Middleton receives No. 10 seed

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Gavin Meister and Middleton's boys basketball team received the No. 10 seed in their sectional./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

BROOKFIELD — A big week would have likely landed them a top-eight seed, a home game and a world of momentum.

That didn't happen, though.

Middleton’s boys basketball team dropped two of three games last week, falling to 12-10 overall and 10-6 in the Big Eight Conference. In a tightly grouped sectional, those two losses loomed large as the Cardinals received the No. 10 seed.

Middleton will travel to seventh-seeded Janesville Craig for a WIAA Division 1 regional final on March 1 at 7 p.m. If the Cardinals upset the Cougars (15-8), they would meet the winner of second-seeded Waunakee and 15th-seeded Janesville Parker in a regional final on March 2.

“There could have been some things that could have fallen better or worse for our early tournament path,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “But we like our potential to make a run like we did two years ago as a younger team. If we have great shot selection and play to our strengths we are going to be a tough out for anyone.”

Kettle Moraine was the No. 1 seed in the sectional, followed by Waunakee, Sun Prairie West, Muskego, Beloit Memorial, Sun Prairie East, Janesville Craig, Oregon, Madison East, Middleton, Verona, Mukwonago, Madison Memorial, Badger, Janesville Parker, Madison West and Madison La Follette.

Middleton entered last week with three enormous games, and knew two victories would likely help its seed immensely. Instead, the Cardinals dropped two out of three contests.

Middleton opened the week with an impressive 67-63 win over Sun Prairie East on Feb. 13. But the Cardinals let a late-game lead slip away and dropped an 87-81 decision to Sun Prairie West last Friday. Then 24 hours later, Middleton went to Brookfield Central and suffered a 77-52 defeat — its worst loss of the year.

Postseason seeds were announced Sunday morning, and the Cardinals learned their road through the playoffs will be daunting, to put it mildly.

Middleton and Craig split a pair of games during the regular season, with the Cougars winning 69-62 in Janesville on Jan. 30. If seeds hold, Middleton would then travel to second-seeded Waunakee, before facing #3 Sun Prairie West and #1 Kettle Moraine.

“We’re probably about where we should be,” Bavery said of Middleton’s seed. “Our reality is reflected in our seed.

“Janesville Craig is the best shooting team in the league and present some tough individual matchups. We split during the regular season … so on paper it’s an even matchup. Then, we like a potential second round match with Waunakee or Janesville Parker.”

Here’s a recap of Middleton’s week leading up the postseason seeds.

• Middleton 67, Sun Prairie East 63 — Sophomore guard Isaiah Oliver had 19 points and senior guard Gavin Meister added 13 as Middleton posted a huge home win.

Middleton led, 37-29, at halftime before East rallied to take a four-point second half lead.

The teams were tied at 63 and Middleton appeared to be holding for a final shot. But with 30 seconds left, Oliver drove the lane, kicked to a wide-open Meister on the left wing, and the senior guard buried a 3-pointer to give Middleton a 66-63 lead.

East got a clean look on a 3-pointer from the right corner, but missed. Oliver then grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made one free throw to ice things.

“Gavin’s been playing a lot better off the bench,” Bavery said of Meister. “And that looked exactly like post/perimeter individual skills work we do within the offense.

“Granted, end of game you don’t give them time to get a shot, but if you hold for one vs. getting something in rhythm it is rarely successful and often shot too early. In a flow is usually better than a set action, especially with this year’s group. Bottom line, glad it went in.”

• Sun Prairie West 87, Middleton 81 — This will be remembered as the one that got away.

Middleton led, 68-60, with 6 minutes left and 74-68 with 4 minutes remaining. But the visiting Wolves outscored the Cardinals, 19-7, in the final 3:55 and prevailed.

“When we watched tape, we counted 11 things that happened in the last 4 ½ minutes that we felt were 50-50 type of plays,” Bavery said. “And of those 11 things, literally if one of them goes our way we win the game.”

Middleton had plenty of chances down the stretch.

Gavin Meister drilled a left corner 3-pointer to give the Cardinals a 79-77 lead with 2 minutes left. But West answered with a 9-0 run and pulled away.

During that critical final 2 minutes, Middleton had four straight empty possessions — two turnovers, a missed lay-up and a pair of missed free throws — that sealed its fate.

Isaiah Oliver led the Cardinals with 20 points, while Gavin Meister knocked down five 3-pointers and added 19 points. Junior center Will Garlock also had 18 points and eight rebounds for Middleton.

West junior guard Chris Davis — the state’s leading scorer at 41.1 points per game — had 44 points.

“Just a really frustrating loss,” Bavery said. “Maybe our toughest one of the year.”

• Brookfield Central 77, Middleton 52 — One night after falling to Sun Prairie West, the Cardinals were drilled by the host Lancers as part of the Big Eight/Greater Metro Conference Challenge.

Central held a 41-25 rebounding advantage and limited the Cardinals to just 40.4% shooting (21-of-52).

“You should never have to coach effort and competing and we just didn’t do that tonight,” Bavery said. “Whether we felt sorry for ourselves from losing (to Sun Prairie West) or whatever it was, we’re just a team that reacts too much to that kind of stuff. A ‘next play’ mentality is what we need and we didn't have that.”

Middleton hung with the Lancers throughout much of the first half. But Central used an 18-4 run late in the half to take a 37-25 lead at the break.

The Lancers then opened the second half on an 11-3 burst and extended their lead to 48-28. From there, Middleton never came closer than 17.

Will Garlock led the Cardinals with 16 points, while Isaiah Oliver had 13 points and five assists. Central put four players in double figures, led by senior forward Charlie Geske (18) and senior guard Jkien Forney (17).

“We just needed people to compete, whether that’s blockouts, staying in front of the ball, sprinting back defensively, whatever,” Bavery said. “We didn't do any of those things. There’s times in a game where you just say, ‘Who?’ and we just couldn't find a combination that worked. We couldn't find a spark.

“It was just disappointing. It didn't feel like we put up much of a fight.”

• On deck: Middleton was at Janesville Parker Tuesday, then finishes the regular season by hosting Madison East Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Cardinals then head to Janesville Craig for a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal on March 1.

 

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