A game by game look at Middleton's girls basketball season

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Karina Bursac and Middleton's girls basketball team finished the year 25-1 and reached the state semifinals before the state tournament was canceled./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Editor’s Note: The Middleton girls basketball team finished the year 25-1, won a share of the Big Eight Conference championship and reached the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

The Cardinals were the No. 1 seed at state, and the first state championship in school history seemed quite possible. But less than 24 hours before Middleton’s state semifinal game, the WIAA canceled the season due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

The Times-Tribune was planning a special section devoted to Middleton’s terrific year if the Cardinals had won the state title. We’ll never know if that would have happened or not, but we’d like to devote this space to look back on Middleton’s magnificent season.

What follows is a short look at each of Middleton’s games from a memorable 2019-’20 season.


1.    Middleton 54, Waunakee 34

Senior Sitori Tanin, a University of Loyola (Ill.) recruit, led the Cardinals with 17 points. Senior forward Karina Bursac added 12 and senior guard Evie Coleman scored 11.

Middleton jumped to a 32-18 halftime lead and maintained a comfortable advantage throughout the second half.


2.   Middleton 88, Madison East 66

Sophomore forward McKenna Monogue had a game-high 22 points. Senior guard Evie Coleman added 18 points, while senior guard Josie Lemirande and senior forward Sitori Tanin both had 10.

Middleton built a 44-23 halftime lead and was never challenged in the second half.


3.   Middleton 59, Madison Edgewood 53

Middleton finished the game on a 6-0 run and toppled the host Crusaders.

Middleton senior forward Sitori Tanin finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. It was Tanin’s third straight game with a double-double.

Cardinals senior forward Karina Bursac added 16 points, including 13 in the second half.

The game was knotted, 53-53, when sophomore McKenna Monogue hit a jumper to give the Cardinals a 55-53 lead with 1:30 remaining. Tanin hit a pair of free throws with 1:03 left and the Cardinals held on.

“It was a nice win,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We did some good things at times throughout the game and built up double digit leads but failed to close them out. To their credit, they kept battling back and made it a close game.”


4.    Middleton 46, Verona 42

Senior guards Evie Coleman and Josie Lemirande both drilled two free throws in the closing seconds as the Cardinals held off the upstart Wildcats.

Karina Bursac led Middleton with 14 points, while Sitori Tanin added 13 points and 14 rebounds.

“It definitely feels good every time we beat Verona,” Tanin said. “Last year and the year before we lost to them the first time that we played them so getting that first win in is good for us.”


5.    Middleton 60, Madison West 21

Ten different Cardinals scored in what turned into a rout of the overmatched Regents.

Karina Bursac led the way with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Senior guard Josie Lemirande shot 5-of-6 from the floor and scored 12 points, while sophomore McKenna Monogue added 10 points.


6.    Madison Memorial 67, Middleton 51

The Spartans raced to a 36-20 halftime lead and handed the Cardinals their only loss of the year. Middleton rebounded to win its final 20 games of the year.

“They’re a very good pressure team and that gave us a lot of trouble,” Middleton senior guard Josie Lemirande said. “Usually, we’re very calm and collected, but we got sped up and that worked in their favor.”

The game was tied, 9-9, just more than four minutes in. Memorial then erupted on an 11-0 run that eventually grew to a 20-2 burst.

By the time the run ended, the Spartans held a 29-11 lead and Middleton was playing comeback the rest of the night.

Middleton senior forward Sitori Tanin led the Cardinals with 16 points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Karina Bursac added 11 points, while Lemirande had eight points and eight rebounds.

“We knew they’d be different and probably better than the last time we played them,” Tanin said. “I just don't think we were ready for their speed. You can practice for it, but it’s different when you play against it.”


7.   Middleton 69, Beloit Memorial 20

Twelve different Cardinals scored during their easy win over the host Purple Knights. Karina Bursac led the way with nine points, while Evie Coleman and Berkley Smith added eight.

Middleton raced to a 36-9 halftime lead and waltzed home.


8.   Middleton 67, Janesville Parker 40

Sitori Tanin led Middleton with 21 points. Evie Coleman had 14 and Kendall Roquet added 11.

Middleton’s lead was just 27-19 at halftime, but the Cardinals pulled away in the second half.


