Girls basketball team drops playoff opener

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Claire Staples and Middleton’s girls basketball team dropped their playoff opener last Friday./Times-Tribune photos by Mary Langenfeld

When a season typically ends, Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind doesn’t look at the final game tape for weeks. Sometimes, Kind never watches the film all.

This year, Kind put the tape in just hours after Middleton’s 56-52 loss to Janesville Parker in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal last Friday.

He simply couldn’t wait.

“I felt like we were the better team,” Kind said. “And the tape kind of confirmed that. The only thing is we couldn’t make shots.”

Ah yes. Making shots.

Middleton, the No. 4 seed in the sectional, did the overwhelming majority of things right against the 13th-seeded Vikings. But the Cardinals’ year came to an end for one overriding reason: they simply didn’t shoot well enough.

Middleton shot just 19-of-60 from the field (31.7%), and with the game on the line, missed its final 13 shots from the floor. That allowed Parker to rally in the second half and pull out a shocking win.

The Cardinals finished the year 15-8, while Parker improved to 9-14. The Vikings won the following night, as well, defeating host Watertown and advancing to the sectional semifinals Thursday where they’ll face top-seeded Mukwonago.

“We talked about (how) controlling the basketball meant controlling the game,” Parker coach Jennah Hartwig said. “I thought the girls battled the whole game and never quit fighting.”

As Kind studied the tape, he noticed Middleton did several things extremely well.

The Cardinals allowed just one fast break point and forced 19 Parker turnovers. Middleton also limited the Vikings to seven offensive rebounds and had 12 defensive deflections.

“We actually played one of our better games except shooting,” Kind said. “We just couldn't make shots … and most of them were wide open.”

Middleton, which defeated Parker in both regular season match-ups, raced to an 11-4 lead. Parker began chipping away, though, and closed within 31-26 by halftime.

Sophomore Sitori Tanin, who along with senior Claire Staples led Middleton with 12 points, had 10 first half points.

Parker sophomore Jena Forrestal got rolling in the second half, though, when she scored 11 of her game-high 17 points. Forrestal made four three-point baskets and keyed the Vikings’ second half charge.

“When Jena plays with energy, we play so much better,” Hartwig said. “She can do some things with the ball no one else can. Sometimes the best way to create offense is with aggressive defense, and I think Jena realized that tonight.”

Middleton’s offense, meanwhile, went into a slumber.

Cardinals sophomore Josie Lemirande made two early three-pointers. After that, though, Middleton shot just 1-of-20 from beyond the arc.

“And they were all good shots, too,” Kind said. “They weren’t forced. Our girls were open.”

Despite the loss, Kind wasn’t as disappointed as some years.

“When I looked at it, I really wasn’t all that unhappy,” Kind said. “We prepared well and did everything we needed to do except shoot.

“The kids were really disappointed and it’s a tough one. But we played pretty well except making shots.”

Middleton fielded one of the youngest teams in the Big Eight Conference this season, and should come back with enormous expectations next season.

Middleton figures to return five of its top seven scorers and seven of its top-10 players next year.

League champion Sun Prairie and runner-up Madison East will suffer heavy graduation losses. And if Middleton has a productive summer, it could challenge for a conference title in 2018-’19.

“We’ll have high hopes,” Kind said. “But I’m going to stress with the kids, those high hopes depend on what we do this summer. If we don’t have a good summer, those good things probably won’t happen.”

 

Feb. 23

WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal

JANESVILLE PARKER 56, MIDDLETON 52

Janesville Parker ………….. 26 30 — 56

Middleton ……………...…… 31 21 — 52

JANESVILLE PARKER — Fenrick 0 1-2 1, Benway 4 2-3 10, Graesslin 3 1-1 8, Hartwig 6 0-0 12, Forrestal 4 5-7 17, Shelton 1 2-2 4, Veguilla 0 2-2 2, Porter 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 13-17 56.

MIDDLETON — White 1 0-0 2, Staples 3 6-8 12, Bursac 2 2-3 6, H. Dunn 2 0-0 5, Lemirande 2 2-2 8, S. Tanin 6 0-0 12, Flottmeyer 3 1-2 7. Totals 19 11-15 52.

3-point goals — JP 5 (Graesslin 1, Forrestal 4), MID 3 (H. Dunn 1, Lemirande 2). Total fouls — JP 14, MID 16.

 

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