Sweet 16: Middleton's boys move to 16-0

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Owen Cooney shoots between four Madison East players during the Cardinals’ win over the Purgolders last Saturday./Photo courtesy of Mary Bavery

Kevin Bavery rarely gets angry.

Middleton’s boys basketball coach is widely regarded as one of the more even tempered and nicer guys in his business.

But after Madison East trimmed a 14-point lead to four points last Saturday and forced Bavery to call a timeout, the Cardinals’ boss was about as irritated as he can get.

“He wasn’t real happy,” Middleton senior guard Gavyn Hurley said.

Moments later, Bavery’s aggravation quickly turned to delight.

Middleton embarked on a remarkable 22-3 run, pushed its lead to 23 points and cruised to a 67-45 win.

Hurley led the Cardinals with 19 points — including 10 during that decisive run — seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while senior forward Owen Cooney added 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Will Comerford had 10 points, sophomore center Will Garlock had nine points and five rebounds and senior wing Kaden Fosdick had five points and six assists.

The Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press and Wissports.net poll among Division 1 teams, improved to 16-0 overall and 13-0 in the Big Eight Conference. Middleton, which is off to its best start in school history, leads the league by four games over three different teams with just seven conference games remaining.

“Coach said we didn’t bring as much intensity as we needed to,” Hurley said of Bavery’s message during the timeout. “So we really ramped up the defensive intensity. That was a great defensive stretch. Lots of energy.”

Middleton has been one of the state’s elite defensive outfits all season.

The Cardinals held East to a season-low point total — the seventh time this year Middleton has held an opponent to its season-low in points. The Cardinals, who start four players that stand 6-foot-6 and the 6-foot-10 Garlock, are allowing just 50.4 points per game and have held their last five opponents to an average of just 47.8 points.

“We’ve gotten to that time of the season where I feel like we can play man, we can play 1-1-3 (zone), we can play 1-3-1 (zone),” Bavery said. “We can trap out of our 1-1-3. We’re starting to trap corners out of the 1-3-1, which is causing problems. We’ve got a lot of options and we’re getting better.”

East would certainly concur.

The Purgolders, who trailed, 29-20, at halftime, opened the second half on a 9-4 spurt and pulled within 33-29. East’s Camron Henderson, who led the Purgolders with 15 points, drilled a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw with 15:06 left to trim Middleton’s lead to four and draw Bavery’s ire.

“We just asked ‘em, are you here to play or what?” Bavery said of his message during the timeout. “I said, ‘here’s what we just talked about at halftime and you’re not doing it.’ ”

That certainly changed during the Cardinals’ decisive run.

Over the next eight minutes, Middleton scored on 11 of 16 trips and averaged 1.4 points per possession.

East, on the other hand, had scoring droughts of three, and later five minutes. The Purgolders also shot just 1-of-11 in that stretch and had nine turnovers.

Middleton, which alternated between its man-to-man defense and its 1-1-3 zone in the first half, went to a 1-3-1 zone during its big run and East had no answers against it.

“We showed (the 1-3-1) against Arrowhead last year (in the playoffs) and now we’re even longer,” Hurley said. “We’ve been running that since our eighth grade team went 61-5. We’re pretty good at that defense.”

That’s for sure.

Cooney started the run when he backed his man down on the left block and hit a soft, 7-foot turnaround after an assist from Fosdick. Two possessions later, Fosdick made a terrific pass from the right corner to an open Comerford, who drilled a 3-pointer that extended Middleton’s lead to 38-29.

“We just needed to get the ball moving better,” said Fosdick, whose team had a season-low four turnovers. “When the ball is moving like that, no one’s going to be able to stop us. We have so many options. Getting everyone involved is something we’re looking for and looking to do.”

With Hurley at the top of the 1-3-1, Cooney, Comerford and Fosdick in the middle, and Garlock protecting the back end, the Cardinals then forced consecutive steals.

Hurley came up with the first theft, drove the length of the court and made a nifty left handed lay-up. Comerford then had a steal on East’s next possession, reserve guard Joe Schwartz fired a pass ahead to Hurley who scored in the paint, and just like that Middleton’s lead had ballooned to 42-29.

“The 1-3-1 turned out to be our best defense in that stretch,” Bavery said. “We really pushed the ball. We made pretty good decisions in transition. And when Gavyn can get around people and finish with his length and his height, he’s really tough to stop.”

After an East basket momentarily stopped the bleeding, the Cardinals went on a 13-1 run that largely ended things.