9.   Middleton 61, Green Bay Notre Dame 54

Sitori Tanin led all scorers with 20 points and sophomore forward/guard McKenna Monogue chipped in 19 points as the Cardinals prevailed at the Middleton Cardinal Holiday Shootout.

“Green Bay Notre Dame is a very nice team,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “It’s nice when you can get those wins and still see things you have to get better at and can learn from.”


10. Middleton 47, Arrowhead 43

Senior guard Evie Coleman drained a pair of free throws with 6.2 seconds left as the Cardinals held off the Warhawks and won the Middleton Cardinal Holiday Shootout.

“I have a new routine, and I always take a big breath before I shoot the ball to calm my nerves,” Coleman said. “I don’t really hear anything. I don’t think about anything, just picture the ball going through the net.”

Senior forward Sitori Tanin finished with a game-high 18 points, and senior forward Karina Bursac finished with 10 points to help the Cardinals earn a sweep of the two-day tourney.

“We’re using our posts more this year,” said Tanin, who also finished with eight rebounds and four steals. “In past years, we were more of an outside shooting team. This year we can get it in the post and kick it out. But we’re definitely working it down low more.”


11. Middleton 73, Janesville Craig 54

Middleton led, 17-13, midway through the first half. But the Cardinals’ strong shooting helped them embark on an 8-2 run and grab a 25-15 lead.

Craig never came closer than nine the rest of the night.

Middleton extended its lead to 34-20 by halftime, then opened the second half with a 15-5 run and surged to a 49-25 lead.

“We did some very good things,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “They opened up in a zone and we moved the ball well. We hit some open threes and then had some nice interior passing to score in the post.

“Once they switched to man-to-man we got a lot inside. We did a much better job finding our posts and took advantage of our size.”

The Cardinals got 19 points from senior forward Sitori Tanin and four other players scored at least nine points. Senior forward Kendall Roquet added 13 points, senior forward Karina Bursac scored 11, while senior guards Josie Lemirande and Evie Coleman both had nine points.


12. Middleton 48, Sun Prairie 28

Sun Prairie entered the game averaging 60.5 points per contest — and managed less than half of that total. Middleton held Sun Prairie to just two points in transition. And Sun Prairie was held to a season-low 11 field goals and went 0-of-12 on three-point field goal attempts.

All-in-all, it was a fantastically impressive win for Middleton.

“Sun Prairie was a good win,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We’re improving. Defensively, we’re doing a better job in transition and we’re getting a better sense of team defense.”

Middleton senior forward Sitori Tanin led the way with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. Senior forward Kendall Roquet added 10 points, six rebounds and two steals, while senior forward Karina Bursac had nine points, five steals and five rebounds.

Sun Prairie junior post Jazzanay Seymore, who entered the game averaging 16.6 points per game, was held to two points on 1-of-11 shooting. And ballyhooed freshman Antiounique Auston had 12 points, but shot just 5-of-21 from the floor and went 0-of-7 from behind the three-point line.

“We’re moving in a positive direction and just need to maintain the improvement,” Kind said. “Memorial is still in reach for us, but we have to focus on each game to move forward and see if we can get competitive with them.”


13. Middleton 75, Madison East 63

Senior forward Sitori Tanin poured in a career-high 28 points for Middleton, including 11 during the second half that helped fend off the three-point shooting of East.

East was 4-for-12 from beyond the arc in the second half and pulled within seven points with about 8 minutes left on a three-ball by senor Omunazia Hicks. But Tanin answered with back-to-back scores of her own, the first on a layup and the second on a turnaround to make it 57-45.

Middleton, which was just 17-for-31 from the free throw line, did convert 8-for-10 down the stretch to secure the victory.

“I think we need to improve our defense and that will improve our overall game,” Tanin said. “Just staying strong with the ball. We had a lot of turnovers. Coach said every game from here on out is a conference championship because we have to beat every team from here on out to win the conference. We’re taking it game by game, but we want to get that conference championship and hopefully get to state.”


14.  Middleton 59, Verona 41

The Cardinals picked apart the Wildcats’ aggressive 2-3 zone and notched a big road win.

Sitori Tanin had 12 of her game-high 15 points in the second half, and added eight rebounds and seven assists. Senior guard Evie Coleman added 11 points for the Cardinals, while senior forward Kendall Roquet had 10.

