MIDDLETON — After a week completing final exams in the classroom, the Sun Prairie boys basketball team anticipated another test on the court Friday night from Big Eight Conference rival Middleton.
But an ankle injury sustained in the final 10 minutes of practice Thursday sidelined Middleton’s leading scorer, 6-foot-4 senior forward Brogan Brunker, and altered the complexion of the game.
Sophomore forward Jalen Johnson scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the first half when Sun Prairie opened a 16-point halftime lead and senior guard Marlon Ruffin had 11 points in a 65-40 victory over host Middleton.
Sun Prairie (12-1 overall, 10-1 Big Eight), ranked fourth in Division 1 in The Associated Press poll, remained atop the conference standings while recording a season-low in points allowed. Sun Prairie has won eight consecutive games, including seven straight since the 6-8 Johnson resumed playing following his recovery from a stress fracture in his foot.
Jake Klubertanz, a 6-5 junior forward, came off the bench and scored a career-high 14 points for Middleton (7-7, 6-5), including a 10-for-10 performance at the free throw line.
Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos said he believed his team was focused after the week of finals.
“You never know about it, but they responded well,” Boos said. “They did some good things defensively and there are some things we’ll want to improve on. But I think they did some quality things and some things that bothered Middleton tonight.
“They were not at their fullest, without Brogan. He’s a key guy — averaging 19 points a game. He’s their heart and soul. He plays with a lot of passion. But we still have to go out and play and I thought our kids did some nice things.”
Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said he didn’t talk with his team about Brunker being out because he doesn’t use injuries as an excuse.
“We never talk about ‘stepping up’ with them,” Bavery said. “We just play: ‘Go out and play.’ But, obviously, Johnson is the real deal — times five — and they have another big, strong athletic scorer like Marlon and a big, strong anchor in there like (Marty) Strey, and good complementary parts.”
Johnson didn’t play in the teams’ first meeting, which was won by Sun Prairie 79-70 in Sun Prairie’s season opener. On Friday, Middleton senior Alan Roden shadowed Johnson and limited his touches.
Still, Johnson hit two 3-pointers and scored 13 of Sun Prairie’s first 28 points.
After Johnson was called for an offensive foul and then traveling, he responded to a brief chant of “overrated” from the Middleton student section.
He opened by throwing down a dunk on a fast break, feeding 6-5 sophomore Delaware Hale for a basket, sinking a 3-pointer from the right wing and hitting a 12-foot jumper. That boosted Sun Prairie’s lead to 28-13. Sophomore guard Colin Schaefer, who finished with nine points, sank a 3-pointer from the left wing just prior to the halftime buzzer, putting Sun Prairie ahead 34-16.
“We had a game plan and we executed it,” Ruffin said. “Our chemistry is just perfect. … We came out and had our defensive calls right and had a lot of steals and breaks. We spend a lot of time on defense in practice. It really is our strong point.”
Ruffin, who had six of his points in the second half when Sun Prairie outscored Middleton 31-22, said he has received recent interest from the University of Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on and from Wofford, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, East Tennessee State, California-Irvine and Fresno State.
Sun Prairie 34 31 — 65
Middleton 18 22 — 40
SUN PRAIRIE — Ruffin 2 7-9 11, Strey 1 0-0 3, Jansen 1 1-2 3, Williams 1 1-2 4, White 2 0-0 5, C. Schaefer 3 2-2 9, A. Schaefer 2 0-0 6, Johnson 6 1-1 15, Hale 3 1-2 7, Fenderson 0 0-1 0, B. Voigt 1 0-0 2, Hawk 0 0-2 0.Totals 22 13-21 65.
MIDDLETON — Roden 1 1-1 3, Michaels 2 0-1 5, Roquet 1 0-0 3, Ticknor 2 0-1 5, Lewis 0 1-2 1, Bowman 1 1-2 3, Vergenz 1 1-2 3, Klubertanz 2 10-10 14, Close 1 0-0 3. Totals 11 14-19 40.
3-point goals — SP 8 (A. Schaefer 2, Johnson 2, Strey 1, Williams 1, White 1, Schaefer 1), MID 4 (Michaels 1, Roquet 1, Ticknor 1, Close 1). Total fouls — SP 18, MID 17.