Neal, Beloit Memorial end Craig's season
BELOIT—Andre Neal is built a little bit like NBA all-star Kevin Durant.
The Beloit Memorial senior is tall and lanky.
Saturday night he played like Durant.
Neal had a game-high 27 points, including 15 in the third quarter, to lead the Purple Knights to a 71-62 win over Janesville Craig in a WIAA Division 1 regional final game.
Beloit (15-9) plays Mukwonago in a sectional semifinal game Thursday night.
Craig (13-11) led by four at half, but had no answer for Neal in the second half. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter torched the Cougars with a series of fadeaway jumpers in the third to tilt the momentum in the Purple Knights' favor.
“The toughest thing for us is that they were contested shots,” Craig coach Mike Miller said of Neal's outburst in the third. “We had guys on him, but he kept shooting that fadeaway and knocking shots down.
“But I'm really proud of the way our kids battled, especially the seniors. They have nothing to hang their heads about. It was still a good season.”
Behind Neal, the Purple Knights grabbed a 46-43 lead after three quarters. Craig tied the game for the last time at 47-47 on Logan Carlson's free throws with 6:18 left, but Beloit answered with six straight points to take control. Kyan Pleasant's 3-pointer with 5:43 left made it 53-47.
Craig got within three on James Morgan's 3-pointer with a minute left, but Neal made two free throws with 45 seconds left to push the lead back to five. The Cougars missed on the ensuing possession, and the Purple Knights' Blake Farr was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws to push the margin to seven with 33 seconds left.
The Cougars got hammered on the boards, getting outrebounded by a 2-1 margin.
“The difference in the game was rebounding,” Miller said. “We talked about that being our Achilles' heel all season, and we didn't do a very good job tonight. When we made our runs with our 3s, we gave it right back on the other end by giving up second-chance points.
“That's something we've got to focus on in the offseason. Get back to the weight room and get stronger.”
Jerry Ngobi led the Cougars with 13 points but was a non-factor down the stretch after fouling out with 4:18 left to play. Nolan Maresch added 12 points for Craig, which finished with nine 3s.
BELOIT 71, CRAIG 62
Craig (62)—Ngobi, 6-1-13; Maresch, 5-0-12; Murphy, 3-0-9; Morgan, 2-0-6; Smith, 1-0-2; Green, 1-0-2; Payton, 2-4-9; Carlson, 0-4-4; Negus, 2-0-5. Totals: 22-9-62.
Beloit (71)—Fair, 4-9-17; Farr, 2-2-6; Barnes, 3-3-9; Cabrera, 3-0-6; Neal, 9-7-27; Pleasan,t 2-0-5; Freitag, 0-1-1. Totals: 23-22-71.
Janesville Craig 17 14 12 19—62
Beloit Memorial 17 10 19 25—71
Three-point goals—Craig 9 (Murphy 3, Maresch 2, Morgan 2, Negus, Payton), Beloit 3 (Neal 2, Pleasant). Free throws missed—Craig 7, Beloit 14. Total fouls—Craig 22, Beloit 18. Fouled out—Ngobi.