Middleton had some key contributions from its bench as well, notably sophomore McKenna Monogue.

Monogue was held scoreless in the first half, but had seven points in the second half. Monogue drilled a clutch three-pointer in the second half that quieted a Verona run and gave the Cardinals a 39-28 lead. Monogue then teamed with Tanin down the stretch, as the duo combined to score 11 of Middleton’s final 14 points

“Not a lot of teams in the conference play the zone, but we know Verona does. We just needed to adjust,” Tanin said. “By the second half, we realized we could get the ball inside and go up strong in the post, but also kick it outside for threes. Once we got into our pace, our offense worked better.”


15.  Middleton 72, Madison West 27

The Cardinals raced to a 37-12 lead and cruised to an easy road win. Eleven different Middleton players scored.

Senior guard Evie Coleman made all four of her field goals and led Middleton with 13 points. Sitori Tanin added 12 points and Melanie Accola had 10.


16.  Middleton 77, Madison Memorial 68

The Cardinals notched their 10th straight win in impressive fashion, downing previously undefeated and top-ranked Madison Memorial.

Sitori Tanin had a monstrous game for the Cardinals with 17 points and 21 rebounds. McKenna Monogue added 14 points, while Josie Lemirande (13), Kendall Roquet (11) and Evie Coleman (10) all scored in double figures, as well.

“After the first lost we knew how much we had to improve,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “We’ve made a lot of improvements. We still have room to grow. It was a good win. Memorial is a tough team. They battle all of the time.”

Middleton trailed, 62-55, with 6:37 left when it scored seven straight points to tie the game. Then with the game knotted at 64, Makenzie Hodson drilled a 3-pointer from the corner that sparked a 13-4 Middleton run to close the game.

“Coach, he got teary-eyed, actually, in our conversation after the game, which felt really good for us,” Tanin said afterwards. “When you can do something that well for your coach, one of the people that you’re playing for, it feels really good. I think because we put a lot of hard work into our practices from having that first loss against them, we know how hard we had to work and we still have to work hard to get to our goal, but I think he saw how good of a team we could be and I think that’s why he got a little emotional.”


17. Middleton 67, Madison La Follette 29

Senior forward Sitori Tanin had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the win over the Lancers. Berkley Smith came off the bench, made all five her shots and had 11 points, while Evie Coleman had seven points and Kendall Roquet added six rebounds.

Middleton shot a sizzling 27-of-47 from the field (57.5%) and 12 different Cardinals scored. Middleton held La Follette to 11-of-50 shooting (22.0%) and outrebounded the Lancers, 40-16.

La Follette held a 13-12 lead early on, but the Cardinals went on a 17-2 run to finish the first half and grab a 29-15 lead at the break. The second half was more of the same as Middleton extended its lead and got its bench players some quality minutes.

“La Follette was coming off a very good game against Monona Grove, so we had to avoid a letdown after the Memorial game,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “Defensively we were pretty solid, allowing no double figure scorers.”


18. Middleton 63, Beloit Memorial 36

Sophomore McKenna Monogue had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Evie Coleman had 13 points. Karina Bursac added eight points, Sitori Tanin had seven points and seven rebounds and Kendall Roquet had six points and five rebounds.

“We led from start to finish, played solid defense and were able to play a lot of people,” said Middleton coach Jeff Kind, whose team had 10 different players score against the Purple Knights. “Beloit has improved since the first time we played them, which is a good sign for the conference overall. We were able to take care of the ball better against Beloit and had a season low eight turnovers.”


19. Middleton 80, Janesville Parker 39

The Cardinals got 12 points from both Berkley Smith and McKenna Monogue, and 11 different Cardinals scored in a convincing win. Middleton led, 35-23, at halftime, then opened the second half on a 22-3 run and surged to a 57-26 advantage.

“They beat us down the court, and that shouldn’t happen,” Parker coach Jenna Hartwig said. “And if they weren’t beating us down the court, they were throwing passes over the top of us because they’re so much bigger.

“Middleton is certainly capable of winning state. They’ve got everything you want with size, depth and the way they can shoot the ball.”


