Middleton's stretch drive turns back Parker girls
That was the sentiment of Janesville Parker girls basketball coach Tom Klawitter after watching his Vikings fall to Middleton, 53-47, in a critical Big Eight game here Saturday.
“Defense will be part of the story,” Klawitter said before the game. “Middleton is capable of scoring in the 80s, so we have to keep this game down into the low 50s.”
Klawitter got what he wanted in terms of scoring, but the Parker High defense couldn’t stop Middleton and Cardinal leader Kerry Gardner when it counted near the end.
As a result, Middleton (17-3, 14-2) remained in a tie for first place with Verona (16-3, 14-2). The Cardinals also denied Parker (14-5, 12-3) a chance to jump ahead of Middleton and stay even with Verona in the loss column as the conference season heads into the final two weeks.
Gardner, a 5-8 junior guard and among the scoring leaders in the Big Eight, finished strongly with 15 points after being held scoreless by Parker’s Savannah Shepler in the first quarter.
With Parker leading 40-39 and just under five minutes left, Gardner took charge. She was 3-for-4 from the line and led an effective ball-control game in the last two minutes.
Shepler’s two three-point goals kept Parker close early in the final period. But with the exception of basket by Kaynesha Zinn, the Vikings’ scoring the rest of the way came only from the free-throw line.
With 1:46 left, Ashley Hartwig got Parker within 46-44 with a free throw. But Gardner came back with two free throws to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 48-44.
Kathryn Pernot sank a pair of free throws to get Parker to within two again at 48-46 with 57 seconds left, but Gardner answered with another free throw.
The Vikings simply could not overcome Middleton’s slim lead. Flood added another free throw, but Middleton’s Glenna Andrews came off the bench and made two key free throws to preserve the Cardinals’ lead.
An inability to connect on key shots and a few key defensive breakdowns turned out to make the difference, despite holding the high-scoring Cardinals down to the low 50s, Klawitter said.
“Earlier, I thought we should have capitalized on some easy scoring opportunities,” he said. “Defensively, we just wouldn’t take care of what we had to do on their initial drives to the basket. But offensively, we simply missed some point-blank shots.”
Despite their lapses, Parker defenders dictated the pace. The Vikings led 24-21 at halftime on the strength of Shepler’s defense on Gardner and Danielle Flood’s 12 first-half points.
Flood and Gardner shared game scoring honors with 15 points apiece.
Shepler and her teammates played well defensively in the first half, but they couldn’t convert from long range. After hitting a three-point goal in the first quarter, Shepler did not score again until two consecutive three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
There may not be much coaching involved in a shooting slump or missing close-range opportunities, but the missed opportunities can generate motivation, Klawitter said.
“We just have to learn from the mistakes we made in this game,” he said. “We are all playing at a high level against very good teams such as Middleton.
“We need to come out for practice Monday knowing we played a pretty good game against a very good team, and we just have to clean up some little stuff.”
Parker is not looking past the final three Big Eight games, the coach said, despite having its title hopes damaged.
“We hope we learn from this and apply it to the next three games,” Klawitter said. “They are all important as we lead up to the tournament.
“In a way, we played this game as if it was a tournament game. Luckily it wasn’t, or we wouldn’t be playing next week.”
MIDDLETON 53, PARKER 47
Middleton (53)—Passini, 3-2-10; Flynn, 3-2-8; Gardner, 3-9-15; Eklund, 3-2-8; Rongstad, 1-3-6; Williams, 1-0-2; Dolan, 1-0-2; Andrews, 0-2-2. Totals: 15-20-53.
Parker (47)—Franklin, 1-0-2; Pernot, 1-4-6; Flood, 5-5-15; Shepler, 3-0-9; Zinn, 2-1-5; Dement, 1-1-3; Hartwig, 1-5-7. Totals: 14-16-47.
Middleton 9 12 13 19—53
Janesville Parker 12 12 8 15—47
Three-point goals—Middleton 3 (Passini 2, Rongstad), Parker 3 (Shepler 3). Free throws missed—Middleton 10, Parker 9. Total fouls—Middleton 22, Parker 21. Fouled out—Pernot.
Sophomores—Middleton 49, Parker 47. Parker scoring leaders—Dani Fugate, 10; Bria Gorman, 9; Jackie Shepler, 9.