Schafer's heroics help Middleton top West

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MTT News Desk's picture
Rob Reischel
Derek Rogeberg and Middleton's boys basketball team topped Madison West in a regional semifinal Friday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Derek Rongstad fully expected the pass.

Madison West thought it was going Rongstad’s way, as well.

But Luke Schafer was a master of deception last Friday night.

In a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal against the visiting Regents, Schafer pulled a Houdini act at the most opportune of times.

With Middleton clinging to a 40-37 lead, Schafer faked a handoff to Rongstad. Two Regents followed Rongstad, leaving Schafer a clear lane to the basket.

Middleton’s junior point guard drove from the left wing, attacked the rim and hit a high-arching left-handed lay-up. Schafer was also clobbered by West’s Travis Kell, and when he converted the three-point play with 1:24 left, Middleton was on its way to a hard fought 46-42 win.

The Cardinals improved to 13-10, while West ended its year 8-15.

“They were anticipating that bounce back pass,” Schafer said. “So I knew they were going to try and get that steal.

“So I went there, kind of hesitated and went left. … And when I looked up, the ball was going in.”

Schafer’s big play came at the most ideal time possible.

West had just notched back-to-back steals, turned them into layups and pulled within three points — the closest the Regents had been the entire second half.

But after Schafer’s heroics gave the Cardinals a 43-37 lead, West never came closer than four.

“I think that really helped us relax a little bit,” Rongstad said of Schafer’s basket. “That was big because it gave us a little breathing room.”

Schafer led Middleton with 16 points and Rongstad added 12. Senior forward Tyler Markel also had a huge hand in the win, knocking down a pair of second-half three-pointers on his only two shots of the night.

West junior guard Malik Clements finished with 15 points. But Clements shot just 6-of-17 from the field and had only four points in the second half.

“I expected a game like this, one that was really close and contested,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But I wasn’t expecting this type of score.”

Few were. When the teams met three weeks ago, West rolled to an 85-72 win and Clements poured in 33 points.

But as is often the case at tournament time, defense rules the day.

Middleton shot just 15-of-47 from the field (31.9%), but limited the Regents to 18-of-48 shooting (37.5%). The difference was the Cardinals outscored West, 13-5, from the line.

“It might have been our best defensive effort of the season,” Bavery said.

Schafer agreed.

“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” he said. “I thought we did a great job.”

The Cardinals certainly needed to, considering the struggles they were having on offense.

Neither team could get in a flow in the first half, as the lead changed hands 10 times.

Middleton trailed, 19-18, late in the second quarter. But the Cardinals closed the half with four straight points on a pair of free throws from both Schafer and Rongstad.

Middleton then opened the second half on a 5-0 burst — getting a three-ball from Markel and two more foul shots from Rongstad — and surged to a 27-19 lead. That 9-0 run was easily the biggest of the night for either team.
“It was really a grind it out kind of game,” Rongstad said. “Nothing came easy.”

That’s for sure.

West clawed back within 34-30 late in the third quarter. But Schafer scored on a nifty feed from Rongstad with one second left in the period to give the Cardinals a 36-30 edge heading to the fourth.

Middleton, which never trailed in the second half, still held a 40-33 advantage midway through the fourth when things nearly fell apart.

First, West’s John Carr III had a steal and layup to make it 40-35. Then Terrell McFadden had a steal and basket to make it 40-37 with 2:53 left.

“It looked like we were about to put the game away, and then that happens,” Bavery said. “We needed something good to happen.”

Fortunately for the Cardinals, Schafer was on their side.

After a timeout, Schafer made the biggest play of the night to help Middleton re-establish control.

Down the stretch, Rongstad hit a pair of free throws and Derek Rogeberg added one. And the talent-laden Regents saw their season come to an end.

“We didn’t want tonight to be the night that everything ended for us,” Bavery said. “We weren’t ready for it to stop yet.

“At this time of the year, you just want to live to fight another day, live to play one more round. I’m really glad we were able to do that.”

• Notebook: West, which was the lower-seeded and visiting team, was supposed to wear dark uniforms. But the Regents only brought their home white jerseys, which forced Middleton to don the darker jerseys. WIAA rules don’t penalize teams such as West for that infraction. … West held a 48-30 rebounding advantage. But the Regents had 16 turnovers and Middleton had just seven.

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