JANESVILLE — The formula for success was a simple one for Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team last season.
Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, win the toss-up games, and stay competitive with the elite teams.
Following that game plan, the Cougars won a school-record 20 games. Craig’s only losses a year ago were to Division 1 state-runnerup Middleton (twice), Franklin (17-9), Verona (18-7) and Janesville Parker (15-9).
Coach Kerry Storbakken hopes for more of the same heading this season, which begins Friday night at home against Madison West.
“I’m hoping we can compete with the top tier in our league (Big Eight),” Storbakken said. “We’re fast and athletic, and we’ve got pretty good size up front. And I like our depth coming off the bench.
“My biggest concern is that we’ve got a lot of minutes to replace from last year. We don’t have too many players that logged many varsity minutes.”
Storbakken said who is starting and who is not starting is irrelevant. He believes the Cougars can go as many as 12 deep in the rotation, making for spirited practices.
“We’ve had great practices because the girls know that everybody is going to get a chance to play and contribute,” Storkbakken said.
“Our goal is to use our depth, and play fast each and every game. We’re going to keep coming after teams for four quarters to try and wear them down.”
Six seniors will be asked to provide not only the bulk of the scoring, but leadership, as well. Seniors Michaela Holzhuter and Emilie O’Donnell are three-point threats, while Brooke Negus, Kylee Kennedy and Grace Van Veldhuisen will set up shop in the post. Kennedy is 6-foot tall, while Van Veldhuisen is 5-10 and Negus 5-9. Storbakken calls 5-3 senior guard Stephanie Perleberg one of the most improved players on the team.
“A couple of those girls have been with me for four years, going back to when I was the sophomore coach,” Storbakken said. “They know what I expect, and there’s great continuity with that group.”
Storbakken’s junior class is also solid. Kristi Crandall will likely open at point guard, while 5-10 Regan Sitorius and 5-11 Katie Villa provide quality depth in the post. Junior Maddie Philipps is a reliable backcourt option, and juniors Tati March and Stephanie Potter also add depth in the backcourt.
Sophomore’s Alli Calkins and Nicole Kelly—both 5-10—are excellent athletes who will press for playing time in the post.
“I think team chemistry is huge, no matter what sport you’re playing, and our’s has been good,” Storbakken said.
“I don’t know if we can win 20 games again, but I didn’t think we would win 20 a year ago, so you never know. I know we’re excited to get going, and we jump right into the fire with our first game being a conference game.”
(7:30 p.m. starting time unless indicated)
DECEMBER: 2—Madison West; 8—At Verona; 13—Sun Prairie; 16—Beloit Memorial; 20—At Madison La Follette; 27—Oregon (Optimist Classic), 7:45 p.m.; 28—Appleton North or Pulaski (Optimist Classic), TBD.
JANUARY: 7—At Middleton; 10—Madison Memorial; 13—Janesville Parker; 21—At Madison West; 23—At Madison East; 27—Verona.
FEBRUARY: 2—At Sun Prairie; 4—At Beloit Memorial; 7—At Stoughton; 10—Madison La Follette; 16—At Madison Memorial; 18—Middleton; 24—At Janesville Parker; 27—Oconomowoc.