Second season gives Milton girls basketball team second chance
MILTON The regular season was just that for Milton High’s girls basketball team—regular.
The Red Hawks played average ball en route to a 7-5 record in the Badger South Conference and a tie for third place.
The postseason has been anything but.
Milton has been impressive in winning four straight tournament games, including three straight over state-ranked teams. Saturday’s win over Badger South champion Monona Grove punched Milton’s ticket to state for the second time in the last three years. It’s the fourth trip to state for the program and the third under coach Scott Randall.
Morgan Blumer, one of the state’s top players and a four-year starter for Milton, said there was only one goal coming into this season.
“Ever since we lost to New London two years ago, all we’ve talked about is getting back to state,” Blumer said.
“We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season but kept working hard as a team. We knew how well we were capable of playing, and now you’re starting to see that.”
With Blumer coming off a broken hand and the team searching for an identity, the Red Hawks started the season 3-2. They suffered back-to-back blowout losses to Madison Edgewood and Waunakee and began the conference season losing two of three.
Milton righted the ship by winning seven of its next nine games before losing by double digits to Edgewood for the second time on Jan. 24.
“This group has been able to handle the adversities that come up during every season,” Randall said. “They’ve figured out how to deal with that and accepted their roles.
“We’ve got a big squad, but toward the end there we’re only playing seven kids. But even those that aren’t getting a lot of minutes are helping to make the wheel turn. That’s why we’re having success.”
Milton won four of its last six games to conclude the regular season, and both losses were to fifth-ranked Monona Grove. The second loss to the Silver Eagles on Feb. 14 may have set the tone for the postseason. The Red Hawks lost that game 55-54 at Monona Grove, despite a late three-point lead.
With the tournament on the horizon, the loss proved that the Red Hawks could play with anyone in Division 2.
”We knew there was a chance we could play them (Monona Grove) again in the tournament,” Blumer said. “And even though we lost to them twice, we knew their weaknesses and what we needed to do.
“Coach said that sometimes you learn more from a loss than a win, and he was probably right. We took a lot of confidence from that game and it has carried over.”
Milton entered the Janesville Craig Sectional as a No. 4 seed. The Red Hawks opened up tournament play with a convincing win over Waterford, followed by wins over sixth-ranked Whitewater, eighth-ranked Wilmot and fifth-ranked Monona Grove. No team at state has played a tougher tournament schedule than Milton.
“I’ve got a very smart group of kids,” Randall said. “Their success in the classroom extends to the basketball court. They knew exactly what type of team they were capable of being if they stayed together and kept working hard.”
That winning formula has turned a regular team into a dangerous postseason team.