Middleton's girls headed back to state

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Dennis Semrau/For the Times-Tribune
Kendall Roquet and Middleton's girls basketball team defeated Sun Prairie in the sectional finals and qualified for state./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

JANESVILLE — With 5.7 seconds remaining, Middleton senior point guard Charlotte Dunn stepped to the free throw line and broke into a huge grin.

No pressure.

Just finish off an impressive victory over a conference rival and let the party begin.

But first, Dunn made eye contact with fellow senior and co-captain Hannah Flottmeyer, who began to tear up as they shared a moment they will treasure the rest of their lives.

Dunn sank one of two free throws to put an exclamation point on an impressive 60-45 victory over Sun Prairie in a WIAA Division 1 sectional final held at Janesville Craig High School on Saturday afternoon.

“I looked over at Hannah, and I knew,” said Dunn, who has gamely battled a foot injury to play a key role in helping Middleton secure its first trip to the state tournament since 2017. “It’s not until the final seconds are on the clock that you know (it’s over). But I looked over at her, and she just started sobbing. Then I just knew it was over.”

Flottmeyer, who is in her fourth varsity season, said the Cardinals were on a mission and would not be denied.

“We wanted it,” said Flottmeyer, who recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. “We were here playing to win. We weren’t here playing not to lose.

“Charlotte and I started playing basketball together in second grade. We did the 3-on-3 in the summer. We have been through it all together. I learned basketball with her. I’m so happy I get to make it to state with her our senior year.”

Middleton (21-5), which is seeded fourth at state, will seek its first state championship at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, beginning with a semifinal game against No. 1 seed Mukwonago (24-1) Friday at 6:35 p.m.

No. 2 seed Bay Port (25-1) will face No. 3 seed Kimberly (23-3) in the other semifinal at approximately 8:15 p.m. The winners meet for the state championship Saturday at approximately 8:15 p.m.

Middleton will be making its second state appearance in three years and 11th overall, all under coach Jeff Kind. The Cardinals’ last state tournament victory was in 2011 in the Division 1 semifinals before they lost to Glendale Nicolet in the state championship game.

Junior forward Sitori Tanin scored 16 points to pace Middleton, while Sun Prairie (20-6) was led by senior guard Grace Hilber’s 21 points.

Tanin, who is also a two-time state placewinner in track and field, can’t wait to make her first state appearance in basketball for the Cardinals.

“I got pulled up to varsity at the end of the year just for practice,” Tanin recalled of her freshman season when Middleton lost to DePere, 49-47, in overtime in the state semifinals. “I didn’t suit up. I was in the stands as a fan. It will be a big difference.

“It was a dream back then, watching my older sister, who was on the team. Watching her be able to go and hearing how much fun it was, it feels so good.”

Junior Karina Bursac, who was also on the last Middleton team to make it to state along with Dunn and Flottmeyer, knows the feeling.

“I played against East in the game to go to state and got in once at state,” Bursac said. “This year, it’s so much different because I actually have a bigger impact on the team.”

Kind, who said “this never gets old” was pleased with the way his team played from the opening tip except for a two-minute spurt near the end of the first half.

“I watched both of our games from Thursday night, Sun Prairie and (Madison) East and us and (Madison) Memorial, and there were more nerves that night,” Kind said. “All four of those teams didn’t play all that great on Thursday night.

“But once you get rid of the nerves right away, I thought we played some pretty good basketball.”

Middleton opened a 10-0 lead behind junior Evie Coleman’s back-to-back 3-pointers, which forced Sun Prairie to call a timeout with 13 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half.

“I think we got focused real early,” said Coleman, who scored 10 of her 11 points in the opening frame. “We got dialed in and were strong in warmups. We had a lot of confidence. I think that’s how we should have played.”

Sun Prairie’s first points came on sophomore post player Jazzanay Seymore’s two free throws nearly 5 minutes into the game.

“We battled tough, but we couldn’t get over that hump,” Sun Prairie coach John Olson said of the early deficit.

Sun Prairie was 0-of-6 from the field and committed six turnovers on its opening 12 possessions. The Cardinals struggled to connect inside and outside against Middleton’s tenacious defense.

