Craig girls' comeback can't overtake Verona
VERONA When she lines up for the team photo, Verona senior guard Aly Bucierka usually is in the front row—the one reserved for the smallest players.
Bucierka played big Monday night, though, in a rescheduled Big Eight Conference girls basketball game against visiting Janesville Craig.
And the Cougars had no answer for the 5-foot-5 sparkplug.
Bucierka scored a career-high 24 points, including a 9-of-10 performance at the free-throw line, to power host Verona to a 50-35 victory that lifted the Wildcats (14-4, 13-3) into sole possession of second place.
The feisty senior guard scored nine points in the first quarter, helping the Wildcats roar to an 18-3 lead.
“That seems to be our trademark this year. We get down almost every game like that,” Craig High coach Mark Marsden said. “Then we battle like crazy to get back in it. The kids did a great job in the second half, and in the middle quarters we outplayed them.”
Craig (6-12, 5-11) pulled within 37-32 with 6:23 left on Emily Hinman’s layup, but Bucierka took over and dashed any hopes the Cougars had to pull out a come-from-behind win.
“It was a good thing she came to play, because we needed every one of her points,” Verona coach Angie Murphy said of Bucierkas’ performance. “After the first quarter, the girls kind of relaxed. I think they thought they had this game.”
But the Cougars made a game of it until Bucierka scored nine of Verona’s final 13 points, including seven of eight free throws.
“Teams focus on Leslie (Schaefer) and Ali (Tackett) and sometimes forget about me,” said Bucierka, who also had seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. “When Leslie posts up, I try to hit her every time. Tonight, it was my turn to pick it up for the team.”
The Cougars missed their first seven shots and committed three turnovers as Verona raced out to a 9-0 lead before Craig junior center Anne Morgan made a layup at the 4:24 mark of the first quarter.
Schaefer added five points in the opening period for Verona, which appeared poised to blow Craig out of the gym by halftime. Schaefer sank a pair of back-to-back field goals in the lane to give the Wildcats a 22-3 lead just 32 seconds into the second period.
Hinman, though, sank a layup with 5:54 left in the period to ignite a 10-0 run and get Craig back in the game.
“We didn’t take care of the ball in the first quarter. We were throwing the ball all over the gym against their trap,” Marsden said of Verona’s full-court press. “We finally settled down and got some easy baskets against it.”
Whitney Storbakken and Morgan led Craig with nine points apiece. Schaefer added 13 for Verona, which travels to Craig for a regular-season finale on Feb. 19.
Morgan can’t wait for the rematch.
“We got within five. We made our run, but we just couldn’t get over the hump at the end,” Morgan said. “But we’ll see them at home next week. We’ll try to remember the good things we did and forget the bad.”
VERONA 50, CRAIG 35
Craig (35)—Smith, 0-1-1; Hamilton, 1-0-3; Kennedy, 2-0-5; Oliver, 1-0-2; McDonald, 1-2-4; Morgan, 4-1-9; Storbakken, 3-0-9; Hinman, 3-0-6. Totals: 14-2-35.
Verona (50)—Bucierka, 7-9-24; Lorbiecki, 2-1-5; Pfeffer, 1-0-2; Schaefer, 6-1-13; Tackett, 1-4-6. Totals: 17-15-50.
Janesville Craig 3 15 10 7—35
Verona 18 10 7 15—50
Three-point goals—Craig 5 (Storbakken 3, Hamilton, Kennedy), Verona 1 (Bucierka). Free throws missed—Craig 2, Verona 7. Total fouls—Craig 20, Verona 8.
Sophomores—Verona 49, Craig 46. Craig is 14-4 overall,12-4 in the Big Eight. Verona is 11-6 overall, 10-5 in the Big Eight. Leading scorers:
Ciarra Sroda (JC), 12; Kristen Yanna (V), 12.