Boulevard of broken dreams

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MTT News Desk's picture
Gregg Hammill/For the Times-Tribune
Chris Little (22), Luke Schafer (10) and Max Oelerich (12) were broken up after Middleton’s loss to Sun Prairie./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — Up one moment.

Down the next.

Much like its season, inconsistency plagued Middleton’s boys basketball team in a season-ending 52-44 loss to Sun Prairie in a WIAA Division 1 regional final last Saturday.

There were times during the game where Middleton looked to be on the verge of pulling away. However, Sun Prairie stayed close and then outscored Middleton 15-3 in the fourth quarter.

“There were so many instances where we were right on the edge of pushing it out of reach,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “All we needed was one of almost anything to happen our way and clearly nothing did.”

Middleton finished its season with a 13-11 overall record.

“(At the team banquet) we talked very openly about how we expected our record to be a lot better this year than it was, but we didn’t have a game all season, other than the Verona game, that wasn’t like the game here tonight where every game we play is down to the wire,” Bavery said. “Now you leave it open to chance.”

With Middleton struggling to get anything going on offense, Sun Prairie pulled away down the stretch. After Middleton’s Demond Hill converted a free throw to tie the game at 44, Sun Prairie’s Nick Noskowiak missed a shot, but Shane Waldon was there for the putback with two minutes, 15 seconds remaining. Middleton missed its final two shots and committed a pair of turnovers as Sun Prairie converted 6-of-8 free throws to put it away.

“They’re a good team and defensively they really buckled down and sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way,” said Middleton senior Derek Rongstad. “They seemed to hit every shot, and credit to them, they made their free throws down the stretch. We just didn’t make enough plays to make it go our way.”

Rongstad, who was unable to practice all week due to flu-like symptoms, held Noskowiak — a Marquette recruit — to 16 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field. Robinson added 16 points for Sun Prairie.

Senior guard Luke Schafer paced Middleton with 14 points. Senior forward Demond Hill added 11 points, including 8-of-9 shooting from the free throw line, and Rongstad and Little chipped in seven points apiece.

“You hope you can make every shot, but when you start missing, it’s about how you respond and we just couldn’t get anything to fall,” Schafer said. “We had a lot of shots. It just didn’t bounce our way at the end.”

Middleton missed all eight of its field goal attempts and managed just three free throws in the final quarter.

“To go 3-for-7 (from the free-throw line) and not hit a shot from the field … you’re not going to win many of those games no matter what your lead is, no matter who you’re playing,” Bavery said.

Sun Prairie (16-8 overall) led 12-8 after the first quarter and led throughout the second quarter until a late run by Middleton. Three free throws by Chris Little pulled Middleton to within 19-16, then Hill drilled a 3-pointer to knot it at 19 apiece.

After Noskowiak converted a pair of free throws, Sun Prairie was holding for the last shot when Rongstad knocked the ball away from Noskowiak. Middleton freshman C.J. Fermanich pounced on the loose ball and drove for a layup with three seconds remaining to tie it at 21 apiece.

“It felt like we had all the momentum,” Rongstad said. “We had just hit a three before that and not letting them get the last shot and getting two points of our own was huge.”

Middleton carried that momentum into the third quarter. After Noskowiak converted a four-point play to erase a 30-26 Sun Prairie deficit, Middleton responded with a 7-0 run.

Schafer drilled a three-pointer, Rongstad followed with a driving basket and then stole Noskowiak’s ensuing inbounds pass with a perfectly timed leap and scored. Seconds later, Middleton had a chance to go up nine after Noskowiak fouled Little, but Little came up empty.

“The four-point play was kind of a killer, but I thought we responded well,” Schafer said. “That’s about as resilient as you can get in that situation.

“We ran our stuff, they stayed in their zone and we moved the ball well, got some good looks and they were falling at that point. We were getting deep into the zone, making them decide who they have to guard and getting to the rim and drawing some contact. We got a lot of free throws at that time which was huge for us.”

Added Rongstad: “When (Noskowiak) got that four-point play I just came in (off the bench) and tried to have a lot of energy and just get people going and I got that steal off the press to the easy layup. I was just trying to get a lot of energy for everyone and Luke hit a big three right after the four-point play. That really got us going.”

Malik Robinson broke Middleton’s run with a pair of free throws, but Max Oelerich answered with a layup for Middleton. Walden and Hill each made two free throws and then JT Ruffin hit a 3-pointer to pull Sun Prairie within 41-37 after three quarters.

Middleton held onto the lead until Robinson hit a pull-up jumper to give Sun Prairie a 43-42 lead at the 4:05 mark.

Noskowiak picked up his fourth foul with 6:03 remaining in the game, but Middleton was unable to draw his fifth foul.

“(Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos) kept him in with four and we couldn’t get that fifth on him,” Bavery said. “We talked to our guys about trying to lift him a little bit to see if you can get that one.

“You would think, four with six to go, just by circumstances, he would have picked up one. You reach somewhere, you go over the back somewhere, but he was smart with how he played.”

The loss was an emotional one, especially for Middleton’s seniors.

“It’s pretty emotional,” said Schafer, one of eight seniors on the team. “There’s some great teammates and guys I’ve been around my whole life. You think about the basketball part, but right now, that’s probably the last thing to think about.”

 “The reason everyone is so sad right now is because we’re not going to practice with this great group of guys,” added Rongstad, who will be playing for UW-Milwaukee next season.

In addition to Rongstad, Schafer, Hill, Little, and Oelerich other seniors on the roster were Derek Rogeberg, Cole Zillner and Nick Revord.

An emotional Bavery was fond of the group.

“The biggest thing is that we had a really special senior group. It truly does become a family every year and this is one of the most special families we’ve ever had because of such great kids these seniors were,” Bavery said. “We talk a lot about when it ends it hurts.

“That’s always hard to deal with because it’s not about looking forward to playing next Thursday, it’s about walking into the gym on Monday and hanging out with all your buddies. For most of these kids that ends.”


March 1

Sun Prairie 52, Middleton 44

Middleton ……..….….. 8  13  20   3 – 44

Sun Prairie ………….….12   9  16  15 - 52

MIDDLETON – Derek Rongstad 3-9 0-0 7, Derek Rogeberg 0-1 1-2 1, Demond Hill 1-3 8-9 11, Max Oelerich 1-5 0-0 2, Luke Schafer 5-11 2-2 14, CJ Fermanich 1-4 0-0 2, Chris Little 1-3 4-8 7, Andrew Gardner 0-0 0-0 0, Ian Hokanson 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 12-37 15-21 44.

SUN PRAIRIE – Malik Robinson 6-7 4-4 16, JT Ruffin 3-8 3-4 10, Michael Marchese 1-4 1-2 3, Nick Noskowiak 3-12 9-11 16, Shane Waldon 2-2 0-0 4, Sam Kerr 1-4 0-0 3, Ben Hauser 0-0 0-2 0, Nate Verstegen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 17-23 52.

3-point goals – M 5 (Schaefer 2, Hill, Little, Rongstad). SP 3 (Noskowiak, Kerr, Ruffin). Total fouls – M 16, SP 15.

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