Hurley had a steal on one end, drove the left baseline, and after taking a Euro Step scored at the rim to make it 44-31. East, still befuddled by the 1-3-1, then missed again. Hurley grabbed the rebound, drove the length of the court and converted another left-handed lay-up to give the Cardinals a 46-31 advantage.

“Mr. Gavyn Hurley gives us a special kind of energy,” Fosdick said. “It just gets the guys going. When we’re running up and down the court like that and he’s making plays, it’s just a really big momentum change. He’s definitely a great creator for us.”

As East continued to struggle — turning the ball over on four consecutive possessions at one point — Middleton found its groove offensively. Junior wing Avery Houden made a clever reverse lay-up, Hurley rebounded his own miss and scored and Cooney had a rebound basket to make it 52-32.

“It was important that we came out and established what we established after that timeout,” Bavery said. “We understand teams are going to make runs and part of that was due to them, but part was also due to us. And so to respond in that kind of way, just to show when we really get in transition, what we’re capable of doing was nice to see.”

Fosdick — Middleton’s version of the Energizer Bunny — capped the run in style.

First, Fosdick had a steal, raced the other way, and threw down a two-handed dunk. It was Fosdick’s first dunk of the year and his first since Middleton upset Hartland Arrowhead in a regional final last season.

“I was just wide open and I was like, ‘I’m a pretty bouncy fellow.’ So I was like, I’m going to put one down softly and make sure it goes in,” Fosdick said. “I used two hands for safety.”

Junior forward Carter Kadow then had a steal, leading to a breakout where Fosdick attempted his second dunk in 20 seconds. Instead, Fosdick was fouled, then made one of two free throws to cap the incredible run.

After that timeout, everything kind of just clicked,” Hurley said. “I got some breakouts, some rebounds I turned into points. We played great defense and that got the offense going. I feel like we’re clicking as a team right now.”

The Cardinals were certainly clicking early, racing to an 8-0 lead after 2 ½ minutes and extending that advantage to 16-2 after seven minutes. Comerford had five points during Middleton’s early blitz and six different Cardinals scored.

East, meanwhile, missed its first 10 shots from the field as it struggled to get used to Middleton’s rare size.

“We knew it was going to be their game of the year,” Hurley said. “Every team now is going to be like that. So we wanted to have a fast start.”

East began chipping away, though, using a 16-7 run to pull within 23-18 with 4 minutes left in the half. Middleton extended its lead back to 29-20 by halftime, but when the Purgolders made a move to open the second half, things looked dicey for a second.

But only for a second.

“I never felt like we were in trouble,” Bavery said.

That’s because these Cardinals have done a remarkable job staying the course, never getting too high or low — even though they’re in the midst of making history.

“We have not changed,” Bavery said. “You ask every one of our guys what’s most important and they’ll say the next practice. They won’t say the next game, they’ll say Monday’s practice and they understand that.

“We tell the players, either we’re going to evolve or we’re going to stay the same. The old, ‘No pain, no gain’ statement, we say ‘No pain, no gain or remain the same.’ But we can’t remain the same. We have to evolve.”

Middleton has done just that, adding new plays and concepts throughout the year to stay one step ahead of a gifted conference that has several teams anxious to try knocking off the Cardinals.

So far, though, everyone that’s tried has failed.

“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun,” Bavery said of Middleton’s fast start. “Of course it’s easier when we’re winning, but win, lose or draw, there has not been a single day where I haven’t enjoyed being around these guys. They are just unbelievable. They really are. And it’s not just their personalities, it’s their energy. It makes it a blast to come to practice every day.”



East ....................... 20 25 — 45

Middleton .............. 29 38 — 67

EAST — (fgm ftm-fta pts) Camron Henderson 5 3-3 15, Clevon Easton 3 1-1- 9, Jabril Franklin 1 0-0 3, Trent Tucker 1 0-0 3, Jazierre Yancy 1 0-0 2, Ebrahim Jarjue 1 0-0 3, Greg Smith 2 1-2 5, Periyon Mayes 1 0-0 2, Habib Alidu-Ball 1 1-2 3. Totals: 16 6-8 45.

MIDDLETON — Gavyn Hurley 9 0-1 19, Isaiah Oliver 1 1-2 3, Kaden Fosdick 2 1-2 5, Owen Cooney 5 2-2 12, Will Garlock 3 3-4 9, Will Comerford 3 2-2 10, Avery Houden 2 0-0 4, Torin Pettaway 1 0-0 2, Mason Roquet 1 0-0 3. Totals: 27 9-13 67. 

3-pointers: East 7 (Henderson 2, Easton 2, Franklin, Tucker, Jarjue), Middleton 4 (Comerford 2, Hurley, Roquet).


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