Middleton's girls rally past Memorial

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MTT News's picture
Adam Hatlan/For the Times-Tribune
Charlotte Dunn (30) and Middleton's girls basketball team edged Madison Memorial in the sectional semifinals./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

VERONA — The tension was palpable, the gym deafening. Nearly everybody inside Verona High School was on their feet. 

During the final five minutes of last Thursday’s WIAA Division1 girls basketball sectional final between Middleton and Madison Memorial, the Big Eight Conference rivals traded blow after blow.

Thanks to smothering defense, though, and some clutch baskets down the stretch, the Cardinals rallied back from an eight-point deficit and downed the Spartans, 41-39.

The win was the 12th in a row for Middleton and improved its record to 20-5. The win also placed the Cardinals in their second sectional final in three years.

Memorial finished the year 19-6 and had its seven-game winning streak snapped.

“Tonight was a battle, and that’s what sectionals are supposed to be,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We’re not a pretty team. These girls have come from behind a number of games now — they know not to quit. We just have to scrap for everything.”

Middleton notched its third win of the year over Memorial, although the first two came by an average of 23.5 points.

The win continued a remarkable streak of dominance by the Cardinals over the Spartans, as Middleton won its 32nd straight game over Memorial. The Spartans last win in the series came on Dec. 11, 2004.

“Our first two games against Memorial, they didn’t play well either of those games. I said ‘they’re a way better team than that,’ ” Kind said. “They came out with a lot more energy tonight. They knocked down some three’s in the first half after they struggled to make three’s against us all year long.”

Junior Karina Bursac starred offensively for Middleton and finished with a game-high 14 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:42 left in the game. Bursac used a nifty move in the post and went up with her left hand for a tough layup to put Middleton ahead 40-39, its first lead in nearly 13 minutes.

“I didn’t even see that shot coming. It was my left hand so I just kind of went for it,” Bursac said. “One of my biggest struggles when I was younger was I used to think so far ahead. I’ve gotten used to going with the flow and that shot was spur of the moment and I just went for it.”

Kind was pleased with the play of his junior forward.

“Karina made some big plays at the end and that really helped a ton,” Kind said. “Her biggest thing has been consistency. She’s had some really good moments then all of the sudden she’ll disappear. She’s really capable of playing well.”

Memorial used a press defense in the first half that made it difficult for Middleton to do anything offensively. Memorial was able to force Middleton into eight turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the game that resulted in a 20-12 lead for the Spartans. The Cardinals shot 28.6% in the first half (6-for-21). 

“We didn’t turn it over against the press, we turned it over in the half-court,” Kind said. “For the most part we did a good job breaking the press.”

Middleton made an adjustment on defense — switching to their ‘Cobra’ defense, which is a 1-3-1 zone — and clamped down over the final five minutes of the first half. The Cardinals ended the half on a 6-2 run to make it 22-18 at the break.

Memorial scored the first basket out of the break to go up 24-18, but Middleton — still using the ‘Cobra’ — embarked on an 8-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 26-24 lead with 13:51 left.

“It starts on defense for us,” Bursac said. “Cobra is a good name for (our defense). It shuts people down and it’s kind of scary. Sitori is at the top (of the 1-3-1) and her arms are so long that girls struggle passing over her.” 

Memorial answered with a 7-0 run to go up 31-26 with 11:47 left. The teams traded baskets until Bursac hit a layup at the 5:05 mark to pull Middleton within two at 36-34 and set up the tense finish to the game.

Josie Lemirande tied it at 36 on an assist from Bursac with 3:50 to go. Liliana Garcia scored for Memorial to make it 38-36, and Hannah Flottmeyer drilled two free throws on the next possession for Middleton to tie it at 38 with 3:17 left.

Abbey Meyer made one-of-two free throws for Memorial to make it 39-38 with 2:21 to go, which led to the go-ahead basket for Bursac. The teams traded turnovers until Sitori Tanin added a free throw for Middleton to give the Cardinals a 41-39 lead with 44 seconds on the clock.

Memorial still had a couple opportunities to either tie or win. Big Eight Conference first-team all-conference player Emmoni Rankins’ baseline shot was short with six seconds to go but went out of bounds off a Middleton player.

Memorial inbounded underneath its own hoop, but the ball was stolen by Tanin, who was immediately fouled with 1.3 seconds to go. Tanin missed her free throw attempt and the full court heave by Memorial fell short — as did their quest towards a first state tournament appearance.

With the win, Middleton had the opportunity to face Sun Prairie in the sectional final, with whom they split the season series.

“The sectional final is the most intense game in high school basketball,” Kind said of facing Sun Prairie. “Always an exciting game. We get to enjoy that.”

Bursac — who celebrated a birthday March 4 and said she had a goal to still be practicing on her birthday — gave her thoughts on what it would mean to continue a quest for a state appearance.

“I went to state my freshman year, but I am beyond excited to look forward to state if we can get there,” Bursac said. “It was so much fun and I want to experience that again.”


Feb. 28

Middleton ………...18  23 — 41

Memorial …………. 22  16 — 39

MIDDLETON — Lemirande 2 1-2 6, Tanin 3 1-3 7, Roquet 1 0-0 2, Coleman 1 2-2 5, Bursac 5 3-4 14, Dunn 1 0-0 2, Flottmeyer 1 3-6 5. Totals 14 10-17 41.

MEMORIAL — Peters 1 0-0 3, Wilson 1 0-0 3, Brown 3 0-0 8, Rankins 1 2-2 4, Sweet 1 0-0 3, White Eagle 0 1-2 1, Rosales 1 0-0 2, Maier 2 1-2 5, Garcia 1 0-0 2, Thorns 4 0-0 8. Totals 15 4-6 39.

Three-point goals- MID- 3 (Lemirande, Coleman, Bursac), MEM- 5 (Brown 2, Peters, Wilson, Sweet). Total fouls- MID 7, MEM 16.






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