Mukwonago edges Janesville Craig in sectional semifinal
BELOIT--The shooting woes that hounded Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team the last month of the season came back to bite the Cougars on Thursday night.
Craig missed 9 of 11 shots in the fourth quarter and scored only 17 points in the second half, and Mukwonago pulled away late for a 43-36 win in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game at Beloit Memorial.
Second-seeded Mukwonago (19-6) plays Madison West (8-16) in the sectional title game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sun Prairie.
The Cougars finished a stellar season at 20-5 but could not break out of a late-season scoring slump. Craig failed to score at least 50 points in all three tournament games.
“We just couldn’t buy a basket when we needed one,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “There were stretches during our two regional games and tonight where we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. And when you play a team as good as Mukwonago, they make you pay for it.
“But we kept battling and we kept fighting, and eventually had the lead in the fourth. Unfortunately, we hit another cold snap down the stretch.”
Craig took its last lead of the game at 30-28 on Nicole Foster’s basket with 6:38 left.
Mukwonago’s Bre Cera, who had a game-high 17 points, answered with a 3 with 4:41 left to give the Indians the lead for good at 31-30. Cera, a 5-foot-11 sophomore and UW-Green Bay recruit, had 11 points in the fourth.
Craig eventually trailed by six with 1:21 left, but it cut the margin to two on a pair of free throws from Al Hughes and Sam Pierson’s basket with 1:08 left.
The Indians scored the last seven points of the game on free throws, going 7-for-8 the last 53 seconds. Mukwonago was 1-for-8 from the line in the first half.
“We’re up by two at half, but if we hit our free throws, the lead could’ve been seven or eight,” Mukwonago coach Rick Kolinske said. “We fixed that problem in the second half, along with not giving up so many offensive rebounds, and that was the difference in the game.
“We had a definite size advantage, but (Craig) had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. There’s no way that should happen, and we addressed that at half.”
Mukwonago used a decided advantage in the post to take an early 14-3 lead. The Cougars had no answer for 6-3 Morgan Glatczak or 6-2 Ellie Michalski, but they eventually shut down the post and got within two points by half.
Pierson led the Cougars in scoring with 11 points off the bench, but she was the only player in double figures.
Hughes, Craig’s leading scorer at 14 points per game, finished with eight and had only two baskets.
“Like I told the girls afterward, only five teams are happy at the end of the year and those are the five state champions,” Storbakken said.
“With our core coming back, and if they keep working hard, they’ve got a lot to look forward to. They made the Craig nation proud this season and have a lot to build on heading into next season.”