MIDDLETON — Madison La Follette boys basketball coach Curtrel Robinson isn’t surprised by his team’s eyebrow-raising start to the season.
He expected the Lancers might catch some Big Eight Conference foes unaware. But no one is sleeping on the Lancers now.
Senior guard Anthony West led four Lancers in double figures with a season-high 25 points and La Follette raced past Middleton 87-71 on Tuesday night.
“I am very pleased,” Robinson said. “I knew we would be a surprise team in the Big Eight. We had a good summer. The guys worked hard all spring and summer, and in the fall in the weight room. I knew we had some weapons. I was worried because we don’t have a lot of size. We rely on our athleticism and quickness and ability to push the ball to create havoc. … We just share the ball and are unselfish and play hard.”
The victory lifted La Follette (8-1 overall, 6-1 Big Eight), ranked 10th in Division 1 in the WisSports.net state coaches’ poll, into a share of first place with third-ranked Madison Memorial. Seventh-ranked Sun Prairie is one-half game behind.
The Lancers, who entered the game averaging 82.4 points per game, now have scored 83 or more points in seven of their nine games.
Junior guard Troy Reeves scored 16 points, junior guard Donneil Gray contributed 13 points and sophomore guard Ben Probst had 10 points as La Follette snapped Middleton’s four-game winning streak.
West scored 11 of his points while the Lancers built a 48-37 halftime lead, then sank three 3-pointers en route to 14 points in the second half when La Follette led by as many 20 points in the final 2 minutes. An ankle injury kept him out of the Lancers’ only loss this season — an overtime defeat against Madison Memorial.
“From the beginning of the season, we knew,” West said. “Even in the offseason, we knew we were coming. We were not predicted to be at the top of the conference and that really helped us out. We were predicted to be lower and that gave us the urge to want to do better. We have been playing together forever.”
Senior forward Brogan Brunker had a team-high 20 points and senior guard Alan Roden had 11 points for the Cardinals (4-3, 4-3), who also like to play an up-tempo style.
“It was definitely the ideal pace,” Robinson said. “It was interesting to see them pick up (defensively). When I saw them do that, I knew that would help us because that is the way we like to play. I knew it would be a track meet tonight.”
Count Middleton coach Kevin Bavery as someone who isn’t surprised by how well La Follette is playing.
“What makes them so good is everybody who can drive it for them can also really shoot it,” Bavery said.
He said the Cardinals permitted too many run-outs and transition baskets on defense.
“It really wasn’t a contrast in styles,” Bavery said. “It was more a contrast in personnel. We want to play fast when we can, but we can’t allow ourselves to get sped up. If we get stuff in transition, (that’s) great. But we have to be more disciplined to work the ball, where eventually we get it inside. When we did that early in the game, we were fine offensively. Most nights, 71 points in most leagues will be OK.”
Lancers sophomore guard Isaiah Stewart sank a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 3 seconds left in the first half and West followed with a basket off a feed from Reeves with 45 seconds remaining; La Follette had five unanswered points and a 48-37 lead.
West scored five points during a 7-0 run early in the second half, extending La Follette’s lead to 56-41 in a game that included former University of Wisconsin men’s basketball player Zach Morley as one of the officials.
“We like to play fast,” West said. “That’s how we’ve played since youth basketball.”
Madison La Follette 48 39 — 87
Middleton 37 34 — 71
MADISON LA FOLLETTE — Seward 2 2-5 6, Probst 3 1-1 10, West 8 6-11 25, Smith 3 0-0 7, Gray 6 0-0 13, Cameron 1 0-2 2, Nix 0 1-2 1, Stewart 3 0-0 7, Reeves 6 3-5 16. Totals 32 13-26 87.
MIDDLETON — Roden 4 2-2 11, Michaels 2 0-0 6, Roquet 3 0-0 6, Ticknor 2 0-3 5, Ragsdale 2 0-2 5, Bowman 3 0-0 6, Vergenz 3 2-4 8, Brunker 5 10-11 20, Boyle 0 2-2 2, Close 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 16-24 71.
3-point goals — ML 10 (Probst 3, West 3, Smith 1, Gray 1, Stewart 1, Reeves 1), MID 5 (Michaels 2, Roden 1, Ticknor 1, Ragsdale 1). Total fouls — ML 21, MID 20.