Boys basketball team drops a pair

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Matt Zimmerman and Middleton’s boys basketball team traveled more than 1,000 miles round trip last week to play five road games./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Long trips.

Little sleep.

And a whirlwind stretch that includes as much basketball as they can possibly find.

Middleton’s boys basketball team was back at it at the start of last week, with trips to Mosinee and Muskego that totaled more than 400 miles round trip in two nights. The Cardinals fell at Mosinee, 55-41, on Feb. 8 and lost at Muskego, 73-68, the following night.

While the Cardinals suffered setbacks in both cities, both games were extremely competitive and provided terrific learning opportunities.

“It's been a great learning experience with a lot I think we can take forward into a full season,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “Playing at Muskego felt like the first time we were actually coaching and the players were actually just playing.

“It felt like the players and coaches were in tune with communication and response, and as strange as it might sound even the flow of the game with our opponents, officials, fans, and so on. It felt normal for the first time.”

Middleton traveled nearly 240 miles round trip for its game with Mosinee and did so without starters Nick Meinholz and Cole Toennies. Still, the Cardinals hung tough most of the way.

Junior guard Logan Raffel led Middleton with nine points, while sophomore Will Comerford added seven. Sophomore Gavyn Hurley had a solid all-around game with 10 rebounds, two steals and two assists, while junior Blake Van Buren had five rebounds and sophomore Kaden Fosdick had two assists.

Middleton trailed, 25-18, after a sluggish first half in which it missed both Meinholz and Toennies.

“Sluggish would be an understatement,” Bavery said. “But our mantra when anyone is out is simple — opportunity for someone else. We're consistently playing 10-12 people in the rotation with 14-15 seeing the floor in almost every game, so the ability to go hard for the stint that someone is in the game is an expectation.”

Middleton tried making a run in the second half. But each time the Cardinals got some momentum, Mosinee (15-8) answered.

“We're still at a stage where evolving our offense is in its infancy,” Bavery said. “We didn't sprint well to screens, chased the ball instead of setting our man up, then cutting hard to the screen and making the right read. Our posts need a better sense of when and how to get in the post, recognize when they have a mismatch and when they don't, then when and how to empty to spread our offense again. Our offense is very simple at its core, but very complex in the evolution of it over the course of a season.

“Credit (Mosinee) with very physical play and winning a lot of the battles. After the game the coaching staff challenged them pretty hard in terms of overall team enthusiasm and energy regardless of our circumstances. We have a great opportunity to simply play, and we want to do it without watching the scoreboard and having no regrets as to our effort and enthusiasm.”

The Cardinals then made the 85-mile trip to Muskego (11-8) and played one of their better games of the year — even in defeat.

Raffel had a huge game with 22 points, while Hurley had 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Fosdick added eight points and five rebounds, Comerford had six points and three assists and sophomore Collin Schremp had four points and four rebounds.

“(Assistant) coach (Tim) Simon said it best after the game when he said, ‘It's frustrating because we know if we switched circumstances with the teams we've been playing, or even started at the same time, we'd be beating most of them handily,’ ” Bavery said. “We can't belabor that point or let our players feed into it, but he's correct and we have to keep that in perspective and celebrate all the little things they are doing game by game, as well as appreciating the opportunity.”

Muskego senior guard Luke Bara, who averages 24.9 points per game, erupted for 28 points. Hunter Wohler, a University of Wisconsin football recruit, added 16 points.

“Muskego was a superior opponent to Mosinee — another school who has been practicing in full since November with a high-level scoring guard (Bara) who was as good if not better than we had seen, and the top football recruit in the state who was not only a great athlete, but a skilled basketball player,” Bavery said.

Middleton looked like weary travelers, going down 7-0 in the first minute of the game. Amazingly, though, the Cardinals embarked on a 20-0 run and took a 31-26 halftime lead.

Raffel and Hurley both had eight first half points, while Hurley added nine rebounds.

“Gavyn started off slow with a couple of turnovers, but he asserted himself on the boards and has been making plays with his anticipation and length,” Bavery said. “It's still early in our shortened season, but his minutes and contributions are growing, and he's leading our team in steals right now.”

Muskego tried mounting a second half charge, but every time it got close, Middleton responded.

Raffel hit three of his five three-pointers in the second half, while seven other Cardinals buried triples. In all, Middleton made 14-of-30 shots from beyond the arc.

“At our walk-through before bus time we changed our base 'blend' offense to more of a spread look with less options and reads,” Bavery said. “We decided to send a cutter through and screen the next man removed, which forced defenders to move more and it seemed to spread the court better and take a lot of the help away, especially early in the possession.”

Muskego eventually took a 71-68 lead. In the final minute, the Cardinals thought they had a clean steal, but were whistled for a foul. Muskego then hit two free throws to account for the final score.

“We have a lot of really good athletes who are hard-nosed defenders that we are rotating on our opponent's best player,” Bavery said. “We're trying to wear those guys down, but we don't have that 'junkyard dog' right now who can not only give the great effort we are giving, but can also shut those guys down.

“Hopefully some emerge as well as take the challenge to develop with the time we have left and into next year because I can't remember a stretch of seeing a high-level scoring guard/wing like we have during our return. But we are getting better and taking steps forward in the limited time we have.”


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