Craig girls overwhelm Sun Prairie
You don’t have to be overly smart to know it’s the plea of desperation among southern Wisconsinites who are sick and tired of this winter of seemingly endless snow.
But for the Janesville Craig girls basketball team and coach Mark Marsden, it’s in reference to terminating a six-year history of futility against Sun Prairie.
Since taking over six years ago as Sun Prairie coach, Liz Hrodey has had the Cardinals flying high over the Cougars—winning nine of 11 games, including eight straight, dating back to the 2003-04 season.
Fortunately for the Cougars, history didn’t repeated itself Monday night in a make-up game from Feb. 7. Craig High ended the long winless drought with a convincing 61-35 victory over the Cardinals.
To the victor went bragging rights for third place in the Big Eight. Craig improved to 9-6 in the conference, and Sun Prairie dropped to 7-7.
An impressive first half, when everything went right for the Cougars, was enough to withstand a strong run by Sun Prairie in the third quarter.
“We couldn’t play any better than what we did in the first half,” said Marsden. “And I knew they would make a run at us.
“You’re not going to hold a team to six points, because they’re one of the top offensive teams in the state. But we weathered that third-quarter storm and really came back in the fourth quarter. To hold them in the 30s, we did a great job.”
It was a one-sided first half as Craig limited Sun Prairie to just two field goals in the first quarter to pull away to a 16-4 lead. The Cardinals were guilty of nine turnovers and were shell-shocked by Craig’s near-perfection.
An example of how everything was going Craig’s way was Whitney Storbakken’s heave-ho, nothing-but-net three-pointer at the buzzer ending the first quarter.
Things only got better for Craig in the second quarter and worse for Sun Prairie. Stephanie Haight scored the Cardinals’ lone field goal at 5:58. The Cougars continued hitting on all cylinders and scored 18 points for a 34-6 halftime lead.
Kristy Benson, who finished with a game-high 27 points, including going 11-for-11 at the free-throw line, was difference-maker in the first half.
Eight of her baskets came inside on layups, including five in the first half. She had 17 of her 27 points in the first half, going 7-for-7 from the line.
“It’s probably the best first half I’ve had in 30 years,” said Marsden. “Our offense was clicking, our defense was very solid, and we were rebounding and contesting their shots.
“Defensive intensity, offensive boards and defensive boards, those were the differences in the first half.”
It was as if the two teams switched uniforms in the third quarter as Sun Prairie caught fire after Craig had extended its lead to 38-6. The next 14 points belonged to the Cardinals as the Cougars’ lead was trimmed to 38-20 by the end of the third quarter.
“The second half, they got to the basket easier. Haight started getting inside, and she’s tough. And they hit a couple of threes and got to the line,” Marsden said.
A pair of baskets and a three-pointer cut deeper into Craig’s lead that dwindled to 38-27. But was as close as Sun Prairie got, as Anne Morgan hit a pair of free throws for Craig’s first points of the final quarter at the six-minute mark.
Morgan also recorded the Cougars’ first field goal of the quarter as Craig got back on track and gradually pulled away.
Down the stretch, Craig iced the victory at the free-throw line. For the game, the Cougars were deadly from the stripe, converting 20 of 23 attempts.
Benson was the lone scorer in double figures for Craig, while Haight’s 10 points led Sun Prairie.
“I’m just really proud of this team, and I was real pleased with this win,” said Marsden. “It’s a hard place to play for us. They played one of their better games of the year at our place and we played one of our worst quarters—the third quarter, again. We kind of marked this one on the calendar.
“We took Parker into overtime, and we had Middleton down to four points with a couple of minutes to play. So we’ve improved a lot, and I felt coming up here would be a huge step if we could get this game.”
CRAIG 61, SUN PRAIRIE 35
Craig (61)—Gohlke, 1-0-2; McQueen, 0-2-2; Benson, 8-11-27; Sanchez, 2-1-5; Storbakken, 2-2-7; Straw, 4-1-9; Morgan, 3-2-8; Hilden, 0-1-1. Totals: 20-20-23-61.
Sun Prairie (35)—Renz, 1-0-3; Granitz, 2-4-9; Haight, 4-2-10; Wiersema, 0-1-1; Yakey, 2-0-6; Albi, 0-4-4. Totals: 9-11-13-35.
Janesville Craig 16 18 4 23—61
Sun Prairie 4 2 14 15—35
Three-point goals—Craig 1 (Storbakken), Sun Prairie 4 (Renz, Granitz, Yakey 2). Free throws missed—Craig 3, Sun Prairie 2. Total fouls—Craig 16. Sun Prairie 20. Fouled out—Renz, Yakey.
Sophomores—Craig 52, Sun Prairie 23. Craig scorers leaders: Brooke Freiss, 12; Michelle Straw, 10. Craig recordL 17-2.