They say it’s difficult to beat a team three times.
Middleton found that out the hard way Friday night.
Janesville Parker’s girls basketball team, seeded 13th, came from behind late to upset the host fourth-seeded Cardinals 56-52 in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal game at Middleton High School.
“We talked about (how) controlling the basketball meant controlling the game,” said Parker coach Jennah Hartwig, whose team lost both Big Eight Conference meetings to the Cardinals during the regular season. “I thought the girls battled the whole game and never quit fighting.”
Janesville Parker travels to 12th-seeded Watertown tonight, with a regional championship on the line.
The Cardinals started the game aggressively on defense and hit two 3-pointers early to create an 11-4 lead. The Vikings responded, but a combination of turnovers and fouls began to frustrate the visitors.
Middleton sophomore Sitori Tanin was torching the Vikings inside the paint and by the time halftime came around she already had 10 points. Middleton closed out the half with a 31-26 lead.
“They shot very well in the first half and we couldn’t keep giving them second chances and open shots,” Hartwig said.
At halftime, Hartwig told the girls not to give up.
Parker sophomore Jena Forrestal was visibly frustrated with her play and the fouls being called. She got a motivational speech at halftime that made a major difference, but it didn’t come from Hartwig.
“She was getting frustrated in the fouls, and our assistant coach told her that she needed to keep playing hard and keep her head up,” Hartwig said.
Forrestal said her teammates lifted her up, as well, and she went on to score 11 of her game-high 17 points in the second half.
The Vikings also turned the game around as a whole, outscoring the Cardinals 30-21 in the second half and picking up the victory to advance to tonight’s regional final.
“We knew we needed the win, otherwise it was going to be our last game,” said Forrestal, who made four 3-pointers. “We did everything we could and played our hearts out.”
Hartwig said Forrestal’s change in demeanor and playing style had a lot to do with the comeback.
“When Jena plays with energy, we play so much better,” Hartwig said. “She can do some things with the ball no one else can. Sometimes the best way to create offense is with aggressive defense, and I think Jena realized that tonight.”
Middleton head coach Jeff Kind said Forrestal and the Vikings made shots when they needed to and that his Cardinals couldn’t do the same.
“She hit some 3s on us. She did a nice job knocking the shots down tonight. They made some big shots and we didn’t down the stretch,” Kind said. “We had a lot of fast breaks that didn’t turn into points, and that is huge in close games.”
As for the difference between the first two games against the Vikings, Kind had a simple answer.
“We didn’t make baskets and they did,” he said. “It’s almost like there was a lid on the basket in the second half.”
Tanin finished with 12 points.
Parker junior Julia Hartwig, playing through injury, had 12 points, while senior guard Jacy Benway finished with 10.
The Vikings will now look to carry momentum into regional finals.
“We want to go to state,” Forrestal said. “That starts tomorrow.”
PARKER 56, MIDDLETON 52
Parker (56)—Benway 4-2-10; Shelton 1-3-5; Forrestal 4-5-17; Porter 1-0-2; Fenrick 0-1-1; Groesslin 3-1-8; Veguilla 0-2-2; Hartwig 6-0-12. Totals: 19-14-56.
Middleton (52)—Lemirande 2-1-7; S. Tanin 6-0-12; H. Dunn 2-0-5; Bursac 3-2-8; Staples 6-6-12; Flottmeyer 3-2-8; White 1-0-2. Totals: 23-11-52.
Parker 26 30—56
Middleton 31 21—52
3-point goals—Parker 5 (Forrestal 4, Groesslin 1), Middleton 3 (Lemirande 2, Dunn 1). Free throws missed—Parker 4, Middleton 5. Total fouls—Parker 12, Middleton 15.