Boys basketball team falls to Parker

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Max Oelerich (left) and Middleton’s boys basketball team fell to 6-7 in the Big Eight Conference last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Derek Rongstad was baffled.

Two thirds of the way into this boys basketball season filled with enormous promise, Middleton’s senior guard wasn’t expecting this.

“Every time we take a step forward, we take two steps back,” Rongstad said. “Every time we win, it seems like the next night we come out and don’t have the same energy. It’s extremely frustrating.”

And how.

Middleton’s search for a branch of consistency to grab onto fell short again last Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals wasted a 15-point lead and eventually fell to visiting Janesville Parker, 77-76, in overtime.

It’s believed to be the first time Parker has ever won at Middleton and marked the first time since the Cardinals joined the Big Eight Conference 20 years ago that they were swept in a season series by the Vikings.

Middleton fell to 8-8 overall and dropped to seventh place in the Big Eight Conference at 6-7. Parker improved to 2-8, 4-9, and its only two league wins have now come against Middleton.

“How did we even get there and where do we go?” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said afterwards. “No doubt it’s been frustrating. We have great kids who come to work every day with a lunch pail mentality, but we've yet to establish a consistent identity.”

Indeed.

Middleton hasn’t won more than two games in a row all season and it’s lost three games in overtime. And with the Cardinals in the middle of a stretch that didn't appear overly daunting, they were hoping to get on a roll.

Instead, Parker spoiled those plans.

Middleton got a game-high 29 points from Rongstad, a UW-Milwaukee recruit. Senior forward Max Oelerich added 19 points and senior forward Derek Rogeberg chipped in 11.

But Middleton received zero points from its bench, and its defense was invisible much of the night.

Parker senior guard J.J. Scott led three Vikings in double figures with 25 points. And Parker shot 11-of-15 from the field (73.3%) in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“We’re missing that toughness right now, and I put it on the seniors,” said senior guard Demond Hill. “But there’s still enough time.

“We’ve shown we can beat the best and we’ve also shown that anyone can beat us. Collectively, we just have to get it done.”

There were eight lead changes and three ties during a thrilling fourth quarter.

Oelerich knocked down a pair of clutch free throws with 22.9 seconds left to give Middleton a 68-66 lead. But Scott scored with six seconds left, and Rongstad’s long three-pointer at the buzzer missed forcing overtime.

Rongstad and senior guard Luke Schafer scored the first four points of overtime as Middleton jumped to a 72-68 lead. But Scott’s monster dunk keyed a 7-2 run as Parker took a 75-74 lead with 30 seconds left.

Rongstad was fouled with 17.8 ticks left, and calmly drained both shots as Middleton reclaimed a 76-75 advantage. But Parker’s Adam Thompson (18 points) countered with two free throws with 9.4 seconds left.

After a timeout, Middleton wanted to get the inbounds pass to Rongstad. But he was double teamed, and Oelerich was forced to bring the ball up.

Hill wound up with the ball in the deep right corner and fired a three-pointer as the horn sounded. But his shot hit the front of the rim and the Cardinals left with their most frustrating loss of the season.

“It wasn’t a great look, but I thought it was in,” Hill said. “We’re frustrated. We’re upset. But as a part of this team I’m telling you I’m not worried. We just have to catch that fire and we can get rolling.”

Bavery would love to share that optimism. But right now, he’s looking for answers.

“I hope we ‘get it’ soon because we're quickly running out of time and I'm not sure how final the seniors realize it really is until it hits,” Bavery said. “When that time comes you want it to be with no regrets.”

Middleton will undoubtedly regret how the Parker game unfolded.

The Cardinals were terrific early on, racing to a 19-10 lead after the first quarter and stretching that advantage to 33-18 midway through the second quarter.

But the Vikings scored on five of their final six possessions of the second quarter and pulled within 37-30 by halftime.

“I don't want to say we coasted,” Rongstad said. “But I think we got comfortable. We started to get lethargic offensively and we were letting them get too many open looks. And once you turn it off it’s hard to turn it back on.”

Parker closed within 49-47 late in the third quarter, then took a 55-54 lead with 5 minutes left. From that point on, the lively crowd was on the edge of its seats.

Over the final nine minutes — including overtime — Middleton’s biggest lead was four points and Parker’s was one.

“I don’t have any doubts in this team,” Rongstad said. “I wouldn't be surprised to see any team from the Big Eight get hot and go on a run in March.

“And that can still be us. Hopefully we can turn this thing around sooner than later.”

Bavery believes that’s still possible. But he knows the Cardinals must make enormous strides in one particular area if there’s a chance of that happening.

“If there is one specific thing we need to make a conscious decision about it's the ability to communicate on the court,” Bavery said. “We rarely talk at a necessary level, whether it be changes, offensive specials, matchups, and general defensive talk.  

“It's one of the quieter teams I've ever had and we're hoping they realize in several games of inches this year that if we simply talk it's likely the difference-maker. It's a choice to talk, whether someone is quiet by nature or outgoing ... but something about communicating on the court doesn't necessarily translate to either type. So we simply have to choose to talk. With three overtime losses this year maybe that would have been the difference-maker in each.”

 

Jan. 25

Janesville Parker 77, Middleton 76 (OT)

Janesville Parker ………………… 10  20  17  21  9 — 77

Middleton …………..………………. 19  18  15  16  8 — 76

JANESVILLE PARKER — Bailey, 0-2-2; Scott, 11-2-25; Thompson, 6-4-18; Treinen, 3-2-9; Cu. Osmond, 5-4-15; Shepler, 0-1-1; Co. Osmond, 3-0-7. Totals: 28 15-19 77.

MIDDLETON — Hill, 1-2-4; Schafer, 3-2-9; Rogeberg, 5-1-11; Oelerich, 6-7-19; Rongstad, 8-11-29. Totals: 24 23-26 76.

Three-point goals — JP 6 (Thompson 2, Treinen, Scott, Co. Osmond, Cu. Osmond), M 5 (Rongstad 2, Schafer 2, Oelerich). Total fouls  — Parker 20, Middleton 18. Fouled out — Scott.

 

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