Middleton girls jump to No. 1

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Sitori Tanin and Middleton's girls basketball team have jumped to No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Four weeks ago, Karina Bursac had her doubts.

Middleton’s senior forward and a four-year letterwinner who helped the Cardinals reach the WIAA Division 1 state title game last year, was uncertain where this season was headed.

“If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have said, ‘No way are we as good as last year,’ ” Bursac said. “But we’ve come together really well and everybody on the team is doing really well. So, I think mentally, the way we’re going into the playoffs, is really good.”

It should be.

The Cardinals had another terrific week, both on and off the court.

Middleton pushed its winning streak to 14 games after routing host Janesville Parker, 80-39, on Feb. 11 and rolling past visiting Janesville Craig, 60-40, last Friday.

The Cardinals improved to 19-1 overall and moved into a first place tie atop the Big Eight Conference with Madison Memorial at 15-1.

In addition, Middleton jumped to No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll. And the Cardinals also earned the No. 1 seed in their sectional.

Middleton now has a first-round bye, then would host the winner or 16th-seeded Kenosha Tremper and 17th-seeded Beloit Memorial in a regional semifinal Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. If the Cardinals win there, they would host the regional finals on Feb. 29 against either eighth-seeded Verona or ninth-seeded Kenosha Bradford.

Madison Memorial, ranked No. 3 in the latest A.P. poll, is the No. 2 seed in the sectional. Waunakee, Janesville Craig and Sun Prairie round out the top five.

“We know we’re not going to be an underdog like last year,” said senior Sitori Tanin. “But I’d definitely say we have that underdog team confidence.

“I think having us think like we’re underdogs helps us, because we still have that drive. We’re not ever going to be cocky. We’re going to keep working hard.”

There’s no doubt Middleton’s work ethic has it positioned for another thrilling postseason run.

Bursac admits she had her uncertainties earlier this season after Middleton fell at Madison Memorial. But the Cardinals have been lights-out since and have an average margin of victory of 23.9 points during their 14-game winning streak. Only three times during that stretch has an opponent stayed within double digits of the Cardinals.

“Well I think defensively, we’re a lot better than earlier this year,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “Offensively, that will come and go a little bit, but we’re still improving.

“We’re a way different kind of team than we’ve been in the past with this size. We’ve got to take advantage of the length and take advantage of what we can do.”

The Cardinals certainly did that against Craig last Friday.

The Cougars (11-5, 14-6) opened in a 2-3 zone, knowing they couldn't match up with Middleton’s size. But the Cardinals forced Craig to abandon that strategy when guard Josie Lemirande drilled three first half three-pointers and scored 11 of her 13 points. Tanin and Bursac also played a magnificent high-low game that carved up the Cougars’ zone.

“We’ve been playing together for so long, we know each other’s favorite moves, where each other is going to cut and where the other one will be,” Bursac said of her relationship with Tanin. “So, it's just easier to know where they’re going to be.”

Bursac matched Lemirande for team scoring honors with 13 points, and added five rebounds and three steals. Despite some early foul trouble, Tanin played a brilliant all-around game and finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks.

“I would say I’m most happy with how we’re working together,” Tanin said. “Our game has become like really smooth, I’d say. We work it inside and outside really well. It’s going well.”

Bursac had six early points, while Lemirande, Makenzie Hodson and McKenna Monogue all drained three-pointers as Middleton raced to a 15-5 lead at the 10-minute mark of the first half.

The Cardinals’ patience and precise passing helped them pick apart Craig’s zone and stretch their lead to 33-19 by halftime. Middleton shot 11-of-22 in the first half (50.0%) and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc (60.0%), while the Cougars shot just 6-of-22 (27.3%).

“We did a really good job of sharing the ball,” Bursac said. “For us, we have a lot of size, and when we get inside-out shots, work it into the post and kick it out, it works really well for us. It’s hard to stop because you can’t guard just one girl.”

The second half was largely anti-climactic, with the lead fluctuating between 12 and 21 throughout. And that was just fine with the Cardinals.

“Craig’s a good team,” Kind said. “It was nice to have a lead and kind of stay in control.”

Middleton was also in control from start to finish during its win at Janesville Parker on Feb. 11.

Middleton got 12 points from both Berkley Smith and Monogue, and 11 different Cardinals scored that night. Middleton led, 35-23, at halftime, then opened the second half on a 22-3 run and surged to a 57-26 advantage.

“They beat us down the court, and that shouldn’t happen,” Parker coach Jenna Hartwig said. “And if they weren’t beating us down the court, they were throwing passes over the top of us because they’re so much bigger.

“Middleton is certainly capable of winning state. They’ve got everything you want with size, depth and the way they can shoot the ball.”

That’s been the goal for these Cardinals all season long. And Middleton will attack it with gusto over the next three weeks.

“Last year, going into the state tournament, we were in the underdog position,” Bursac said. “So we know what it’s like to work hard and we know that underdog teams can win. So we know that we have to work just as hard and hopefully good things will keep happening.”

 

Feb. 11

Middleton 80, Janesville Parker 39

Middleton …………….35 45 — 80

Janesville Parker ….. 23 16 — 39

MIDDLETON (fg ft-fta pts) — Lemirande 3 0-0 7, Acker 1 0-2 3, Young 1 4-6 6, Tanin 2 3-5 7, Roquet 2 0-0 5, Coleman 4 1-1 10, Gaab 2 0-1 5, Bursac 5 2-4 12, Monogue 2 0-0 5, Accola 4 0-0 8, Smith 4 4-6 12. Totals 30 14-25 80.

JANESVILLE PARKER — Ayers 3 0-0 6, Shelton 3 0-1 7, Booth 2 0-2 5, Demrow 5 0-0 10, Blum 3 0-0 8, Forrestal 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 0-3 39.

3-point goals: M 6 (Lemirande 1, Acker 1, Roquet 1, Coleman 1, Gaab 1, Monogue 1); JP 5 (Blum 2, Forrestal 1, Booth 1, Shelton 1). Total fouls: M 5; JP 17.

 

Feb. 14

Middleton 60, Janesville Craig 40

Janesville Craig …………….. 19 21 — 40

Middleton …………………… 33 27 — 60

JANESVILLE CRAIG (fg ft-fta pts) — Huml 4 0-0 10, Magestro-Kennedy 1 0-0 3, Elgas 1 2-2 4, Fieiras 3 5-6 11, Goswick 4 0-0 10, Dunlavy 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 7-8 40.

MIDDLETON — Schwartz 1 0-0 2, Lemirande 4 2-2 13, Hodson 1 0-0 3, Tanin 2 6-7 10, Roquet 3 1-1 8, Bursac 5 3-4 13, Monogue 1 0-0 3, Smith 3 2-3 8. Totals 20 14-19 60.

3-point goals: JC 5 (Huml 2, Magestro-Kennedy 1, Goswick 2); M 6 (Lemirande 3, Hodson 1, Roquet 1, Monogue 1). Total fouls: JC 14; M 11. Fouled out: Elgas.

 

 

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