Tanin powers Middleton past Craig

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Rob Reischel
Middleton’s girls basketball team advanced to the sectional finals with a win over Janesville Craig Thursday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

BELOIT — Middleton’s girls basketball team often exchanges warm-up tops when they’re going through their pre-game drills.

For example, Karina Bursac might don Berkley Smith’s shirt, Smith might wear Lauryn Abezoid’s and Abezoid might put on Kendall Roquet’s.

Like the rest of her teammates, Sitori Tanin was in a different pre-game top Thursday night. When it was time for the real Tanin to step up, though, boy, did she deliver.

In Middleton’s WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal, Tanin had an enormous night with 26 points and 17 rebounds and powered the Cardinals to a 62-55 win over Janesville Craig at Beloit Memorial’s Barkin Arena. After a quiet first half in which she was plagued by fouls, Tanin erupted with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the second half alone.

“Sitori kind of asserted herself,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “It’s a tough matchup for them when she’s down in the post, and we took advantage of it. They kind of know and when she gets aggressive about posting up, then you know that she wants the ball in there and that makes a big difference.”

Middleton, the No. 1 team in the state and its sectional, won its 19th straight game and improved to 24-1. The Cardinals now meet No. 2 and second-seeded Madison Memorial (24-1) in a sectional final Saturday at Monona Grove High School at 3 p.m.

Janesville Craig, the No. 4 seed in the sectional, finished the year 17-8.

“Sitori was a huge part of this,” said sophomore wing McKenna Monogue, who was huge herself with 12 points. “She called us together on the court and was like, ‘Guys, calm down. We can do this.’ Her leadership really showed.”

So did her improving skill-set.

Middleton trailed, 46-45, after Craig’s Cassie Goswick (14 points) drilled a three-pointer with 7:27 left. During the next 5 minutes, though, Tanin — a Loyola University recruit — asserted her will and kept Middleton’s season alive.

Tanin had 11 points during a 13-0 Middleton run that gave the Cardinals a 58-46 lead with 2:28 remaining. Tanin had a traditional three-point play, made a nifty spin move to the right block and finished from 5-feet, and went 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

Tanin finished the night 12-of-13 from the line (92.3%) and is shooting 70.7% on the year. Last season, Tanin shot just 40.2% from the line.

“She worked hard on it all summer,” Kind said of Tanin’s improved free throw shooting. “She’s got more wrist into her shot. Last year she didn't have any wrist flexion into it and it was more of a dart going up there. She’s worked hard on it.”

Tanin agreed.

“I’ve really been focusing on my free throws this year, and I guess just trusting my routine when I get to the line,” Tanin said. “It’s definitely more wrist right now. The more I use the rest of my body, the more mistakes I can make as the ball comes off my hand. So, if I just focus on the wrist and the release, that’s what’s been helping.”

Middleton’s defense was also sensational during its game-changing run.

Craig had eight possessions during Middleton’s burst and had six turnovers and missed both of its shots.

Roquet, a senior forward, was terrific on the defensive end in that stretch with two steals and a blocked shot. Senior guard Josie Lemirande and reserve guard Molly Gaab also had steals in that time.

“I think us staying in the gaps on that is how we got our steals,” Tanin said. “We know that everything starts with defense and it obviously showed this game because we started getting those steals.”

Monogue agreed.

“We definitely talked on the ball-screen slips,” Monogue said. “Once we got in our groove and knew what everybody was doing we were in good shape.”

Craig, an undersized, but gritty, gutty team, refused to go away. The Cougars drilled a pair of three-pointers in a 30-second window and pulled back within 58-52 with 1:30 left.

That was the closest the Cougars came, though, as Tanin hit two more free throws and Middleton made 4-of-6 from the line in the final 1:19.

“We didn’t play great, but it was good enough,” Kind said. “There are things we have to do better than we did tonight. But it’s always a relief to win games at this time of the year and get to practice for another day.”

For much of the night, those practice plans looked tenuous, at best.

Middleton trailed, 10-6, early on when it went on an 11-0 run. Monogue had seven points in the middle of the run — including two three-pointers — and Tanin had baskets to begin and end the spurt as the Cardinals raced to a 17-10 lead.

“I know I’m a good shooter, but I missed my first two,” Monogue said. “So I had to trust my skills and stay composed and not turn the ball over because I want to help the team as much as I can.”

Craig answered, though, with a stunning 12-0 run to take a 22-17 lead. The Cougars scored on five of six possessions during the spurt, while Middleton missed seven straight shots and had two turnovers during the run.

Middleton standouts Tanin and Karina Busrsac (11 points, eight rebounds) also picked up their second fouls during this stretch, and things looked bleak for the Cardinals.

But Middleton finished the half on a 14-5 run with a lot of help from its bench. Monogue hit her third three-pointer of the half and Gaab drilled a triple just moments after entering the game.

Then with the game knotted at 27 and just 20 seconds left in the half, Kind rolled the dice and inserted Tanin and Bursac back into game. Lemirande scored a rebound basket with 10 seconds left to give Middleton a 29-27 lead, and after a Craig turnover, Karina Bursac (11 points, eight rebounds) scored a rebound basket as the first half ended giving the Cardinals a 31-27 edge at the break.

“I was pretty happy to go in to halftime up four,” Kind said. “We got into foul trouble and then we were just cranking threes like they were going out of style and not making many.”

Craig hung tough at the start of the second half and tied the game, 40-40, on a driving basket by Claudia Fieiras (15 points). The Cougars then took their first — and only — lead of the second half at 46-45 on Goswick’s three-ball.

From there, though, it was the Tanin Show — and Middleton’s sensational season continued.

“We’re going to get everybody’s best effort,” Kind said. “It comes with the territory. It was just big for us that Sitori had a huge game.”


March 5

Middleton 62, Janesville Craig 55

Janesville Craig ............... 27 28 — 55

Middleton .......................... 31 31 — 62

JANESVILLE CRAIG (fg ft-fta pts) — Gregg 2 0-0 6, Huml 3 0-0 7, Magestro-Kennedy 1 1-1 3, Elgas 2 0-1 4, Fieiras 6 2-5 15, Goswick 5 0-0 14, Alderman 2 2-2 6. Totals 21 5-9 55.

MIDDLETON — Lemirande 1 2-2 4, Tanin 7 12-13 26, Roquet 1 3-4 5, Coleman 0 1-2 1, Gaab 1 0-0 3, Bursac 5 1-2 11, Monogue 4 1-2 12. Totals 19 20-25 62.

3-point goals: JC 8 (Goswick 4, Gregg 2, Huml 1, Fieiras 1); M 4 (Monogue 3, Gaab). Total fouls: JC 20; M 15. Fouled out: Fieiras, Alderman.


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