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Middleton's girls top Madison West

Not this time.

That was the message Middleton’s girls basketball team delivered to Madison West — and Regents standout sophomore guard Ebony Nettles-Bey — during a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal last Friday.

Two weeks earlier, Nettles-Bey erupted for 30 points and West nearly pulled a stunning upset of the Cardinals.

This time, though, Nettles Bey was held to 16 points — just six in the second half — and Middleton cruised to a 54-36 win.

The Cardinals improved to 15-8, while West ended its year 8-15.

“We did a nice job defensively on Nettles-Bay,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We tried to limit her touches vs. the press and make her give it up when she did get it. 

“She's still going to get some points, but we didn't let her get open looks in the lane like the previous game. Our guards, particularly Darcy Dean and Natalie Staples, really made things tough for her.”

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Skibba, Bakkar shine at state

They’ve been a dynamic duo for Middleton’s girls gymnastics team all season.

And last Friday was no different for Aryn Skibba and Bianca Bakkar.

Skibba, a junior, finished sixth in the all-around competition at the WIAA Division 1 individual state meet in Wisconsin Rapids with a sensational score of 37.317. Bakkar, a senior, placed ninth as an all-arounder with a dynamic score of 36.517.

“I am so proud of Aryn and Bianca,” Middleton coach Kari Steck said. “Between the two of them, a Middleton gymnast placed on every event in the individual competition. Only two other teams (Franklin Co-op and Burlington Co-op) could say that leaving Friday. 

“I think that's incredible and it says a lot about the depth of Middleton and the consistency of Aryn and Bianca. Even under stressful, high pressure situations such as Friday night individuals, they both shine.”

Skibba, who was fourth at state individually last year, had another banner meet.

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MHS girls gymnastics team 7th at state


This wasn’t an off day.

There was no disappointment, no dissatisfaction.

In fact, Middleton girls gymnastics coach Kari Steck isn’t sure why that question would even be asked.

Middleton went to the WIAA Division 1 state meet in Wisconsin Rapids last Saturday and finished seventh overall at the 10-team event. The Cardinals entered the meet ranked third in the state.

Middleton posted a solid score of 139.560. But that was more than one point less than the Cardinals averaged at the Big Eight Conference meet and the Waunakee Sectional.

But Steck insisted her team had no displeasure with seventh place.

“It was not an off day for the team,” Steck said. “I'm not sure why you ask? Competition at the state meet is good and tough, as it should be. We were happy to be there, and the girls did their best. I am very proud of them. 

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Memorial ends Middleton's season

WATERTOWN — The locker room was virtually empty now.

Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery had spoken to his team for 30 minutes. He spent another 20 minutes talking to the local media.

With the recorders off and the players gone, the reality that Middleton’s surprising season had come to an end had now fully registered.

“Damn,” Bavery said. “Damn.”

And really, not much more needed to be said.

In a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal Thursday night, Madison Memorial got the best of Middleton for a 20th straight time. The Spartans erased an early 17-6 deficit, played stifling defense the rest of the way, and downed the Cardinals, 59-49.

Middleton, which hasn’t defeated Memorial since Feb. 3, 2005, ended its year 14-11. Memorial improved to 21-4 and will face Mukwonago (21-4) Saturday in search of its 10th straight trip to state.

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Climb of the Cards continues

SUN PRAIRIE — For months now, people have been talking about the potential greatness of next year's Middleton boys basketball team.

The Cardinals appreciated the compliment, except for one thing.

“That’s all great,” junior forward Max Oelerich said. “But we know that nothing’s guaranteed. So we’re talking about now.”

And playing for today, as well.

Last Saturday, Middleton showed that its present might be as promising as its future. Fourth-seeded Middleton went into top-seeded Sun Prairie and played arguably its best game of the year in a WIAA Division 1 regional final.

Middleton’s gritty-gutty point guard Luke Schafer had 21 points, junior guard Derek Rongstad added 15, and the visitors held off a late Sun Prairie surge to notch a thrilling 75-64 win.

