Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team went the entire season without winning back-to-back Big Eight Conference games.
The Cougars changed that Thursday night.
On the night they were honored before what was likely their final home game, seniors Jacob Ngobi and Blake McCann combined for 27 points to lead Craig to a convincing 62-43 Big Eight win over Verona in the regular-season finale.
Craig got back to the .500 mark at 11-11 and plays at eighth-seeded Kenosha Bradford in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal game next Friday.
The Cougars started slow against the Wildcats, but buoyed by a 12-2 run to end the first half led 25-19 at the break. Verona cut the lead to three early in the second half, but Craig responded with an 11-2 run to pull away.
“There are some things we need to clean up, and we need to shoot the ball better, especially those short-range shots, but I’m overall pretty pleased with how we’re playing right now,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “I feel like we’ll take some confidence into the tournament and are capable of playing with anybody.
“Tonight, we started slow, but then made that nice run and kept the pressure on. I was really proud of the effort we got from our seniors, and I thought our bench did a nice job, too.”
With Verona leading 14-13 and six minutes left in the first half, Craig went on a 12-2 run to take control. McCann’s three-point play gave Craig a 20-14 lead with 3:21 left in the half, and Ngobi’s 3-pointer from the corner with 1:40 left pushed the lead to 25-16.
“We missed quite a few bunnies early on,” McCormick said. “We had good movement and got good looks but just couldn’t finish.
“The second half we got into a nice rhythm offensively and got the 3-ball to fall.”
Leading 38-33, Craig went on an 11-0 run to put the Wildcats away. Jack Huml hit back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 13 with 5:46 left, and Seve Bertagnoli splashed another 3 on the next possession as the lead ballooned to 49-33.
Huml finished with 12 points off the bench, and Bertagnoli added eight. Senior Luke Malmanger had 11 rebounds.
“We’ve got a great group of guys that really enjoy being around each other, and that’s what makes this job so much fun,” McCormick said. “And now it’s a new season, and we’ll go into it with a confident group of guys.”
CRAIG 62, VERONA 43
Verona (43)—Clements 4-3-12; Klawitter 1-0-3; Reilly 3-0-9; Kemper 5-0-10; Golden 2-0-4; Pederson 1-0-2; Risgaard 1-0-3. Totals: 17-3-43.
Craig (62)—McCann 6-1-13; Ngobi 5-2-14; Bertagnoli 3-0-8; Malmanger 2-0-4; Huml 4-2-12; Lynch 0-2-2; Fieiras 1-0-2; Christiansen 1-0-2; Smith 1-0-3. Totals: 23-9-62.
Verona 19 24—43
Janesville Craig 25 32—62
3-point goals—Verona 6 (Reilly 3, Clements, Klawitter, Risgaard), Craig 7 (Huml 2, Ngobi 2, Bertagnoli 2, Smith). Free throws missed—Verona 3, Craig 4. Total fouls—Verona 16, Craig 15.