Girls BB team psyched for postseason

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Bria Lemirande (35) and Middleton’s girls basketball team clinched sole possession of the Big Eight Conference title last Thursday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

 

Outright conference champions.

Sectional favorites.

Pursuers of a WIAA Division 1 state title.

Middleton’s girls basketball team wears all of those titles following another exciting week.

The Cardinals defeated Madison Memorial, 58-41, last Thursday and claimed sole possession of the Big Eight Conference title. Middleton finished the year 17-1 in the league and edged Verona (16-2) by one game for the conference crown.

It was Middleton’s seventh conference title in eight years — with the only hiccup coming last season.

“We were all thrilled to win conference outright,” Middleton senior forward Liz McMahon said. “It gives us confidence going into playoffs, and it’s something we’re all proud of.

“As a senior, winning conference was awesome. In our conference, there are a lot of good basketball players, and not many of them have the honor of saying they were conference champs. Winning conference just shows how balanced and strong our team is. I was very happy with the way we were able to finish up the regular season this year.”

Cardinals senior guard Darby Raffel agreed.

“Winning conference was a huge team accomplishment,” Raffel said. “Everyone worked really hard and made our conference season a great success. 

“As a senior, I couldn't have asked for anything more. Playing my last conference game ever, being honored on ‘Senior Night’ and taking home a Big Eight title was undoubtedly a night to remember.”

Middleton’s win over Memorial on ‘Senior Night’ was quick and painless — at least from the Cardinals’ perspective.

Middleton raced to a 14-8 lead after the first quarter, then used a memorable 27-4 second quarter to stretch its advantage to 41-12 by halftime.

Middleton took off its vaunted full court press in the second half, and the Spartans outscored the Cardinals, 29-17. By that point, though, the outcome had been decided.

“We played very well the first half against Memorial and dropped out of our press in the second half and seemed to lose our edge both defensively and offensively,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “But it's hard to justify keeping the press on up by 29. But that pressure is so much a part of our makeup it's hard to go away from it.”

Raffel led a balanced scoring attack with 11 points, including two three-point shots. Junior guard Elizabeth Norregaard added nine points, while McMahon had eight.

And afterwards, the Cardinals had another conference championship — this one all to themselves.

“Winning conference is indicative of maintaining a consistently high level of performance,” Kind said. “We talk about winning championships in terms of playing each game as if it is the championship game.

“To go 17-1 in our conference means we were able to do that to a great extent. It means a great deal to the players. Preseason predictions had us third or fourth, so we exceeded the expectations of others, though not necessarily our own.”

Now, with the postseason here, Middleton’s expectations are sky high.

The top-seeded Cardinals had a first round bye, then host either eighth-seeded Madison East or ninth-seeded Watertown Friday at 7 p.m. in a regional semifinal. Middleton then hosts either No. 4 Sun Prairie or No. 5 Oconomowoc in a regional final Saturday at 7 p.m.

The sectional semifinals are March 13 at Madison Memorial, while the sectional finals are March 15 in Sun Prairie.

“We need to stay focused on each game if we want to make a run,” McMahon said. “We can’t take any games for granted because other teams will want to knock us out. It’s great that we went 17-1 in conference, but we’re at ‘one and done’ time now. We have to be dialed in and continue to play as a team each game.”

Middleton reached the state tournament five consecutive years between 2008-’12, before falling in a regional final last year. This year’s group has the talent, drive and focus to make a return trip to state.

“We know coming into the postseason we are now 0-0,” Raffel said. “Crazy things happen this time of year, so we need to stay focused, composed and hungry. 

“The biggest key is to give it everything we have. We are going to practice like someone is evaluating us and play every game like it’s a state championship. This time of year you can't afford to give anything less than 110%. Another big key for us is staying consistent with our defense and to not let up a lot of points. Defense wins games.”

No one understands that better than Kind, who has led Middleton to all eight of its state tournament appearances in school history. Over the next two weeks, Kind would love to increase that number to nine, but knows his gifted group can't get ahead of itself.

“Heading into the tournament everybody is 0-0,” Kind said. “It's cliché, but we take it one game at a time.

“Each game is playing for the championship that night and earning the right to play one more time. It takes focus and consistent play and a little good fortune to get through, but hopefully our schedule has prepared us well.”

 

Feb. 27

Middleton 58, Madison Memorial 41

Madison Memorial ………………….. 8  4  18  11 — 41

Middleton …………………………. 14  27  10  7 — 58

MADISON MEMORIAL — Helle 5, Johnson 6, Keita 5, Ortega-Flowers 4, Stroud 9, Ward 10, Worman 2. Totals: 12 17-20 41.

MIDDLETON — Blair 5, Bunyan 6, Douglas 2, Jordee 6, Lemirande 5, McMahon 8, Norregaard 9, Raffel 11, Roach 4, Thomas 2. Totals: 16 14-17 58.

Three-point goals: Raffel 2, Blair, Lemirande. Total fouls — MM 19, Mi 13. 

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