Future looks bright for boys basketball team

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Jack Boyle (left) will be one of the key returnees for Middleton’s boys basketball team next year./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Nearly an hour after Middleton’s boys basketball season had ended, several Cardinals were still lingering inside Waunakee High School on March 3.

Middleton’s players and coaches exchanged hugs. They found parents, girlfriends and family members and embraced.

No one wanted to leave.

That’s because Middleton — despite a mediocre 13-11 record — became a tight knit bunch that would have loved another game or two together.

“We were proud of our kids, no doubt,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “It might sound cliché, but it really was true with this group, as myself and my varsity staff truly looked forward to every day we were able to spend in the gym with this group.

“High character kids with great work ethics and bright futures. As coaches we are clearly the lucky ones to have this opportunity to spend time with and hopefully have a positive impact on these student-athletes during the season and moving forward.”

Middleton, which went 10-8 in the Big Eight Conference and finished in fifth place, loses a talented 10-person senior class that came on like gangbusters in their final season.

Senior forward Brogan Brunker was named first-team all-Big Eight, while senior guard/forward Alan Roden was named honorable mention all-league. Brunker averaged 18.0 points per game, while Roden led the Cardinals in rebounding (7.2) despite standing just 6-feet tall.

Seniors Joel Ticknor, Nick Michaels and Davis Roquet all averaged between 7.5 and 7.7 points per game. Ticknor also led the Cardinals in assists (2.8) and charges drawn (17), while Roquet was third in rebounding.

Brian Vergenz was a valuable sixth man, while guard Chann Bowman and forward Ryan Lewis provided valuable minutes in reserve roles.

“No doubt this was a great group of seniors,” Bavery said. “It’s easy to focus on statistics, but what they brought in terms of fostering team togetherness was immeasurable. I’m hoping that is transferred to next year’s seniors, remembering what it feels like to be accepted and respected as they lead next season’s team.”

Middleton went 9-1 against teams that finished below it in the conference. But the Cardinals were just 1-7 against teams that finished above them in the league.

Middleton went just 1-5 in games decided by five points, or less, and had a tough time finishing games. For example, the Cardinals led Waunakee, 58-54, late in their regional final when the Warriors went on a game-changing 8-0 run.

For the most part, the Cardinals could play with everyone on their schedule. They just couldn’t defeat most upper-echelon teams.

Middleton will bring back a solid nucleus next season in a conference that figures to be just as good — if not better — than it was this year.

Junior guards Sam Close and Jack Boyle could form one of the better backcourts in the Big Eight next season.

Close averaged 6.0 points per game, shot 44% from three-point range and 75% from the free throw line. Boyle shot 42% from three-point land and 88% from the free throw line while averaging 3.0 points per game.

“Both Sam and Jack have the ability to become premiere shooters and scorers in this league,” Bavery said. “They will draw better defenders next season, so that becomes a challenge for them in the offseason to improve their ability to shoot it quicker and to be able to create more with and without the ball in their hands.”

Jake Klubertanz became a quality interior backup this season and could be a low post force in the league.

“Jake has the size and strength,” Bavery said. “He missed last summer recovering from knee surgery and was up and down at times with consistency and confidence. He just needs to get his ‘go to’ move decisive and automatic and have his counter ready and he will be a very difficult guard for teams.”

Middleton will also welcome back center Max Schlicht for his senior season. The 6-foot-6, left-handed Schlicht suffered a torn ACL last summer, didn’t play this year, but could be a difference-maker next winter.

“Max really can shoot it if teams don’t respect his perimeter shot,” Bavery said. “He has a great touch. His physical abilities and skill set also make him a potentially dominant rebounder and inside scorer as well.

“A year off certainly doesn’t help in most situations, but hopefully it has lit a big fire inside of Max to get the most out of his game as a senior to help lead this team to become the best it can be.”

Bavery also expects several other current juniors to take a step up next year.

Bavery sat down with the junior class recently and showed them the statistics from this year’s senior class versus their numbers as juniors. The difference was night and day.

“I think it really opened some eyes that big jumps can be made and there is opportunity,” Bavery said. “Many of them have the potential to make that leap, but it will take a tremendous amount of effort. Relying on being one year older simply doesn’t work.”

There are also a handful of current sophomores that figure to help during their junior seasons.

“They have a tremendous amount of potential to help next season and beyond,” Bavery said. “But it really is up to them, not us.”

The Big Eight figures to be loaded again. But Bavery believes his team will have the firepower to compete for a spot near the top of the league.

Sun Prairie, which snapped Madison Memorial’s streak of 14 straight conference titles this year, will be the odds-on favorite again in 2018-19. Sun Prairie will again be led by junior-to-be Jalen Johnson, the top ranked player in the state in the Class of 2020.

Madison Memorial, which finished second in the league, brings back all five of its starters. Madison La Follette, which tied for third place in the conference, is expected to have most of its core players back. And while Madison East loses standout Keshawn Justice, the Purgolders have a bevy of young, gifted players expected to return.

“If anything, one of the best conferences in the state gets even a little bit better next season,” Bavery said. “But that’s on paper, and the game isn’t played on paper.”

 

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