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OREGON — Sometimes you’re the hammer; sometimes you’re the nail.

And sometimes, the other guy brings an entire toolbox filled with various fine-tuned instruments of suffering.

That’s the package a talented, well-coached and hungry Sun Prairie boys basketball team unloaded on Madison East on Saturday night at Oregon High School.

The result: For the first time, the Cardinals are headed to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

The second-ranked Cardinals rolled to an 82-58 victory over East — a team that looked as low on options Saturday as it appeared full of promise during Thursday’s semifinal win over fourth-ranked Waunakee.

“We played really, really well,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Boos, whose 25-1 team will next play in a semifinal Friday evening at the Kohl Center.

“The kids moved the ball, we attacked their defense. … And we’ve always hung our hat on our defense.”

Senior Marlon Ruffin, aggressive on both ends of the floor, sank four 3-pointers and finished with 30 points. Still unsigned by a college program, Ruffin always seemed to be in the right place — and learned from it when he wasn’t — to power the Cardinals.

“I couldn’t sleep the last two days, thinking about this game. We wanted it so much,” Ruffin said. “We came out in the first three minutes and took control.”

Blue-chip sophomore Jalen Johnson didn’t force matters on offense, but still picked up 24 points — the last two on a crowd-pleasing, alley-oop dunk.

“I’m beyond happy right now,” Johnson said. “Every one of these guys contributed something tonight.”

Before the Purgolders (19-7) could even break a sweat, Sun Prairie was off to a 10-1 lead. Then it was 15-5, 22-8 and 32-10 — thanks in part to the Cardinals’ early 6-for-10 shooting from 3-point range.

“They were ready, and that’s it,” said East coach Matt Miota, whose team played in its third sectional final in the past four years but missed out on its first state trip since 2015.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons. Their defense was just outstanding — they stayed in front of our guys and protected the basket, and they stayed out of foul trouble.”

East did manage one run, scoring the last eight points of the first half by pushing Sun Prairie’s ballhandlers out to the edges and trapping them to cause turnovers.

“They sped us up a little bit there, so we talked about staying in the middle and not letting them trap us,” Boos said.

Said Johnson: “I heard what Coach said, and what Coach says, I just follow his lead.”

East’s scoring leader was senior Keshawn Justice, who made six 3-pointers in a 22-point night. With the way Sun Prairie’s height took away the drive-and-pass option from East’s smaller guards, at times Justice was the Purgolders’ only option.

On the other end, the Cardinals finished with nine 3-pointers: “It’s another weapon in our arsenal,” Ruffin said.

Said Johnson: “We’ve done a lot of shooting in practice, and that work is starting to show.”

Sun Prairie 39 43 — 82

Madison East 27 31 — 58

SUN PRAIRIE — Ruffin 12 2-4 30, Strey 2 2-3 7, Jansen 0 2-4 2, Williams 2 0-2 4, White 1 2-4 5, C. Schaefer 3 0-0 8, Johnson 9 5-8 24, Hale 1 0-0 2. Totals 30 13-25 82.

MADISON EAST — Justice 7 2-4 22, D. Washington 3 1-2 7, Lewis 0 5-9 5, Maduka 1 0-0 3, Dat. Thompson 3 2-4 8, A. Washington 1 0-0 2, Jones 1 1-4 3, D. White 1 0-0 2, Dam. Thompson 2 0-0 4, Roh 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 11-23 58.

3-point goals — SP 9 (Ruffin 4, Strey 1, White 1, Schaefer 2, Johnson 1), ME 7 (Justice 6, Maduka 1). Total fouls — SP 18, ME 16.


Wisconsin State Journal prep sports editor Art Kabelowsky has traversed the state to cover sports while working for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Baraboo.