Middleton falls in state title game

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton's girls basketball team capped their sensational season by finishing second at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament./Photo submitted

ASHWAUBENON — In the moments immediately following the toughest loss of their collective lives, it took someone with great perspective, attitude and maturity to somehow look at the glass — and see it as half full.

Meet Charlotte Dunn.

Dunn, a senior point guard for Middleton’s girls basketball team, and the rest of the Cardinals just had a state championship ripped from their grasp at the Resch Center last Saturday night. Bay Port’s Emma Nagel broke free on inbounds play and scored with just 2.4 ticks left — a basket that eventually gave the Pirates a 50-49 win in one of the most dramatic and memorable WIAA Division 1 state title games in history.

Afterwards, Dunn battled through the heartbreak and found a way to fixate on the positives.

“Coming home with 'A' ball is better than no ball and I’m happy for that,” Dunn said, referring to the sliver ball Middleton received for its second place finish. “I think everyone left everything out there. It was a great team effort. It was everyone putting everything in and it just came down to who was willing to die out on the court.”

There’s no question the Cardinals left their blood, sweat and tears behind. Unfortunately for Middleton, they also left Nagel at the wrong time — and her last second basket prevented the Cardinals from winning the first state title in school history.

Middleton, which had its 14-game winning streak snapped, finished the year 22-6. The Cardinals, who were making their 11th trip to state under coach Jeff Kind, brought home the runner-up trophy for a fourth time.

Bay Port, which won its first-ever state title, finished the year 27-1.

“It was right there,” said Middleton junior forward Sitori Tanin, who had 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. “But it got away.”

Junior guard Josie Lemirande, who led Middleton with 14 points, agreed.

“It hurts a lot,” Lemirande said. “It looked good for a minute, there.”

It sure did.

Middleton used a breathtaking 18-3 run late in the second half to turn a 39-27 deficit into a 45-42 lead with 3:14 left. After Bay Port answered with 6-1 burst to reclaim a 48-46 lead, Lemirande appeared destined to be the hero.

Lemirande broke Bay Port’s pressure and passed the ball to Evie Coleman on the left wing. Lemirande then ran to the left corner, where the Pirates lost her for a moment.

Coleman quickly returned a pass to Lemirande, and with two Bay Port players staring at each other, Lemirande found herself wide open and calmly drained the biggest three-pointer of her life — one that gave the Cardinals a 49-48 lead with 36.9 seconds left.

“I knew we were down by two and I had to get our points on the board,” said Lemirande, who was 4-for-5 on three-pointers during the game. “I threw it up there and it went in.”

Bay Port raced forward, but couldn’t get anything going in its halfcourt offense. And after Tanin swatted Nagel’s pass out of bounds with 21.3 seconds left, the Pirates called timeout.

Bay Port was still stagnant in the halfcourt when reserve Raegan McIntyre drove to the basket, but was rejected by Tanin with 6.2 seconds left. McIntyre went to the floor with the ball and was tied up by Lemirande.

Unfortunately for Middleton, the possession arrow favored Bay Port.

“It seems like every tie-up went to them and every out of bounds play at that end of the court was going to them,” Kind said. “I’m not down there on that end, but there were a couple of them where it was like, ‘How did that happen?’ ”

Kind was undoubtedly saying, ‘How did that happen’ after what came next.

McKenzie Johnson inbounded the ball to Nagel on the left baseline and Nagel faked a return pass. Johnson raced to the left corner and Dunn followed, Tanin got screened and Coleman — who was standing on the low block — didn’t take away the baseline.

That gave Nagel — a Drake University soccer recruit — a clear path to the basket, and she took full advantage.

“I just took it to the rim and hoped for the best,” said Nagel, who had 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Middleton had one final chance, but needed to go the length of the court in 2.4 seconds. Kendall Roquet ran the baseline, then fired a pass to halfcourt, but the ball was tipped and Bay Port intercepted.

“That’s the same play that they run all the time,” Kind said of Bay Port’s game-winning basket. They will slip the screen and that’s what they did. We were yelling, ‘they’re going to slip the screen. They’re going to slip the screen.’ It was not a surprise to us. We just didn’t quite play it right.”

Kind admitted the Cardinals weren’t as sharp against Bay Port as they were during a memorable upset of Mukwonago in the state semifinals Friday. Instead, everything against the Pirates was a grind.

Middleton shot just 9-of-28 from the field (32.1%) in the first half, missed several shots from inside of five feet and found itself in a 27-24 hole at the break.

Bay Port’s biggest lead came at 20-15 with 4 minutes left in the half. But the Cardinals answered with a 7-0 run to take a 22-20 lead — their first since 2-0.

