Cooney’s half-court shot downs Beloit
Peter Cooney found nothing but net with an improbable half-court shot at the buzzer in overtime that gave Craig a 56-55 Big Eight Conference victory and a memory that will last Cooney a lifetime.
“It was supposed to go inside,” Cooney said of the ball on Craig’s final possession with 3.1 seconds remaining and trailing Beloit, 55-53. “But it didn’t, and the ball was passed to me.’’
In desperation Cooney let the ball fly from the far right of the half-court line.
“I saw it go in, and I just fell to the floor,” Cooney said. “I thought it had a chance to go in.’’
Cooney’s shot zipped through the net as the buzzer sounded, touching off a wave of students charging Cooney, who wound up under the pile of happy fans.
“I couldn’t breathe under that pile,” Cooney said. “It was something.’’
Cooney made three three-point baskets to finish with 12 points, while Brett Pickarts scored a team-high 15 points for Craig.
Craig coach Mike Miller said Cooney’s shot had a chance.
“Yes,” Miller said. “We actually play a shooting game where we take half-court shots. The last one, we played, he made his half court shot. He actually does take those sometimes and he’s pretty good at hitting them.”
The victory was reminiscent of past battles in the storied Beloit-Craig rivalry.
“This has always been a great rivalry,” Miller said. “I talked about that and I don’t think the kids really understood the rivalry. I talked about that before the game today about how hard Beloit would come out and play and how it was going to be a physical and difficult game.’’
Pickarts gave Craig a 53-51 lead in the OT, but Beloit made four of six free throws to lead 55-53 with 13 seconds remaining.
Craig missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds left, but got the ball back with 3.1 seconds when Beloit botched an in-bounds play. That set the stage for Cooney.
The big benefit of Cooney’s unforgettable heroics is Craig finally is in the win column. The victory improved the Cougars to 1-2 in the Big Eight and 1-5 overall.
“We had a streak of bad luck, and it was nice to have something good happen,” Miller said. “This victory should really help us as we move forward.’’
The Cougars rolled to a 17-12 first-quarter lead, but were held to three points in the second quarter to trail 26-20 at the half and 38-31 after three quarters.
Beloit stretched its lead to 40-31 to open the fourth quarter, but the Cougars rallied with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 40-36 with 6:27 to play.
In the final two minutes of regulation, Cooney hit three straight free throws after drawing a foul attempting a three-point shot to cut Beloit’s lead 47-45.
Pickarts tied it 47-47 with two free throws with 1:32 remaining. Sophomore Andre Neal, who finished with a game-high 25 points, sank a pair of free throws at 1:33 to give Beloit a 49-47 lead.
Cameron Wright’s lay-up with 56 seconds remaining tied it a 49, but Damont Green hit a driving lay up with 22 second left to put Beloit up 51-49.
Craig sophomore Jerry Ngobi, who finished with 10 points, stepped up and hit two free throws with 10 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime, 51-51.
“I had to make them, and I had to concentrate,” Ngobi said of his pressure-packed free throws. “It paid off.’’
CRAIG 56, BELOIT 55
Beloit (55)—Zibert, 2-2-6; Edwards, 1-1-3; Green, 4-0-9; Berry, 1-0-2; Cabrera, 5-0-10; Neal, 9-5-25. Totals: 22-8-55.
Craig (56)—Ngobi, 2-5-10; Sarow, 1-0-2; Malmanger, 1-0-2; Olson, 0-2-2; Cooney, 3-3-12; Pickarts, 5-3-15; Foster, 2-3-7; Wright, 2-1-5; Eden, 0-1-1. Totals 16-18-56.
Beloit Memorial 12 15 12 10 4—55
Janesville Craig 17 3 11 19 5—56
Three-point goals—Beloit 3 (Green, Neal 2), Craig 6 (Ngobi, Cooney 3, Pickarts 2). Free throws missed—Beloit 8, Craig 10. Total fouls—Beloit 15, Craig 19. Fouled out—Sarow.