Craig nearly erases a 17-point deficit but falls in sectional
BURLINGTON Desperate to keep its season alive, the Janesville Craig boys basketball team nearly clawed all the way back from a 17-point second-half deficit.
Mukwonago’s sharp-shooting first half was simply too much to overcome.
Dominic Cizaukas’ put-back layup with just under two minutes remaining quelled the Cougars’ dramatic late run and the Indians used free throws to hold on for an 80-69 victory in Thursday’s sectional semifinal.
“We knew we could come back with defense, and we worked as hard as we possibly could,” Craig junior Nolan Maresch said. “We just couldn’t get open shots. They were tough on defense, and we just didn’t execute.”
The two teams could not have played two more different-looking halves.
The first lasted roughly 20 minutes and included just six total fouls as the Indians raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter thanks to prolific 3-point shooting.
Mostly against a zone defense, Mukwonago sunk 7 of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
“They came out and shot the ball extremely well, and in the tapes we had, they hadn’t shot that well,” Craig coach Mike Miller said.
“We’ve done that one other night this year, and we’ll light it up in practice once in a while,” Mukwonago coach Jim Haasser said. “On their side, I’m sure they were saying, ‘They can’t shoot it like that forever.’”
They didn’t. In fact, Mukwonago attempted just one deep shot in the second half. Also by contrast, the third and fourth quarters took about 50 minutes and featured 30 fouls.
A put-back by Cizaukas with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter built Mukwonago’s lead to a game-high 17 points.
“We did a decent job of finishing possessions,” Haasser said. “Rebounding is on the board twice in there (the locker room), and we doubled them up, 36-18. We knew that was going to be a huge key.”
Trailing by 15 entering the final quarter, the Cougars opened up with a 9-1 run to get back within striking distance.
Senior point guard Troy Malmanger led the way at both ends of the floor and scored eight of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter. His two free throws, following back-to-back 3-pointers by junior Mike Murphy, made it 68-64 with 2:27 remaining.
“This has been a great senior group and a great team,” Miller said. “They were just out there battling and doing their job.”
But Cizauskas’ aforementioned put-back ended that spurt, the Indians tightened up defensively and they converted 7 of their next 8 free throws to seal the victory.
“I’m proud of my kids because they battled the whole game and played hard,” Miller said. “I just thanked them for all their effort.”
Craig finished the season 14-11. Mukwonago improved to 21-4 and will play Madison Memorial at Sun Prairie on Saturday afternoon for a trip to state.
MUKWONAGO 80, CRAIG 69
Craig (69)—Ngobi, 4-3-12; Malmanger, 6-7-20; Maresch, 3-0-8; Schumacher, 1-0-2; Murphy, 6-0-16; Foster, 3-3-10; Carlson, 0-1-1. Totals: 23-14-69.
Mukwonago (80)—Nixon, 2-11-16; Blohm, 3-5-11; Brecklin, 1-0-2; Bricco, 4-2-13; Danecki, 1-0-3; Cizaukas, 8-1-17; Tanguay, 5-6-18. Totals: 23-25-80.
Janesville Craig 9 17 16 27—69
Mukwonago 21 14 22 23—80
Three-point goals—Craig 9 (Murphy 4, Maresch 2, Malmanger, Ngobi, Foster), Mukwonago 7 (Bricco 3, Tanguay 2, Danecki, Nixon). Free throws missed—Craig 3, Mukwonago 10. Total fouls—Craig 21, Mukwonago 15. Fouled out—Ngobi, Foster, Tanguay.