Boys basketball team rolls past Craig

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Joel Ticknor and Middleton's boys basketball team rolled past Janesville Craig last Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Contributions came from up and down the lineup.

Three players scored in double figures. Three more had at least eight points.

And Middleton’s depth and balance eventually took a toll in its 67-53 win over Janesville Craig last Friday.

The Cardinals improved to 2-2 both overall and in the Big Eight Conference.

“No doubt our best game,” Middleton head coach Kevin Bavery said. “We shared the ball extremely well, created some turnovers, and overall did a pretty nice job defending their two prolific scorers.”

Senior forward Brogan Brunker led the Cardinals with 16 points, but he had plenty of help. Senior swingman Alan Roden added 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals, while senior guard Nick Michaels had 11.

Senior guard Joel Ticknor and junior guard Sam Close both scored nine points, while senior guard Chann Bowman added eight. Junior guard Jack Boyle had a game-high six assists, while Close, Michaels and Roden all added three assists.

Middleton also did a good job in holding Craig senior guard Blake McCann — who entered the night averaging 21.0 points per game — to 12 points.

“We were within an eyelash of getting five or even six players in double figures, which would be ideal to get night in and night out,” Bavery said. “We had a great stretch of about three or four minutes where the ball was really moving and we got a lot of drive and kick, throwback, and inside-out action for those three-point looks, so it's coming along compared to our first game. And we're getting to the offensive glass better, whether for an offensive rebound or just to tip and keep the ball alive.”

Michaels and Close each made three first half three-pointers, and Bowman added two of his own as the Cardinals raced to a 38-24 lead at the break. In all, Middleton made 10 first half three-pointers.

The Cardinals thrived despite early foul trouble from Brunker, who entered the game averaging a league-high 26.0 points per game.

“Brogan is an aggressive player and is also an easy target because of his physical stature, so he's not going to catch many breaks,” Bavery said of Brunker. “He needs to understand how the game will be called when he’s in certain situations and has to do a better job of staying on the floor for us. Still, it was a great opportunity for others to step up in the scoring department and they certainly did.”

Brunker scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, highlighted by a steal and thunderous dunk early in the half. Middleton’s lead eventually grew to as many as 22 at 60-38 and the Cardinals cruised to their most impressive win of the year.

Middleton finished the night 11-of-26 from three-point range (42.3%) and outrebounded Craig, 33-24.

“We've always had a green-light mentality in all phases of the game and we can't be afraid to make aggressive mistakes,” Bavery said. “Against Craig we moved the ball better, made better reads offensively and defensively both in the full and half court, and we played with a higher level of emotion. Slowly the confidence of the team is starting to build.”

Middleton, which lost four preferred starters from a year ago, has gotten a huge early-season boost from a senior class that didn’t log many minutes last year. But that group has performed extremely well as the Cardinals have begun playing winning basketball.

“They practiced hard with, and against a great group of seniors last year,” Bavery said of this year’s senior class. “They had a lot of success in varsity reserve games, and most had a great year competing in other sports, functional strength workouts in our program, open gym work, summer basketball games, and so on.

“We knew we had a lot of guys coming back that made serious physical changes and that they were willing to work. Our juniors are coming along now too. I think some were deflecting to seniors early, but now they are starting to realize that we are all one team and junior-senior doesn't matter. No doubt we are a fun team to be around daily, and an exciting team to watch on game night!”

• On deck: Middleton is at Verona Thursday at 7:30 p.m., then travels to Janesville Parker Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Cardinals host Madison La Follette Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., then are off until Dec. 27 when they host Sussex Hamilton in a holiday tournament at MHS.

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