Middleton faces No. 1 Mukwonago at state

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton's girls basketball team won a sectional title and clinched a spot at state with its win over Sun Prairie last Saturday./Photo courtesy of Mary Bavery

Overlooked? Been there.

Disrespected? Done that.

Underdogs? Oh well.

Middleton’s girls basketball team has traveled each of these paths this season and the Cardinals will do it again this weekend.

Middleton received the No. 4 seed at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament at the Resch Center in Green Bay and will meet No. 1 seed Mukwonago in a semifinal game Friday at 6:35 p.m.

The winner of that game meets either second-seeded Kimberly or third-seeded Bay Port in the state finals Saturday at approximately 8:15 p.m.

For Middleton, being discounted and snubbed has been par for the course this season.

“I love being the underdog,” said senior point guard Charlotte Dunn. “We’ve kind of been that all season.

“We’re young, no expectations there. Coming off of last year, losing in the first round, it was kind of like ‘let’s see what they can do.’ We wanted to prove them wrong, and here we are. Now we’re going (to state).”

Added junior forward Sitori Tanin: “I like that. I’m one of those players who likes showing people who we are as a team. Once we won conference, that gave us confidence that if we play as a team, we can beat anyone.”

A year ago, Middleton finished third in the Big Eight Conference, but lost its playoff opener to Janesville Parker. Therefore, few placed great expectations on the Cardinals when the year began.

That seemed fair, too, when Middleton began the year 1-2 and was 8-5 midway through the season.

But the Cardinals have rolled off 13 straight wins since, including a pair of critical victories over Sun Prairie.

The first on Feb. 14 was essential in Middleton winning the Big Eight Conference. The second — which came in a sectional final last Saturday — helped Middleton clinch the 11th trip to state in school history, all under head coach Jeff Kind.

“It’s awesome. Nobody expected it,” Middleton junior guard Josie Lemirande said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re just going to try as hard as we can and whatever happens, happens.”

Sun Prairie coach John Olson was certainly impressed with Middleton.

“That’s a very good Middleton team,” Olson said. “They’re very talented and very athletic. They’ve got some size and some girls who can shoot. They will compete well.”

Middleton seniors Hannah Flottmeyer and Dunn, along with junior Karina Bursac were all part of the last Cardinals’ team that went to state. That was in 2017, when Middleton fell in overtime to DePere in a semifinal game.

“Hannah’s been a four-year player, and Charlotte’s been there for three,” Kind said. “Karina was here on the last state tournament team, too. It’s party time. We’ll try to get a big crowd at state.”

The players that competed at state two years ago hope to be a steadying influence for their current teammates.

“I was on the team as a freshman and played against (Madison) East in the game to go to state,” Bursac said. “This year, it’s so much different because I actually have a bigger impact on the team. When I was a freshman, I didn’t play as much. I went in once in that state game. Hopefully, this time I will do a little better.”

Added Dunn: “My sophomore year, my first year on varsity, we went to state. Karina and Hannah and I were on the team. Our message is just live every moment. Don’t slow down. Go through it and live it out. It’s always been that way. Just don’t be happy to be there. We’re going there to win it. We’re playing to win.”

Not many people expect the Cardinals to win — and that’s just fine with Middleton.

Mukwonago is 25-1 and has three collegiate players in senior forward Natalie Anderson (Division 1 IUPUI), senior guard Grace Beyer (NAIA Division 1 St. Louis) and junior guard Angie Cera (UWM). The Indians have also reached two of the last three state title games, falling in both 2016 and 2018.

Since losing to Milwaukee King in their second game of the year, the Indians have rolled off 24 straight wins — including a victory over King in the sectional finals.

Mukwonago finished the year ranked No. 1 by wissports, and the Indians were given the No. 1 seed at state after their win over the Generals. Middleton, meanwhile, settled for the No. 4 seed.

We’ll be happy to be there. It doesn’t matter where we’re seeded,” Kind said. “But we’ve played pretty well down the stretch. We may be four, but we’re in the mix.”

Added Flottmeyer: We relish it. We’re going to be ready to play anybody. This is what we’ve worked so hard for.”

The Cardinals have been a surprise to many people all year long. Now, they’ll try to startle the competition one more time.

This is completely different from anything I’ve ever been a part of, the atmosphere is different,” junior guard Evie Coleman said. “The talent level is high and competitive. It’s a great group of girls and I’m so blessed to be a part of it. I love it.

I’m extremely nervous about state. I honestly never thought I would get to do something like that. I’m honored to get to go there. We’re all excited and we know we’re the underdogs, and it’s not going to be easy. But the opportunity is so great, and we’re so happy to be going. We have nothing left to lose at this point.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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