GAME RECAP: Madison Memorial 50, Madison East 35 - Sectional Final
Sun Prairie, Wis. -- For the first 30 minutes or so of the game, it appeared that the contest would be decided in the final moments. The Spartans and Purgolders traded the lead five times, with neither team leading by more than six before Memorial broke out on a 23-5 run in the final 6:13 of the game to clinch the school's tenth trip to state.
With 6:13 to play, Madison East led 30-27 until Memorial senior Jake Ferguson drew a foul on a made basket and sank the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 30. Ferguson had scored seven straight Spartan points after that three-point play, and it would be the sixth and final lead change of the game as another Spartan senior, Chris Knight, ripped off a personal 8-2 run over the next four minutes to push the lead to seven. Knight punctuated that run with a huge dunk, and had another one just a minute later to effectively seal the deal in Sun Prairie.
"I thought we were being aggressive," coach Steve Collins said after the game, talking about the 23-5 run to finish the game. "We were aggressive to the finish. We attacked the rim today."
The crowd was loud, and was standing room-only around the corners of the gym in Sun Prairie.
"Absolutely, this is the largest crowd we've ever had for basketball here," said Sun Prairie Athletic Director Eric Nee, who also won the Big Eight's award for AD of the year. "Not even a question."
Madison East, the eight-seeded team in Sectional 3, upset Sun Prairie and Muskego along the way to reach the sectional final. Before the game, coach Matt Miota appeared on Big Sports Saturday on The Big 1070 to talk about the run.
"Nobody expected us to be here, not one person," said Miota. "I feel like the pressure is on Memorial."
In regards to how the players felt about the Cinderella run, Miota said, "We're finally playing the way we are capable of." The Purgolders were one of three teams to beat Memorial in the regular season.
Early in the game, Madison East appeared to wrest control of the match-up, leading 17-11 with 4:10 to play in the first half. They held the Spartans to scoreless droughts of seven minutes in the first half and five minutes in the second half, from 12:25 to 7:22 to play in the game. Memorial put together a 12-4 run to open up the second half, at one point seizing a six-point lead, but East got back in front thanks to several close-range shots, and led 30-25 with 7:55 remaining. They held that lead until Jake Ferguson's and-one play with 6:13 left in the game.
After the game ended, Jake Ferguson said the difference in the second half would be defense.
"Transition defense led to offense, and our guys made plays," he said after the game.
Ferguson said that he's excited for state. "We look at the banners every day. It's a great feeling to get a shot [at the title]."
Memorial will be playing for its first title since 2011. They also won it all in 2009 and 2005. 19th-year head coach Steve Collins, 380-93 in his tenure with the Spartans, relishes the chance to play at state with his current group.
"It's pretty exciting. A bunch of them have been with me for four years, so that makes it really special."
Memorial will face two-time defending D1 champion Stevens Point in the semifinals Friday night at 6:35pm. Check back here for full coverage.