“You never know what will happen between now and next year,” Rongstad said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed.

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Cain exits in style

It was Saturday morning, and Jake Cain’s dream of becoming a state champion had ended.

Middleton’s standout wrestler had dropped a heartbreaker to Bay Port’s Alex Blaney in the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals just 15 hours earlier.

But the 138-pound Cain did what he always does. He put on his hard hat, went back to work and wrestled his tail off.

Cain returned to the UW Kohl Center Saturday, won a pair of matches, and notched third place. That was the highest finish at state by a Middleton wrestler since Ben Brummel won a state title in 2009.

“I mean, sure, I was really bummed about not being able to achieve my goal,” Cain said of missing out on a state title. “But when Saturday rolled around, I tried not to think about it as much. I knew I could still get third and I wanted to finish the season on a high note.”

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Middleton gymnasts head back to state


WAUNAKEE — Bianca Bakkar woke at the crack of dawn last Saturday.

Middleton’s standout senior gymnast tried going back to sleep. But Bakkar couldn’t stop thinking about the looming Waunakee Sectional, and how it could be the final meet of her stellar career.

“I tried to sleep, but I just couldn’t,” Bakkar said. “I was really nervous.”
All the uneasiness was for naught.

Bakkar had her best performance in more than three years, junior Aryn Skibba continued her brilliant season and Middleton rolled to the sectional title.

The Cardinals posted a team score of 140.475 to easily outdistance Verona/Madison Edgewood (138.525) for the sectional championship.

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Girls basetball team seeks consistency

By now, Jeff Kind didn’t expect to be talking about consistency.

Middleton’s girls basketball coach didn’t think he’d be discussing steadiness and stability.

But the way Kind sees things, it is what it is.

“It’s been a consistency thing for us all year long,” Kind said. “There are times we play well, and then there are times you just wonder.”

Perhaps it’s too much to ask after such an uneven season. But Kind is hoping his team can get hot and string together a handful of solid games this postseason.

Middleton begins the playoffs Friday when it travels to Madison West for a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal at 7 p.m. The winner of that game faces either Madison La Follette or Madison Memorial Saturday at 7 p.m. in a regional final.

“This is a real good bunch of kids and they keep working hard,” Kind said. “We just haven’t developed a real toughness to us yet. That’s where the consistency comes from.

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FLASHBACK: Looking back on Middleton's last win over Madison Memorial

Editor's Note: This story originally ran in the Middleton Times-Tribune on Feb. 10, 2005. It chronicles Middleton's last win over Madison Memorial in boys basketball. The Cardinals and Spartans meet in a sectional semifinal Thursday at 7 p.m. in Watertown.


For weeks, people have looked at the Big Eight Conference race and the road to the state tournament as foregone conclusions.

To many, Madison Memorial was a virtual lock. And everyone else was playing for second.

Not so fast folks.

Last Thursday night, Middleton showed the Spartans are most certainly vulnerable. And in the process, the Cardinals showed they’re a legitimate contender to make a run at state themselves.

Middleton went to Memorial and played its finest game in years. The Cardinals shot the lights out, defended with authority and stunned the host Spartans, 74-61.

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Middleton hoping to slay mighty Memorial

SUN PRAIRIE — The parallels are downright eerie.

Middleton’s boys basketball lost twice to Sun Prairie this regular season, including once when a buzzer-beater broke the Cardinals’ collective hearts. But with the stakes highest last Saturday night, Middleton drubbed Sun Prairie, 75-64, in a WIAA Division 1 regional final.

Middleton also lost twice this regular season to Madison Memorial, the final time coming on a dramatic buzzer-beater. But like it did against Sun Prairie, Middleton has a chance to prove the third time is the charm.

Middleton and Madison Memorial will meet in a sectional semifinal Thursday in Watertown at 7 p.m. The winner advances to the sectional final Saturday at 1 p.m. in Sun Prairie.


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