Boys basketball team topples Beloit

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By: 
Ethan Maurice/For the Times-Tribune
Jake Klubertanz and Middleton’s boys basketball team got a big win at Beloit Memorial Tuesday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

BELOIT — Every Wisconsinite knows that at this time of the year, you have to knock the ice off your car before you start it. Middleton’s boys varsity basketball team is no different.

After a 10-day layoff due to the Polar Vortex, the Cardinals were back in action Tuesday night. Unfortunately for Middleton, it was still a little icy from the break. After the Cardinals got going, though, they were downright hot.

Middleton overcame a slow start, broke away from a 33-33 second half tie and posted an impressive 56-45 win.

The Cardinals won their third straight game and improved to 12-6 overall and 9-5 in the Big Eight Conference, good for a fourth place tie in the league with Madison Memorial. Beloit Memorial fell to 2-11, 3-13.

Senior guard Sam Close led the Cardinals with 19 points and senior post Jake Klubertanz added 15. Beloit junior guard Jaden Bell led all scorers with 20 points.

“Winning three in a row is better than winning one out of three … or losing three,” said Middleton coach Kevin Bavery.

The lengthy break due to last week’s inclement weather had both offenses in a deep freeze early. And after seven minutes, Middleton held a 3-2 lead.

“We missed two 2-footers to start the game, but we were happy with that,” Bavery said, referring to the Cardinals’ shot selection. “Those are going to go down eventually.”

They did.

Junior forward Parker Van Buren broke through, made a basket off the glass and got fouled. Van Buren hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, which sparked a 10-2 Middleton run.

“Our success in the first half was pounding the ball inside,” Bavery said.

The run was stretched further when Close started hitting his shots from three-point range.

“It was just off the bat hitting the first one, getting my confidence back,” said Close, who finished the first half with three triples.

Close wasn’t the only one who began heating up. Beloit’s Bell single-handedly stopped the Cardinals’ run with a pair of deep 3-pointers of his own and helped the Purple Knights claw back within 16-13 with 7 minutes left in the half.

Middleton pushed its lead to 25-15 late in the half. But the Purple Knights closed on a 6-0 burst that included a 25-foot, 3-pointer by Bell as the half expired that pulled Beloit within 25-21 at the break.

“We were playing pretty well,” Bavery said. “Then we had a couple fouls, they knocked down a couple free throws.

“And then inexplicably, we let them roll the ball in and hit another long three at the buzzer. So now all the sudden you’re up 10 with about a minute and a half to go, and you go in (to the locker room) up four.”

Close said that defending a player like Bell was a difficult challenge.

“It’s hard, because when you get out on him, he can also drive,” Close said. “Really, the important thing is that you help guys on either side. We’d get up on him and press him, so he didn’t get those long shots.”

Beloit carried that momentum into the second half where Bell and teammate Amariah Cook combined for six layups in the first six minutes. That helped the Purple Knights tie the game, 33-33, with 12:07 remaining.

Beloit’s Azeez Ganiyu also blocked three shots, which stymied Middleton’s offense.

“We kind of got away from what we were doing,” Close said. “We were trying to force too much, not taking good shots. Once we actually did get good shots, being patient, not taking the first look, that’s when we started to build up and break away.” 

Close had one of the game’s key plays himself, with a steal and a breakaway lay-up to give the Cardinals the lead for good. With a defender all over him, Close threw up a circus shot that went high off the glass and bounced in.

That helped Middleton grab the lead for good. And down the stretch, the Cardinals came up big from the free throw line.

Middleton finished the night 12-of-14 from the line and pulled away late in the game.

“We had another good night at the free throw line,” Bavey said.

• On deck: Middleton hosts Janesville Parker Thursday at 7:15 p.m., then is at Janesville Craig Saturday at 7:15 p.m. The Cardinals finish the regular season by traveling to Sun Prairie on Feb. 15 at 7:15 p.m. and hosting Madison La Follette Feb. 21 at 7:15 p.m.

Bavery will also head to the postseason seeding meeting on Feb. 16.

 

 

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