Lemirande started the run with two free throws, then Dunn drove into the lane on a fast break, stopped, pivoted and found a wide-open Lemirande who drilled a three-pointer.

Senior post Hannah Flottmeyer then converted a lay-up on a feed from Tanin and the Cardinals surged into the lead with 2:10 left in the half.

Bay Port answered with seven straight points of its own, though, over a 65-second stretch and reclaimed a 27-22 advantage. Tanin then drained a 15-footer with 33 seconds left in the half to pull the Cardinals within 27-24 at halftime.

“We weren’t as sharp defensively,” Kind said. “I think we gave up more open threes than we did (Friday) night. And then we weren’t quite there on some of the help on the drives. They got to the lane too often on us on the drives. We didn’t play bad defense, but there were some stops we could have gotten, but we didn’t quite get there.”

Bay Port used a 9-0 run early in the second half to grab a 39-27 lead with 10:32 remaining. Middleton went 4 ½ minutes without a point in that stretch, while the Pirates scored on four of five possessions.

With Middleton’s season hanging in the balance, though, it embarked on an epic 18-3 run over a seven-minute stretch.

“I can’t describe it,” Dunn said. “We knew what we needed to do and as soon as things started falling our way, I guess we started rolling with it and we used that momentum to motivate us to push forward more and more.”

Junior forward Karina Bursac started the fun by draining a three-pointer on a feed from Dunn, then Lemirande drilled a triple off a pass from Dunn that pulled Middleton within 39-33 with 7:20 remaining. 

“Josie really stepped up this last game and it was so incredible and it’s what our team needed,” Flottmeyer said of Lemirande. “She was a playmaker and it made a huge difference in our determination.”

Bay Port’s Johnson answered with a three-pointer, then Middleton ran off 12 straight points to take a 45-42 lead.

Roquet started things with a traditional three-point play and Lemirande drilled another three-pointer from the top of the key to pull Middleton within 42-39. Tanin had driving lay-ups on back-to-back possessions, then Bursac had a steal and lay-up to give the Cardinals a 45-42 edge with 3:14 remaining.

“These guys have been doing things like that all year,” Kind said. “We just buckled down on defense, got some stops and managed to put the ball in. Sitori (Tanin) had a pretty nice game and took the ball to the basket hard a few times. Josie got hot in that stretch. We just needed a couple more players to get a few more points for us.”

That’s true.

Middleton shot just 1-of-4 from the line in the final 6 minutes, missed the front end of two bonus situations, and finished the night 6-of-15 from the charity stripe (40.0%).

“The free throws came back to bite us again,” Kind said. “They must have been like 80.0% or something (actually 75.0%), and we were 40.0%. That’s one thing we’ve got to get better at because this is the kind of game where that wins or loses the game.”

There were countless plays that could have changed the outcome. And history will remember Nagel’s layup as the play that decided things.

When it was over, though, Dunn wanted to remember the good.

“I don’t know if I’d call it frustrating,” Dunn said. “More or less just heartbreaking. We really gave it our all, but it really was a great game and a great year.”

 

WIAA Division 1 state finals

March 9

Bay Port 50, Middleton 49

Middleton …………. 24 25 — 49

Bay Port …………… 27 23 — 50

MIDDLETON — Coleman 0-6 1-4 1, Lemirande 4-7 2-2 14, Tanin 6-13 1-6 13, Bursac 4-9 1-2 10, Dunn 1-4 0-0 3, Flottmeyer 1-2 0-0 2, Roquet 2-3 1-1 6. Totals 18-44 6-15 49.

BAY PORT — Krause 0-3 2-4 2, Krueger 3-7 5-5 12, Abel 2-4 1-2 5, Johnson 4-10 0-0 12, Nagel 5-10 1-1 11, Coughlin 2-5 0-0 6, McIntyre 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 17 9-12 50.

3-point goals — M 7-13 (Lemirande 4-5, Bursac 1-1, Roquet 1-1, Dunn 1-3, Coleman 0-3), BP 7-16 (Johnson 4-8, Coughlin 2-3, Krueger 1-4, McIntyre 0-1). Rebounds — M 12-20-32 (Tanin 10, Bursac 8); BP 11-20-31 (Nagel 13, McIntyre 7). Assists — M 10 (Tanin 3, Dunn 3); BP 8 (Krause 4, Nagel 2). Turnovers — M 9; BP 10. Steals — M 4 (Tanin, Bursac, Dunn, Lemirande 1); BP 6 (McIntyre 3). Blocks — M 6 (Tanin 5); BP 1 (Draak 1). Total fouls — M 13, BP 15. 

 

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