Girls basketball team survives, advances

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Sitori Tanin and Middleton’s girls basketball team won a WIAA Division 1 regional championship last Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Sitori Tanin insists she wasn’t worried.

The same goes for Evie Coleman.

They might have been the only two inside Middleton High School last Saturday that weren’t nervous.

Host Middleton, the No. 1 ranked team in the state in Division 1, trailed upstart Verona, 56-53, with 6 ½ minutes left in their regional final. But the Cardinals answered with an 11-0 run and held on for a 68-65 win.

Middleton, the No. 1 seed in the sectional, improved to 23-1 on the year and now meets fourth-seeded Janesville Craig in a sectional semifinal Thursday at 7 p.m. at Beloit Memorial High School. Verona, the No. 8 seed in the sectional, finished the year 11-12.

“I wouldn’t say I was worried,” said Tanin, a senior post and a University of Loyola recruit. “But I’d say it definitely made us realize how we had to change the momentum there.”

Coleman, a senior guard, agreed with Tanin.

“I wouldn't say worried,” Coleman said. “I would almost say the way things were going helped us get back into it. We knew how hard we’d have to work and we couldn’t just coast by.”

Coasting is the last thing Middleton did on this night.

Coleman led the Cardinals with 15 points and three three-pointers, while Tanin had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Karina Bursac added 13 points and nine rebounds, while senior point guard Josie Lemirande drilled three three-pointers and had 11 points.

But Verona rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit by making 8-of-11 three-pointers in the second half (72.7%) and 14-of-22 field goals overall (63.6%). Freshman guard Abbi Rupnow led the Wildcats with 18 points, while senior guard Rachel Parman added 12 and freshman guard Megan Murphy had 12.

“I was a little worried because they have some shooters, but they have some people that were also unexpected shooters tonight,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said.” They got hot and then we let them drive to the basket a little too much. And a couple of their other kids came through with some big shots.”

But Middleton, which reached the state championship game a year ago before falling to Bay Port, came up with plenty of big plays itself during its game-changing 11-0 run.

First, Lemirande stuck a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the game, 56-56, with 6:15 remaining. Coleman followed with a steal and lay-up to put Middleton back in front, 58-56, with 5:12 left.

Bursac then had a steal and Tanin scored with 4:10 remaining to make it 60-56. And after a Tanin steal, Bursac scored with 3:27 left to give Middleton a 62-56 edge.

Verona then missed its next two shots, and Tanin capped the run with a driving lay-up that gave Middleton a 64-56 lead with 2:18 left.

In all, the run took 3:57. Verona went six straight trips without a point in that stretch, while Middleton scored on five of seven possessions.

“We had a pretty good defensive stretch there and Sitori got going, too," Kind said. “Plus, it helps having been there before.”

Tanin agreed.

“Defense is where it all starts for us,” she said. “That’s what gives us the momentum on offense. We get some fast breaks and we’re just more aggressive on offense once we get those steals. I think it just pumps up the team and the crowd.”

Verona pulled within 64-59 with 50 seconds left after a Parman lay-up. But Coleman and Lemirande both drilled two free throws in the final 30 seconds to help offset a pair of late three-pointers by the Wildcats.

“I thought we really picked it up on defense,” Coleman said. “Defense is all heart. Defense is pure effort and communication and I just knew I had to want it more than the opposing guards. All of us seniors that were in the game knew we had to get it done.”

Middleton certainly got it done during an impressive first half in which it raced to a 35-24 lead at the break.

The Cardinals picked apart Verona’s 2-3 zone and drilled six three-pointers — including two from both senior reserve guard Makenzie Hodson and Coleman. In addition, Middleton held Verona to 9-of-29 shooting (31.0%).

Middleton used an early 10-0 run — that included eight points from Coleman — to grab a 10-2 lead. The Cardinals stretched that advantage to as many as 15 points at 28-13 after a basket by senior forward Berkley Smith and led by 11 at the break.