“They played tough man-to-man, and when they switch to that 1-3-1 zone, they force you to shoot outside and then they get position inside with their size,” Olson said. “We missed a ton of layups early on. We were two, three feet from the basket. Those are the ones you’ve got to make.”

Dunn’s 3-pointer and a free throw from reserve sophomore forward Melanie Accola gave Middleton its largest lead of the first half at 25-11 with 4:08 remaining.

Sun Prairie, though, stormed back with an 11-0 run fueled by Hilber, a Lewis University recruit, who started the rally with a putback basket. Seymore’s 3-pointer capped the surge and trimmed Sun Prairie’s deficit to 25-22 with less than 2 minutes until the break.

But Tanin promptly converted an old-fashioned three-point play to trigger a 6-1 closing run that sent Middleton into halftime with a 31-23 lead.

Middleton also switched from a man-to-man defense to its lethal 1-3-1 zone defense appropriately dubbed ‘Cobra.’ The Cardinals forced a turnover and limited Sun Prairie to one field goal attempt on its final two possessions.

Dunn said the Sun Prairie surge wasn’t unexpected.

“It just let us know that we’re not invincible, that we needed to be on our game the whole entire time,” Dunn said. “Even a 10-point lead isn’t comfortable. We needed to get up by more and hold it. We just got lazy on defense a little bit.

“But Cobra is our comfort zone. I love Cobra.”

Kind said the Cardinals kept their poise despite Sun Prairie’s late first-half rally.

“We knew we had to get back on track,” Kind said. “We were doing some silly things like trying to go for steals and that let Grace (Hilber) get wide open shots. We just had to get back to playing solid defense.

“The message at halftime was just keep playing solid and just try to win every possession. So offensively and defensively, just play it one possession at a time. I’m real proud of them.”

Flottmeyer sank layups on back-to-back possessions in the opening 68 seconds of the second half to push Middleton’s lead to 35-23.

Tanin, who combined with Flottmeyer for 19 points in the second half, also finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds to contribute to Middleton’s dominance on the boards.

“It just showed we wanted it,” Dunn said. “We wanted the boards. If we didn’t make the first (shot), we were going to clean it up and make one of them.”

After Sun Prairie drew within 35-27 on a Hilber jumper with 13:16 left to play, Middleton corralled four offensive rebounds on its next possession capped by a Flottmeyer putback.

Sun Prairie never came closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Dunn and Flottmeyer also credited the play of reserves Accola, and juniors Josie Lemirande, Kendall Roquet and Megan Schwartz for their contributions and the rest of the Cardinals’ bench for providing tremendous emotional energy.

Lemirande sank a key 3-pointer in the second half, when she scored all six of her points, while Roquet recorded a pair of steals to spark the defense.

“I’m thinking, all I want to do is win and go to state,” said Lemirande, who was in the stands as a fan two years ago when her sisters Alyssa, Bria and Carlee were starters for the Cardinals. “I had to go in there and just keep that lead, keep it rolling, keep the energy flowing.”

 

March 2

Middleton 60, Sun Prairie 45

Middleton .......... 31 29 — 60

Sun Prairie ........ 23 22 — 45

MIDDLETON — Sitori Tanin 5 5-8 16, Evie Coleman 3 2-5 11, Karina Bursac 1 2-2 4, Charlotte Dunn 2 1-2 6, Hannah Flottmeyer 5 4-6 14, Megan Schwartz 0 0-0 0, Josie Lemirande 1 3-4 6, Makenzie Hodson 0 0-0 0, Kendall Roquet 1 0-1 2, Melanie Accola 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 18-30 60.

SUN PRAIRIE — Grace Hilber 9 1-2 21, Bailey Lutes 1 0-0 3, Ashley Rae 3 0-0 6, Alexis Baker 2 1-3 5, Jazzanay Seymore 2 3-6 9, Olivia Kostelnik 0 0-0 0, Natalie Tiltrum 0 0-0 0, Maddie Strey 0 1-2 1. Totals 17 6-13 45.

3-point goals — M 6 (Tanin 1, Coleman 3, Dunn 1, Lemirande 1), SP 5 (Hilber 2, Lutes 1, Seymore 2). Total fouls — M 13, SP 25. Fouled out — Hilber, Lutes, Baker (SP).

 

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