MHS girls unleash 'Cobra', down Sun Prairie

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Josie Lemirande and Middleton's girls basketball team notched a huge win at Sun Prairie on Feb. 14./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — “Cobra! Cobra!” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind bellowed.

This is the Cardinals’ terminology for their 1-3-1 zone defense.

And just like the venomous snake itself, that defense can choke the life out of foes. Just ask Sun Prairie.

In a Big Eight Conference showdown last Thursday, host Sun Prairie led Middleton, 28-15, late in the first half. After Middleton switched to ‘Cobra’, it immediately embarked on a 26-4 run.

That switch — and the effectiveness of Middleton’s 1-3-1 zone — helped it notch a 53-45 win that clinched at least a share of the Big Eight Conference title. When Middleton defeated Madison La Follette two nights later, it captured the league title for the fourth time in six years.

Middleton finished the regular season 16-2 in the league and 17-5 overall. Sun Prairie ended the regular season 15-3, 17-5.

“I’m really proud of the girls, the way they hung in there and kind of chipped away at it,” Kind said of Middleton’s early deficit. “They did a great job.”

Middleton junior forward Sitori Tanin had 17 points and 17 rebounds, while junior forward Karina Bursac added 16 points. Sun Prairie point guard Grace Hilber had 13 points in defeat.

Middleton finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. MHS hasn't lost since it dropped a home game to Sun Prairie on Jan. 5.

“I think our past games gave us confidence and we knew that we were better than the first game that we played them,” Tanin said of facing Sun Prairie. “We had the perfect amount of confidence.”

And the perfect defense in its hip pocket.

Middleton was a mess defensively early on, allowing Sun Prairie to make 13 of its first 18 shots (72.2%). After Sun Prairie made five consecutive shots and surged to a 28-15 lead, Kind hollered out the word that changed the entire night for both teams.

Cobra!

“I like it a lot, especially against (Sun Prairie),” Bursac said. “They cut a lot, so with the 1-3-1, you won't be chasing and following those cuts. And I think a lot of our girls like the 1-3-1.”

Tanin agreed.

“I think putting that 1-3-1 in really brought our intensity up,” Tanin said. “We could feel the energy and that had a big effect.”

What makes Middleton’s 1-3-1 so effective is it puts the 6-foot-2 Tanin at the point. Middleton then lines three players across at the free throw level, with 6-foot forward Hannah Flottmeyer positioned at the free throw line.

While many teams would love to run a 1-3-1, length is essential to make it work — and Middleton has plenty of that.

“It’s really hard to simulate our length on that,” Kind said. “We have Sitori up on the top and some long, lengthy players. It was an opportune time I guess. I was surprised with how much they struggled with it.”

Middleton finished the first half on a 14-3 run over a three-minute stretch and pulled within 31-29 at the break.

On Sun Prairie’s final seven possessions of the first half, it turned the ball over four times and shot just 1-of-5.

Middleton, meanwhile, got three points from junior Kendall Roquet and baskets from junior guard Josie Lemirande, Tanin, Flottmeyer and junior guard Evie Coleman.

Then, as the first half came to a close, senior guard Charlotte Dunn stole an outlet pass, made a circus shot as the buzzer sounded, was fouled and hit the free throw. Just like that, Middleton had closed within 31-29.

“I feel like our coach kind of pounds into our head high and soft,” Dunn said of her last-second shot. “And so my first thought was as high as I can get this, it has to fall in. And so my momentum was taking me down, but I knew if I curled up with it, it’d go in.

“Luckily it went in and I followed through with the free throw and we headed into the half with a little more momentum. We needed it.”

Middleton maintained that momentum, opening the second half on a 12-1 run and surging to a 41-32 lead.

Amazingly, Sun Prairie didn’t convert a field goal on its first 16 possessions of the second half and went a remarkable 8:55 before making a basket. Sun Prairie shot 0-for-9 in that time and turned the ball over seven times.

Making Middleton’s performance in the 1-3-1 even more impressive is it hadn’t practiced that defense for days.

“We didn’t practice that at all this week,” Bursac said. “We rarely ever practice that. We haven't practiced that in weeks, honestly.”

While Sun Prairie was scuffling, Middleton got rolling offensively.

Coleman drilled a three-pointer just 13 seconds into the second half to give Middleton a 32-31 lead — its first since 7-6. Bursac followed with a basket and Tanin drained a three-pointer to give Middleton a 37-31 edge.

After a Sun Prairie free throw, Bursac hit a pair of free throws and Tanin had a lay-up to give Middleton a 41-32 edge with 10:35 left.

“Quite honestly, we said we might play a little bit of the 1-3-1, but we haven’t really practiced it much in the last couple of weeks,” Kind said. “But we did a really nice job with it.”

And how.

Sun Prairie missed 19 of its first 20 second half shots against the zone. And Middleton’s lead never dipped below seven during the final nine minutes.

“They couldn't get those open 3-(point) looks or get passes in,” Tanin said. “It was really good. Now, we’ve got to keep our streak going and keep up our intensity.”

 

Feb. 14

Middleton 53, Sun Prairie 45

Middleton ..................... 29 24 — 53

Sun Prairie .................... 31 14 — 45

MIDDLETON — Coleman 2 1-2 6, Lemirande 1 0-1 2, Tanin 7 2-4 17, Bursac 2 8-8 13, Dunn 1 2-2 4, Flottmeyer 3 2-4 8, Roquet 0 3-6 3. Totals 16 18-28 53.

SUN PRAIRIE — Hilber 5 0-0 13, Baker 2 0-0 4, Radlund 0 1-3 1, Rae 3 1-2 8, Strey 1 0-0 2, Lutes 4 0-0 9, Seymore 4 0-5 8. Totals 19 2-10 45.

3-point goals — MID 3 (Coleman 1, Tanin 1, Bursac 1), SP 5 (Hilber 3, Rae 1, Lutes 1). Total fouls — MID 12, SP 22. Fouled out — Lutes.

 

 

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