Middleton ousted by Verona

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
George Finch and Middleton's boys basketball team lost their playoff opener to Verona./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The strangest season in Middleton’s boys basketball history ended on Feb. 16.

The Cardinals fell to Verona, 62-56, in a WIAA Division 1 regional quarterfinal held at Baraboo High School.

Despite the loss, though, Middleton coach Kevin Bavery was extremely grateful his team had a chance to compete during this year of COVID-19 — something that looked like a longshot two months ago.

I think what we did was incredible and I honestly couldn't be prouder of the effort and the attitude that this group brought,” said Bavery, whose team finished the shortened season 4-7 overall. “We thought we might struggle with chemistry a bit as that is always a process that takes time, but our sense from day one was that these guys were simply happy to be in a gym and see some faces that they hadn't seen in a while. Our absolute No. 1 goal we decided upon after given the return to play permission was 'safe and meaningful', and I believe we accomplished that.”

The Cardinals couldn't put it all together against Verona, though.

Middleton built a 27-22 halftime lead, but the Wildcats rallied back in the second half.

Senior Hayden Statz led the Cardinals with 13 points, while junior guard Nick Meinholz added 11. Sophomore forward Collin Schremp led the Cardinals with five rebounds, while junior guard Logan Raffel had four assists and sophomore forward Kaden Fosdick added three steals. 

Verona junior Kyle Krantz had 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half to power the Wildcats.

"It was a hard loss,” Bavery said. “None of our other games had the same feel as this one did. We had a local opponent, knew most of the host school's game administration as well as the officials, were allowed some fans, and we were only about 35 miles out of Middleton. Plus it's one of the coolest venues to play in with a retro feel with all their balcony seating.

“We expected to win and thought we were better coming in based on comparatives. Like all our opponents this year we never had the chance to see anyone in person and no one looks as good on film as they do in person. They were quicker at a few spots, erased some shots inside on us, and brought a lot of toughness to the court that didn't show up on film.”

Middleton appeared to be in good shape at halftime. Both Raffel and Meinholz — the Cardinals’ two leading scorers — had two points at the break, yet Middleton held a five-point lead.

“We felt good about where we were,” Bavery said. “Obviously 22 points is a great defensive half. Offensively we felt good as well because we got all over the basket early in the game with drives to the rim, post-ups, and some offensive boards. The problem was few of them went in. Regardless when you are getting deep into a defense you like what you are doing and expect that to continue.”

Middleton pushed its lead to seven early in the second half, but the Wildcats began heating up. Verona made five-of-six three-pointers and grabbed a five-point lead.

The Cardinals battled back to tie it, but Verona simply made more plays down the stretch. The Wildcats then knocked off top-seeded Waunakee in the regional semifinals Friday, before falling to DeForest Saturday.

“We definitely had opportunities, but credit Verona for making tough plays when they needed them,” Bavery said. “Their ability to penetrate and find open shooters in the second half was the biggest difference, and I thought overall they got to more 50-50 balls.

“Their point guard gave us fits. We tried different defenders to put quickness and then length on him, even thicker bodies, but we could not stay in front. We helped too much on his penetration and he did a great job of sending the ball in the direction of the help to find open shooters and they converted.

“It was a good matchup and then they went and beat the No. 1 seed (Waunakee) in the regional semi-final. To me it really showed that you put six teams in a regional that basically went through a similar experience, and I think most were capable of getting through to the sectional. We certainly had the potential to advance, and I still feel we were as good as anyone in that group.”

In a typical season, Middleton would have roughly 70 practices and 24 games before starting tournament play. This year, the Cardinals had seven practices and 10 games before the postseason.

Still, Middleton led state-ranked teams such as Monroe and DePere at halftime and showed signs that the future is extremely bright.

“We didn't have time to evolve from practice to practice,” Bavery said. “We had a less than four-week vs. a normal four-month season.

“It is so easy to point out all the things we didn't do well from a coaching staff perspective or even a fan perspective. There were a lot of glaring things on tape from defensive positioning to offensive reads to overall decision-making in the heat of the moment, and we really didn't get a chance to correct a lot of things that come with time.”

Bavery was thrilled, though, that seniors David Meier, Hayden Statz and George Finch had a chance to compete.

“The chance for them to have some semblance of a season was most gratifying to all of our coaching staff,” Bavery said. “They were the ultimate role models for our younger players as to how to conduct yourself daily with effort, and in always having a team-first attitude. I'm glad we were able to have our own team 'Senior Night' at the end of our final practice, with the team honoring them in a way that was very genuine and sincere. They were a pleasure to coach and will be missed more than they know." 

Bavery also thanked Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims, assistant A.D. Ben White and athletic assistant Mindy Ripp for making a season possible.

“All the work that they had to do with daily protocol, communication, and transportation was likely three seasons of work compressed into one,” Bavery said. “They never got the reward of being able to come to a game at home and simply enjoy watching the kids participate, something I hope that they get the opportunity to experience this spring.”

Parent Teresa Raffel got Middleton’s Team App up and running. And Allison Meier served as the Cardinals’ parent representative and organized game day food ordering, pickup and delivery, and provided daily communication with families.

“It was an absolute scramble the majority of these last four weeks,” Bavery said. “And without all these supportive people in place taking so much off our plate of responsibilities it would not have been possible.”

 

Feb. 16

VERONA 62, MIDDLETON 56

Verona …………….. 22 40 — 62

Middleton …………. 27 29 — 56

VERONA — McCorkle 4 0-0 8; Kisting 1 1-2 3; Anderson 4 5-7 13; Krantz 4 5-5 15; Roddick 3 1-2 9; Farrell 2 0-0 6; Sherry 3 1-1 7; Rae 0 1-2 1. Totals 21 14-17 62.

MIDDLETON — Raffel 2 2-2 8; Statz 5 0-0 13; Fosdick 1 3-4 5; Toennies 0 1-2 1; Meinholz 3 3-3 11; Schremp 1 0-2 2; Meier 1 0-0 2; Comerford 2 0-0 6; Hurley 2 1-2 6; Van Buren 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 10-15 56.

3-point goals: V 6 (Krantz 2, Roddick 2, Farrell 2); M 10 (Statz 3, Raffel 2, Meinholz 2, Comerford 2, Hurley 1). Total fouls: V 17; M 19. At Baraboo.

 

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