Middleton KO's Verona

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Bria Lemirande helped Middleton’s girls basketball team roll past Verona Tuesday night./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Angie Murphy knows a thing or two about championship teams.

Murphy led Verona to the 2016 WIAA Division 1 girls basketball title in March. And as Murphy left Middleton High School Tuesday evening, she realized her Wildcats might have just faced their eventual successors.

Middleton, ranked fourth in the latest wissports.net poll, dominated the defending champs from start to finish and posted an impressive 58-38 win. The Cardinals improved to 5-0 both overall and in the Big Eight Conference, while eighth-ranked Verona fell to 4-1, 5-2.

“I think they do,” Murphy said when asked if the Cardinals have the look of a championship team. “They have a target on their back and that was us last year.”

There’s no doubt, 2015-’16 was the year of the Wildcats. Verona used its rare blend of size, skill and experience to become the Big Eight’s first state champion since Janesville Parker in 2001. Perhaps the 2016-’17 Cardinals will make it two in a row for the league.

Middleton certainly gave a championship performance in dismantling the Wildcats.

The Cardinals used a 36-9 run during the middle portion of the game to turn a 14-all tie into a 50-23 bludgeoning. Senior guard Bria Lemirande had 19 points and eight rebounds, while senior forward Alexis Thomas and senior guard Alyssa Lemirande both added 10 points.

Middleton also forced 26 Verona turnovers and outrebounded the Wildcats, 30-24.

“This was really big,” Bria Lemirande said of beating Verona. “Every Verona game is really big for us, but this one was really big. It’s a really good win.”

Since Verona joined the Big Eight in 2008, there has been just one season where the Cardinals or Wildcats didn't win the league. Instead, the two have dominated the conference and typically battle each other for league supremacy.

This year was expected to be much of the same. But Middleton might have shown Tuesday there’s a gap between it and the rest of the conference.

“They definitely showed that they’re an experienced team and our newbies struggled with that,” Murphy said. “They really took control of the game. They’re a very good team and they just get in those runs.”

The teams were tied, 14-14, when Middleton went on a 10-0 run over a 5 ½ minute stretch midway through the first half.

Bria Lemirande started the fun with a three-pointer, then Alyssa Lemirande attacked the lane and scored. Bria Lemirande had a steal and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up, then Alexis Thomas buried a three-pointer.

During the Cardinals’ burst, they held Verona scoreless on eight straight possessions and forced five Wildcats’ turnovers.

“We had some spurts in there,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “In the course of the game, we’ll usually get a couple of those. As long as we take care of the ball, we’ll be OK.”

By halftime, Middleton had pushed its lead to 34-21. Bria Lemirande had 14 first half points on 6-of-8 shooting and added seven rebounds, while Thomas had all 10 of her points on 5-of-6 shooting.

“I tend to come out kind of slow in games,” Lemirande said. “But I told myself to come out strong and then you don’t have to worry about picking it up the rest of the game.

“I thought we had really good passing and were really unselfish. And I thought our defense was really good compared to some other Verona games.”

Middleton’s defense was especially good on Verona senior standout Alex Luehring. While the 6-foot-2 Luehring had 15 points, the UW-Green Bay recruit shot just 7-of-23.

“We were really focused on defending Luehring,” Lemirande said. “She still had a good game, but we shut her down pretty good.”

Middleton continued to pile it on in the second half, smacking the Wildcats with a 16-2 run in the first 8:20 to pull away.

Bria Lemirande and Claire Staples both had five points in that burst, while Alyssa Lemirande had four and Charlotte Dunn added two.

Middleton’s defense in that stretch was also sublime, as it held Verona to 1-of-9 shooting and forced eight Wildcats turnovers. And when the Cardinals’ flurry was over, they held a commanding 50-23 lead.

“We’ve got a lot to work on,” Murphy said. “But one thing that shouldn’t need work is your focus and your effort. That was some of the things I was disappointed in.”

Kind and his Cardinals were on the other end of the spectrum, though, and headed to the holidays on a high.

“Verona’s going to win their share of games for sure,” Kind said. “So I’m pretty happy where we’re at.”

• On deck: Middleton hosts Janesville Parker Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The Cardinals then face Franklin in the first round of the Franklin Tournament on Dec. 27 at noon.

 

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