Middleton girls are heating up

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MTT News Desk's picture
Rob Reischel


SUN PRAIRIE — If there was any doubt, Middleton’s girls basketball team erased it last Thursday.

Middleton went to Sun Prairie to face its greatest challenger for the No. 3 seed in the postseason. But Middleton made sure there was little debate and cruised to a 51-40 win.

Middleton junior forward Liz McMahon led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds. McMahon also played stifling defense on Sun Prairie’s McKayla Yentz, limiting the Marquette recruit to just 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting.

“I’m really happy,” McMahon said afterwards. “This game was really big for seeding and it was a game we really needed.”

Sun Prairie was Middleton’s greatest challenger for the No. 3 seed in the sectional. But when Middleton defeated Sun Prairie for a second time this year, there was little debate over which team should be the higher seed.

“I thought we did a nice job the whole way,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We haven’t been in position all that often this year where we’re up 11 with a three minutes left. But we did a nice job getting a lead and then protecting it.”

Middleton also rolled past Janesville Craig, 67-46, last Saturday. The Cardinals then bested Madison West, 59-56, Monday night and pushed its winning streak to three games.

Middleton improved to 14-7 overall and sits alone in fourth place in the Big Eight Conference at 12-5.

“I think we’re getting a lot better and that’s exciting,” Middleton senior guard Darcy Dean said. “We’re a young team, completely different from last year. But I think we’re getting better and better.”

That was certainly the case against Sun Prairie.

Sun Prairie jumped to a 5-0 lead and held a 13-11 advantage after the first quarter. But Middleton began taking control in the second quarter.

With the game tied at 18, Middleton went on a 9-0 run. Junior guard Darby Raffel started the run with a three-pointer and McMahon scored in transition. Raffel knocked down another three-pointer and Anny Bunyan made a free throw.

When the burst ended, Middleton held a 27-18 lead and never trailed again.

“I think we’re still improving and that’s exciting,” Kind said. “I felt better about this game than when we played Sun Prairie at home (a 48-39 win on Jan. 3). I think we’re a lot better team now than we were then.”

Sun Prairie crept within 27-25 early in the third quarter, when it became the McMahon Show.

Over a 2 ½ minute stretch, McMahon went on a personal 6-0 run to give Middleton a 33-25 lead. First, McMahon had a rebound basket, then she scored in the post.

Finally, McMahon grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court. When no Sun Prairie defender stepped up, McMahon went to the rim for an easy basket and a 33-25 Middleton lead.

“I usually look for the outlet pass, but they took that away,” McMahon said. “So I just kept going.”

McMahon never stopped going in the third quarter, scoring 10 of her 19 points and grabbing five rebounds as Middleton pushed its lead to 40-31.

Sun Prairie pulled within seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but never came closer. An old-fashioned three-point play by McMahon midway through the fourth quarter helped Middleton stretch its lead to 47-35 and its lead remained in double figures the rest of the night.

“There was a lot of inexperience here, especially at the start of the year,” Dean said. “Even our seniors hadn’t played that much. But we all know that this is it now, so it’s time to play our best basketball.”

McMahon agreed.

“We’re almost to the time where it’s ‘One and done,’ and no one is ready for the year to end,” McMahon said. “So hopefully we can keep getting better.”

• Middleton 67, Janesville Craig 46 — McMahon scored a career-high 31 points and powered the Cardinals past the Cougars last Saturday. Natalie Staples and Grace Douglas both added six points.

“She’s really stepped up,” Kind said of McMahon. “She’s become more aggressive with trying to score and she’s cleaned up her turnovers. I think she’s playing with a real sense of urgency.”

Middleton did all it could to put this game away early, racing to an 18-5 lead after the first quarter and extending that to 34-11 by halftime. Craig crept back within 45-32 through three quarters, but Middleton took control again in the fourth quarter.

• Middleton 59, Madison West 56 — This was a preview of next Friday’s WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal. And the host Cardinals had a far tougher time than anticipated Monday night.

McMahon again led the Cardinals with 16 points, while senior point guard Shannon McCauley added 13 and sophomore forward Cole Jordee added 10.

West took a 15-12 lead after the first quarter, before the Cardinals took a 28-24 halftime lead. West tied the game at 44 heading to the fourth quarter and led in the closing minute.

But Middleton had too many answers down the stretch and held off the hard-charging Regents.

• On deck: Middleton concludes its regular season at Madison La Follette Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Cardinals then travel to Madison West for a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal on March 1.

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