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Madison Memorial senior Nick Caropreso found an opening on offense Thursday night.

And the 6-foot-4 forward heated up in a hurry.

The left-handed Caropreso sank three 3-pointers in a span of 2 minutes, 30 seconds and scored 11 points overall during a 17-2 first-half run that blew open the game, propelling the host Memorial boys basketball team to a 26-point halftime lead against Sun Prairie.

“Once I saw one go in, the others kind of followed,” Caropreso said. “My teammates were feeding me and I was hot. I was just playing with them, and they were cheering me on and giving me a lot of confidence.”

Memorial withstood Sun Prairie’s second-half comeback and pulled out a 71-61 Big Eight Conference victory in the season opener for both teams.

“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” said Spartans coach Steve Collins, whose team is ranked sixth in Division 1 in the WisSports.net preseason poll. “That’s the way the Big Eight is. Everyone is going to come out and compete every game.”

Caropreso had 13 of his 15 points in the first half when the Spartans seized a 40-14 lead. Senior point guard Cade Ellingson wound up with a team-high 18 points and sophomore guard Kyle Yu added 11 points.

“We had a great half,” Caropreso said. “We were on the same page that whole time. We flowed well and we were making our shots. … We played with each other — that was the main thing — and we were playing team defense.”

Defending conference champion Sun Prairie struggled on defense in the first half and was hurt by Caropreso’s hot streak that led to a 30-9 lead for Memorial.

“I don’t think our transition defense was real good,” Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos said. “We kind of lost guys. Those (shots) hurt us. We were hanging around seven or nine (points) and all of a sudden, `Boom, Boom, Boom.’ And it kind of snowballed.”

The outburst didn’t surprise Collins.

“I think I have five or six guys who are capable (of shooting well),” Collins said. “This team can score. I think I have a handful of guys who can shoot from 3 and inside.”

Sun Prairie’s Brock Voigt, a 6-5 forward, scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the second half when the Cardinals extended their pressure defense, picked up the pace and outscored the Spartans 47-31. Senior guard Rajai Williams had 15 points and junior guard Dawson Hughes added 13 points.

The Cardinals lost the core of the team that advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament semifinals last season, including 6-8 Jalen Johnson, who transferred to Glendale Nicolet.

On Thursday, they were missing four players who should see time in the playing rotation — junior guard Colin Schaefer and senior forward Cooper Nelson because of injuries and junior forward Delaware Hale and junior guard Elijah Knight due to school reasons, Boos said.

“I didn’t think we did a good job in the first half,” Boos said. “Maybe we got back on our heels a little bit … instead of getting after it more. And we dug a hole. They kind of had a spurt and a second spurt, which really drained us.”

The Cardinals kept charging in the second half — a 24-8 run cut the deficit to 48-38 with 9:37 to play. Sun Prairie closed within 62-53 on Williams’ drive and basket with 2:42 remaining, but couldn’t get closer.

Ellingson was 8-for-10 from the foul line in the second half, making his last eight.

“I think the second half we came out flat,” Caropreso said. “We didn’t come out with the same energy we had in the first half. We didn’t play the same team defense. … I think it’s a good lesson for us.”

The Spartans were without 6-6 junior Yacouba Traore Jr. due to injury, Collins said. 

Sun Prairie 14 47 — 61

Madison Memorial 40 31 — 71

SUN PRAIRIE — Williams 6 1-1 15, B. Voigt 9 7-11 26, A. Voigt 2 2-4 6, Hawk 0 1-2 1, Hughes 2 8-10 13. Totals 19 19-28 61.

MADISON MEMORIAL — Ellingson 6 6-8 18, Bates 1 0-0 2, Brown 1 1-2 3, Bergman 2 0-1 4, Caropreso 5 2-2 15, Schaefer 2 0-1 4, Yu 3 4-4 11, Lewis 0 3-4 3, Younk 1 0-0 2, Jackson 2 2-2 8, Mitchell 0 1-2 1. Totals 22 19-27 71.

3-point goals — SP 4 (Williams 2, B. Voigt 1, Hughes 1), MM 6 (Caropreso 3, Jackson 2, Yu 1). Total fouls — MM 21, SP 25. Fouled out — Wherley.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.