Craig girls dominate Westosha
Benson lived up to those expectations in the final seconds of the first quarter Saturday, grabbing a missed rebound and driving the length of the floor to convert a three-point play with just six-tenths of a second on the clock.
Benson’s end-to-end road trip gave Craig High an 11-10 lead and lit the match that launched the Cougars to a 55-36 victory over Westosha Central in a WIAA Division 1 regional girls basketball championship game here Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars (17-5) play third-ranked Janesville Parker (19-2) at 6 p.m. Friday at Wilmot in the sectional semifinals.
“Momentum is huge in basketball,” Benson said. “It’s a game of highs and lows.”
Lakeshore champion Westosha Central (16-6), winner of 12 straight dating back to Dec. 22, took a 12-11 lead over Craig on Kristin Olsen’s two free throws early in the second quarter. The Cougars responded with a 13-6 run, hitting six of their first eight shots in the period.
Lauren McQueen’s three-pointer, her only basket of the game, gave Craig a 24-16 lead. The Falcons never got closer than five the rest of the game.
“We had a little trouble with their zone defense early. We missed a lot of easy shots,” Marsden said. “But I was pleased with how we played in the second half.”
Whitney Storbakken gave the Cougars a 28-20 halftime lead when she drilled a wide-open three-pointer to end the half as a Westosha defender fell down. Storbakken finished with 13 points.
“That last possession of the first half really shot us in the foot,” Westosha coach Dan Derler said.
The Cougars opened the second half with 12-0 run, pushing their lead to 40-20 on Benson’s two free throws with 3:34 to go in the quarter. Benson finished with a game-high 17 points.
“My mindset is to score or help my teammates score,” Benson said.
The Falcons, meanwhile, failed to score on their first 12 possessions of the second half. They finally ended the drought on Olsen’s basket at the 3:21 mark, but by that point the game was all but over. Olsen led the Falcons with 12 points.
The Cougars’ biggest lead came at 50-27 when Benson hit two more free throws with 6:24 to play.
“We played good defense today, and that helped create that gap,” Benson said.
The Falcons hit just 13 of 42 shots.
“It was frustrating to watch early in that third quarter,” Derler said. “Craig is just too talented. The better team won today.
“The size they have and the talent they have caught up with us today. They got ahead, and they didn’t let us back in it.”
The Cougars can now turn their attention to a third meeting with Parker after taking the Vikings into overtime in January.
“Everyone wants to talk about that game,” Marsden said. “It’s going to be a great game for the city of Janesville.”
“I’m thrilled for Janesville that we have two teams that are so heavily followed,” Benson said.
CRAIG 55, CENTRAL 36
Central (36)—Hrncar, 1-0-2; Olsen, 5-2-12; Brinkman, 3-0-8; Richter, 0-2-2; Szwedo, 3-0-8; Stroenning, 0-1-1; Sylvester, 1-1-3. Totals: 13-8-17.
Craig (55)—Benson, 4-8-17; Sanchez, 1-1-3; Storbakken, 5-2-13; Straw, 3-2-8; Hilden, 3-0-6; McQueen, 1-0-3; Morgan, 1-3-5. Totals: 18-16-55.
Westosha Central 10 10 7 9—36
Janesville Craig 11 17 18 9—55
Three-point goals—Central 2 (Szwedo 2), Craig 3 (Benson, Storbakken, McQueen). Free throws missed—Central 9, Craig 10. Total fouls— Central 22, Craig 15.