20. Middleton 60, Janesville Craig 40

Middleton pushed its winning streak to 14 games and jumped to No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll with an easy win over the Cougars.

Karina Bursac and Josie Lemirande led the Cardinals with 13 points each.  Bursac added five rebounds and three steals, while Sitori Tanin played a brilliant all-around game and finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks.

“If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have said, ‘No way are we as good as last year,’ ” Bursac said. “But we’ve come together really well and everybody on the team is doing really well. So, I think mentally, the way we’re going into the playoffs, is really good.”


21. Middleton 38, Sun Prairie 32

Middleton prevailed in a defensive grinder against Sun Prairie.

Karina Bursac had a big game for Middleton with 16 points, while McKenna Monogue added nine points and Sitori Tanin had seven.

Sun Prairie was committed to taking Tanin away, and Middleton struggled from the field. In fact, Middleton made just 3-of-21 field goals from the paint in the game.

Middleton had a season-low point total in the first half and trailed, 15-10, at the break. In the second half, though, Bursac made three three-pointers and had 14 of her 16 points. Monogue also had three three-pointers in the game as Middleton escaped.

“Sun Prairie was a defensive battle from the start,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “They committed to not letting Sitori get the ball inside and we struggled to respond. They were able to slough off some of our posts on the perimeter and we struggled to shoot it outside.

“Fortunately, in the second half, Karina knocked down three threes as did McKenna Monogue, to give us a little lead and we were able to convert our free throws down the stretch to hold them off. There will be nights where you just don’t shoot well, so I was pleased that we were able to defend well enough to keep ourselves in the game.”


22. Middleton 60, Madison La Follette 49

The Cardinals wrapped up a share of the Big Eight Conference title with a hard fought win at Madison La Follette. It marked Middleton’s 11th conference title since Kind took over in 1992, and all have come since the 2006-’07 season.

Middleton led, 25-23 at halftime, then pulled away in the second half when its lead grew to as many as 18.

Sitori Tanin had a game-high 24 points against the Lancers, while Karina Bursac added 14 points and Kendall Roquet had nine.

“It’s been a long, tough road to earn a share of the conference championship with Memorial, knowing we had to win every game since that first loss to Memorial,” said Middleton coach Jeff Kind, whose team improved to 21-1 overall and is ranked No. 1 in the state. “I’m very proud of the way the girls were able to answer the bell every night.”


23. Middleton 69, Kenosha Tremper 35

Karina Bursac had 15 points and Sitori Tanin added 12 as the Cardinals rolled in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal.


24. Middleton 68, Verona 65

Host Middleton, the No. 1 ranked team in the state in Division 1, trailed upstart Verona, 56-53, with 6 ½ minutes left in their WIAA Division 1 regional final. But the Cardinals answered with an 11-0 run and held on for a huge win.

“I wouldn’t say I was worried,” said senior forward Sitori Tanin. “But I’d say it definitely made us realize how we had to change the momentum there.”

Coleman led the Cardinals with 15 points and three three-pointers, while Tanin had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Karina Bursac added 13 points and nine rebounds, while senior point guard Josie Lemirande drilled three three-pointers and had 11 points.

Verona rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit by making 8-of-11 three-pointers in the second half (72.7%) and 14-of-22 field goals overall (63.6%).  

But Middleton, which reached the state championship game a year ago before falling to Bay Port, came up with plenty of big plays itself during its game-changing 11-0 run.

First, Lemirande stuck a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the game, 56-56, with 6:15 remaining. Coleman followed with a steal and lay-up to put Middleton back in front, 58-56, with 5:12 left.

Bursac then had a steal and Tanin scored with 4:10 remaining to make it 60-56. And after a Tanin steal, Bursac scored with 3:27 left to give Middleton a 62-56 edge.

Verona then missed its next two shots, and Tanin capped the run with a driving lay-up that gave Middleton a 64-56 lead with 2:18 left.

“I wouldn't say worried,” Coleman said. “I would almost say the way things were going helped us get back into it. We knew how hard we’d have to work and we couldn’t just coast by.”


25. Middleton 62, Janesville Craig 55

Senior forward Sitori Tanin had an enormous night with 26 points and 17 rebounds to power Middleton past Craig in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal at Beloit Memorial’s Barkin Arena. After a quiet first half in which she was plagued by fouls, Tanin erupted with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the second half alone.

