Craig breaks into Big Eight win column
It did not look good for Craig as regulation time wound down, but with 35 second left, Myles Johnson hit a long-range three to tie the game at 51 and push the contest into an overtime.
As the first overtime was coming to an end, with less than a second left and Craig leading 58-56, Middleton’s Seth Coyne drove the lane and threw up a shot. With just .6 of a second left, Craig’s Cody Dare fouled Coyne. Coyne coolly sank both free throws to send the game into a second overtime.
Craig coach Mike Miller said he never doubted the Cougars’ ability to come back when asked if he thought his players might let down after being so close to a win in both regulation and the first overtime.
“No, not at all,” Miller said. “These players never give up, and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. You saw this same intensity and effort against Madison Memorial, and you saw it tonight. They may be down, but they never give up.”
Things finally went Craig’s way in the second overtime period. Myles Johnson started things off with a three and the Cougars led the rest of the way. Middleton’s Connor Wipfli sank a field goal to pull the Cardinals to within one at 61-60 with a minute left, but Craig’s Brett Pickarts responded with a field goal to extend Craig’s lead to 63-60.
A three-point lead is slim indeed against Middleton because of sharpshooter Sonny Bavery. He canned five three-point goals, two from far outside the arc. But the Cougars were able to hold him just one field goal in the two overtimes.
“We were very aware of Bavery, and we put Myles (Johnson), our best defensive player, on him,” Miller said. “Bavery still got his points, but I think we held him down at the end, enough at least to prevent him from winning the game on a long-range three.”
Bavery led all scorers with 19 points and Coyne added 17 for Middleton. Johnson led Craig with 18 and Dare added 14.
The Cougar gym fell silent as the third quarter ended when Middleton built a 43-30 lead. But Craig came back strong in the fourth quarter behind Johnson’s eight-point effort.
The long shot got Craig back into the game in the fourth quarter. In addition to Johnson’s pair of three-pointers, Peter Cooney hit two and Pickarts added one.
The Cougars finished with a dozen three-point goals. Craig outscored Middleton 21-8 in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 51 and send it into overtime.
“The kids played as hard as they possibly could,” Miller said. “We got contributions from everyone who came into the game.
“I thought Myles Johnson stepped up and really did a great job as well as Cody Dare,” Miller said. “We had senior leadership that pulled us through this one.”
The Cougar fans stormed the court when the second overtime buzzer sounded. It was a recognition of the team’s persistence to get Craig’s first Big Eight win of the season.
The fans may have been somewhat surprised that Craig could pull out a close win, but his players were confident, Miller said.
“We’ve been in this situation before, so we’ve talked a lot about just playing hard,” Miller said. “We concentrate on not getting down when things go wrong and not getting too excited when things go right. We knew we had to make plays, and the kids did.”
Craig, 3-14, 1-12 in conference play, hosts cross-town rival Parker on Friday.
“Hopefully we’ll give the same kind of effort against Parker that we gave Middleton tonight,” Miller said.