Boys basketball team falls to East

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Brogan Brunker and Middleton’s boys basketball team begin the postseason Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

This was not the way Middleton’s boys basketball team wanted to enter the postseason.

Not following a 73-60 loss to Madison East in its regular season finale — which also happened to be Senior Night — last Thursday. Not after a game in which the Cardinals struggled to protect the ball and get defensive stops at critical moments.

But if the long season taught us anything, it’s that Middleton can play with many of the best teams in the area. Now, the question is can they beat those teams when it matters most?

The Cardinals finished the regular season 12-10 overall and finished fifth in the Big Eight Conference at 10-8. East won its 10th straight game and improved to 16-6, 13-5.

East senior forward Keshawn Justice led all scorers with 28 points that included seven three-pointers. Senior forward Alan Roden had 12 of his 14 points in the second half, while senior forward Brogan Brunker had all 12 of his points after intermission.

Middleton, which received the No. 7 seed in its 18-team sectional, now hosts Oconomowoc Friday at 7 p.m. in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal. If the Cardinals win there, they’ll likely to travel to second-seeded Waunakee Saturday at 7 p.m. for a regional final.

Middleton finished the regular season 2-9 against teams with winning records. And the Cardinals know their performance against elite teams must improve if they want to advance through the opening weekend of the playoffs.

“When I saw the bracket I really thought we could get through it,” Roden said. “Now we have to go and prove it, but we think we can play with anybody.”

Middleton head coach Kevin Bavery agreed.

“Hey, I think we’re going to have a great weekend,” Bavery said of regionals. “This team is definitely good enough to make some great things happen.”

Middleton showed that at times during its game with East. At other times, though, many of the issues that have plagued the Cardinals since November continued to pop up.

Middleton turned the ball over on seven of its first nine possessions, as the ultra-athletic Purgolders overplayed the ball, jumped passing lanes and used their quick hands and feet to deflect a high volume of passes.

Middleton shot just 8-of-25 in the first half (32.0%) and East senior forward Keshawn Justice had 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block. Justice, a Santa Clara recruit who has range to Verona, made 6-of-9 shots in the first half, including 4-of-6 three pointers.

“You see why he’s getting a full ride to Santa Clara,” Bavery said of Justice. “He’s a special player.”

Despite a litany of mistakes, Middleton was within 24-21 with 2:40 left in the first half following a Sam Close three-pointer. But East finished the first half on an 8-0 run, then scored the first five points of the second half to quickly stretch its lead to 37-21.

To Middleton’s credit, it refused to go away.

The Cardinals answered with an 8-0 run — including six from senior forward Brogan Brunker. First, Brunker hit a step-back three-pointer from the left corner. Then Brunker took a lob pass, went up over Justice for a lay-up, was fouled and drilled the free throw to pull Middleton within 37-29.

“We wanted to leave it all out there for us, especially our final regular season game at home,” Roden said. “I think that’s all we wanted to do was leave it all out there and give it our all.”

Middleton did just that throughout a fast paced, thrill-a-minute second half.

East pushed its lead back to 12 points with 11:44 left. The Cardinals then answered with a 13-6 run and closed within 53-48 with 6:47 remaining. That was the closest Middleton had been since 21-18.

“The kids showed a lot more fight in the second half,” Bavery said. “We just couldn’t get that one key stop to get us over the hump.”

Middleton was still within 60-55 after a Davis Roquet three-pointer with 4:50 left. And the Cardinals closed within 66-60 after another Roquet triple with 2:25 remaining.

But Middleton didn’t score again. And on two consecutive trips late, the Cardinals failed to foul and East turned it into a lay-up.

While Middleton gave a spirited performance in the second half, it also knows it must be far better this weekend to continue its season.

“I think we did some things in the second half that we can carry over into the playoffs,” Roden said. “I think we showed some fight, got it to a two-possession game and doing our thing a little bit more.

“If we play like we did in the second half, I still think we can do some special stuff (this) weekend.”

Bavery does, as well.

Oconomowoc went 11-11 overall and 8-8 during its first year in the extremely tough Classic 8 Conference. The Raccoons have seven players averaging between 7.0-8.7 points per game, but no one averages in double figures.

If Middleton wins and advances, it would most likely face Waunakee — ranked No. 5 in the latest poll.

Although the Cardinals and Warriors (20-2) play in different conferences, they know each other extremely well having played in many of the same youth and summer programs together for years.

Waunakee senior guard Mitch Listau, a Belmont University recruit, is the two-time Player of the Year in the Northern Badger Conference and is averaging 22.8 points per game this season. Warriors senior Mason Steffen (12.9) will also play collegiately at Minnesota-Duluth.

“We know those guys well,” Roden said. “Hopefully we can make it through that first night and get a chance to play them. It should be a lot of fun.”


Feb. 22

Madison East 32 41 — 73

Middleton 21 39 — 60

MADISON EAST — Justice 10 1-1 28, Washington 2 0-0 5, Lewis 2 3-4 9, Washington 3 2-3 8, Thompson 1 2-3 4, Jones 8 2-5 19. Totals 26 10-16 73.

MIDDLETON — Roden 5 4-4 14, Michaels 2 2-3 8, Roquet 3 0-0 9, Ticknor 2 2-2 7, Vergenz 2 0-0 4, Brunker 5 1-3 12, Boyle 1 0-0 3, Close 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 9-12 60.

3-point goals — ME 11 (Justice 7, Washington 1, Lewis 2, Jones 1), MID 9 (Michaels 2, Roquet 3, Ticknor 1, Brunker 1, Boyle 1, Close 1). Total fouls — ME 16, MID 13.








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