“The first half we were impressive,” Kind said. That was about as good as we’ve looked for a half. So, I was happy with that, but I told the kids they would make adjustments.”

They did — thanks to both their aggression and red-hot shooting.

After Lemirande opened the second half with a three-pointer that gave Middleton a 38-24 lead, Verona put together a stunning 8-minute stretch. The Wildcats went on a head-spinning, 25-9 run and took a 49-47 lead after a three-pointer by Murphy with 8:15 remaining.

Interesting, Murphy’s mother Angie is also the Verona coach and the leading scorer in Middleton history. And when the younger Murphy drilled that triple, Verona had its first lead since 2-0.

“It was survival,” Kind said.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they were up to the challenge.

Middleton clamped down on the Wildcats during their critical second half run. And the Cardinals’ veterans stepped up and got the better of Verona’s young, but remarkably gifted bunch.

“Yeah, I like the pressure of these big games,” Coleman said. “Since a young age I’ve been watching high school basketball, so I’ve always wanted to be in those games where you’re kind of sitting on the edge of your seat. And now I get to be in those big games and really soak it in as much as I can.”

Added Tanin: “I think it’s different this year being on top. It’s easier to get there than to stay there. Going into each game, I think we have the mentality like, we can’t think that we’re No. 1 right now or anything that could get to our heads. People are giving us their best shot and we just have to be ready for it.”

The Cardinals were certainly ready against Verona.

Now, they’re just two wins from returning to state.

• Middleton 69, Kenosha Tremper 35 — Karina Bursac had 15 points and Sitori Tanin added 12 as the Cardinals rolled in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal last Friday.


Feb. 28

Middleton 69, Kenosha Tremper 35

Kenosha Tremper …… 12 23 — 35

Middleton ……………… 35 34 — 69

TREMPER (fg ft-fta pts) — Vazquez 3 0-0 8, Pacetti 2 2-4 8, Clements 2 1-4 5, Hamann 0 1-3 1, Karmann 0 0-2 0, Keckeisen 1 0-0 3, Gordon 1 0-0 2, Williams 1 0-0 2, Kasianowicz 2 0-0 6. Totals 12 4-13 35.

MIDDLETON — Schwartz 3 0-0 8, Lemirande 1 0-0 3, Hodson 1 0-0 2, Young 0 1-2 1, Tanin 5 1-1 12, Roquet 2 4-6 8, Coleman 1 1-2 4, Gaab 1 2-2 5, Bursac 6 3-4 15, Accola 1 0-0 2, Smith 2 0-0 4, Deptula 1 0-0 2, Dahmen 1 0-0 2, Abozeid 0 1-2 1, Pertzborn 0 1-3 1. Totals 25 14-22 69.

3-point goals: KT 7 (Vazquez 2, Pacetti 2, Kasianowicz 2, Keckeisen 1); M 5 (Schwartz 1, Lemirande 1, Tamin 1, Coleman 1, Gaab 1). Total fouls: KT 15; M 13.


Feb. 29

Middleton 68, Verona 65

Verona ……………… 24 41 — 65

Middleton ………… 35 33 — 68

VERONA (fg ft-fta pts) — Rupnow 7 0-0 18, Briggs 2 0-0 5, Lambe 0 1-2 1, Stremlow 2 1-2 5, Nielsen 1 0-0 2, Murphy 4 0-0 12, Parman 5 0-0 14, Pederson 3 2-3 8. Totals 24 4-9 65.

MIDDLETON — Lemirande 3 2-2 11, Hodson 2 0-0 6, Acker 1 0-0 2, Tanin 5 4-7 14, Roquet 0 2-4 2, Coleman 5 2-2 15, Bursac 3 3-4 9, Pertzborn 2 0-0 5, Dahmen 2 0-0 4. Totals 22 13- 19 68.

3-point goals: V 13 (Rupnow 4, Parman 4, Murphy 4, Briggs 1); M 8 (Lemirande 3, Coleman 3, Hodson 2). Total fouls: V 13; M 8.


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