“Sitori kind of asserted herself,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “It’s a tough matchup for them when she’s down in the post, and we took advantage of it. They kind of know and when she gets aggressive about posting up, then you know that she wants the ball in there and that makes a big difference.”

Middleton trailed, 46-45, after Craig’s Cassie Goswick (14 points) drilled a three-pointer with 7:27 left. During the next 5 minutes, though, Tanin — a Loyola University recruit — asserted her will and kept Middleton’s season alive.

Tanin had 11 points during a 13-0 Middleton run that gave the Cardinals a 58-46 lead with 2:28 remaining. Tanin had a traditional three-point play, made a nifty spin move to the right block and finished from 5-feet, and went 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

Tanin finished the night 12-of-13 from the line (92.3%) and is shooting 70.7% on the year. Last season, Tanin shot just 40.2% from the line.

“I’ve really been focusing on my free throws this year, and I guess just trusting my routine when I get to the line,” Tanin said. “It’s definitely more wrist right now. The more I use the rest of my body, the more mistakes I can make as the ball comes off my hand. So, if I just focus on the wrist and the release, that’s what’s been helping.”

Sophomore McKenna Monogue had all 12 of her points in the first half while Tanin battled foul trouble, and senior Karina Bursac added 11 points and eight rebounds.

Middleton advanced to the sectional finals against arch-rival Madison Memorial.

“We’re going to get everybody’s best effort,” Kind said. “It comes with the territory.”


26. Middleton 61, Madison Memorial 58

The Cardinals’ final win of the year — their 20th straight overall — was probably their sweetest.

Middleton, which trailed Madison Memorial, 37-24, at halftime of its WIAA Division 1 sectional final, opened the second half on a stunning 20-3 run. The Spartans battled back and forged ties at three different points, but the Cardinals used a late 6-0 run to post a thrilling win.

“We played a lot harder during that run and it just gave us the confidence to know that we can play with them,” senior forward Kendall Roquet said. “It just gave us confidence to know that we could win the game.”

Middleton advanced to the state tournament for the ninth time since 2008 and the 12th time in school history.

Senior forward Karina Bursac was brilliant for the Cardinals with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Roquet had 12 of her 16 points in the second half and was a gigantic factor in the comeback, while senior post Sitori Tanin added 10 points and 13 rebounds.

“We weren’t going to panic,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said of Middleton’s halftime deficit. “You know, if I get all panicky, they’re going to get panicky. So the locker room at halftime was really calm. We said we have to do this, this and this better, and all of our timeouts, even at the end, it was try to keep all the emotions down and just go about business.”

Middleton opened the second half on an 8-0 run and pulled within 37-32 of the Spartans with 13:15 left. Bursac had four points during that stretch, Tanin and senior guard Josie Lemirande both had baskets, and the Spartans went scoreless on their first eight possessions of the half.

Memorial briefly stopped the bleeding with a deep three-pointer from junior guard Maya White Eagle. But the Cardinals embarked on an electrifying 12-0 run over a 4 ½ minute stretch and took a 44-40 lead with 7:35 remaining.

Roquet, who averages 6.3 points per game and entered the day with just 11 three-pointers all season, was the impetus in this run.

First, Roquet buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to pull Middleton within 40-38 with 10:07 left. Roquet then drilled another three-pointer with 7:56 remaining that gave the Cardinals a 42-40 lead — their first since 8-6.

“Kendall, I love that girl,” Lemirande said of Roquet. “She was amazing when she hit that three. I told her, ‘you go on the top and you hit that three’ and she did. She did it. Oh my God. When that went in, I was just ecstatic. It was really a momentum changer.”

Later, with the game tied at 53, Roquet calmly drained both foul shots. After a Memorial missed on the other end, Roquet made two more free throws to give Middleton a 57-53 advantage with 48.3 seconds left.

Senior guard Evie Coleman drilled two more free throws with 27.8 seconds left to give Middleton a 59-53 advantage and Memorial never came closer than three again.

“Coach said before the game that pressure is an illusion,” Lemirande said. “So, we just had to play through it. The gym was insanely loud. We just had to tone it all out and play our game.”

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, this turned out to be their last game of a magnificent season.

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