a two-game losing streak, were desperate for a win against Verona on Feb. 1. Middleton was clinging to a 45-42 lead with three seconds left, when Wildcats’ leading scorer Chandler Bainbridge got a clean look at a three-pointer from the left corner.

As Bainbridge’s shot crept closer to the rim, most of the Cardinals had the same thought.

“I was very nervous,” Middleton sophomore forward Karina Bursac said.

Much to Middleton’s delight, Bainbridge’s shot clanged off the iron. Verona’s Katie Pederson rebounded and missed a two-pointer at the horn and the Cardinals escaped with a 45-42 win.

Middleton improved to 11-7 overall and moved into third place in the Big Eight Conference at 9-5. Verona fell to 8-10 overall and slipped to fifth in the league at 8-6.

Middleton had lost its previous two games to Sun Prairie and Janesville Craig by an average of 17.5 points and badly needed a win.

“We talked before the game that this was a crossroads game for us,” said Middleton coach Jeff Kind. “It had been a tough week. We needed this one.”

Bursac shot 7-of-10 from the field and led the Cardinals with a career-high 18 points. Bainbridge led the Wildcats with a game-high 19 points.

“We played with a lot of urgency,” Bursac said. “It was a really big win for us. Coach called it a ‘crossroads’ game before the game and we really needed it.”

Middleton led, 40-30, after a pair of Bursac free throws with 5:29 left. But the Wildcats forced consecutive Cardinals turnovers and Bainbridge scored five straight points as Verona closed within 40-35 with 4:10 remaining.

Middleton still seemed in decent shape as its lead was 43-37 with 1:51 left. But Bainbridge drilled a 23-foot three-pointer, had a steal on the other end, then buried two free throws with 34.6 seconds left as Verona closed within 43-42.

“We didn't handle things very well down the stretch,” Kind said. “That’s part of having a young team … but we need to be better than that.”

Verona immediately fouled Middleton senior forward Claire Staples, who was a having a rough shooting night. But Staples calmly drained a pair of foul shots and the Cardinals pushed their lead to 45-42.

Verona coach Angie Murphy — the leading scorer in Middleton history — took timeouts with 22.8 and 17.3 seconds left to set up a final shot. And Middleton’s Kind gave serious thought to fouling a Verona player to deny the Wildcats a chance to shoot the tying three-pointer.

Instead, Kind let it play out and Bainbridge got free in the left corner. But Bainbridge — who had three three-pointers in the game — couldn't get this one to fall.

“Verona’s maybe not as talented as they’ve been,” Kind said. “But they’re extremely well coached and they know how to keep it close. We just couldn’t pull away from them.”

Verona jumped to a 14-8 lead midway through the first half. But the Cardinals closed the half on a 14-4 run and took a 22-18 lead at the break.

Verona’s 2-3 zone defense had been giving Middleton fits. But the Cardinals went to a zone offense called “trips” where Bursac and sophomore forward Sitori Tanin began picking apart the Wildcats’ zone with a nifty high-low game.

Bursac had nine points in the final 8 ½ minutes of the first half, while Tanin had two assists and a basket.

“Our interior passing was really good,” Kind said. “We’re getting better at that and it’s helping us break down some zones.”

Meanwhile, Middleton’s potent 1-3-1 zone defense was giving Verona fits, as the Wildcats managed just four points in their final 14 first half possessions.

Middleton’s lead was 34-30 with 7:45 left in the game when it smacked the Wildcats with a 6-0 run. Hannah Flottmeyer started the fun working free for a basket, Bursac had a lay-up off a nifty feed from Flottmeyer and Bursac drained two free throws to put Middleton ahead, 40-30, with 5:29 left.

That set the stage for the dramatic final minutes, in which the Cardinals managed just one field goal. But that was enough for Middleton to escape victorious.

“It got tough at the end,” Bursac said. “But we just didn't let up.

“Against Janesville Craig and Sun Prairie (MHS’ previous two foes), we were flat for some reason, but we stayed with it (Thursday). At the beginning of the year, we lost to Verona, so this is big.”

Kind, who will head to the postseason seeding meeting in just more than a week, knew this victory would pay dividends down the road.

“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it will definitely help us with seeding,” Kind said. “We just need to keep winning.”


Verona 18 24 — 42

Middleton 22 23 — 45

VERONA — Bainbridge 6 4-4 19, Mueller 1 0-0 2, Rae 2 1-6 5, K. Penn 2 0-0 6, Briggs 1 4-4 6, Pederson 2 0-1 4. Totals 14 9-19 42.

MIDDLETON — White 1 0-0 2, Staples 1 2-3 4, T. Tanin 1 0-0 3, Bursac 7 4-6 18, H. Dunn 1 0-0 3, Coleman 1 0-0 3, Lemirande 1 0-0 3, S. Tanin 2 0-0 4, Flottmeyer 2 1-5 5. Totals 17 7-15 45.

3-point goals — V 5 (Bainbridge 3, K. Penn 2), MID 4 (T. Tanin 1, H. Dunn 1, Coleman 1, Lemirande 1). Total fouls — MID 11, V 14.


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