Blake McCann believes Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team is capable of making a late-season run if it can put an end to slow starts in games.
The senior and his Cougars teammates had no problem getting out of the gate against their crosstown rivals Friday night.
McCann scored 18 of his 26 points in a strong first half in which Craig dominated the glass and shared the ball well offensively, and the Cougars never trailed in an 80-53 Big Eight Conference victory at Janesville Parker.
Craig is now 8-9 overall and 7-7 in league play. The Vikings fell to 2-16 and 1-13.
“The last game we really struggled at Mount Horeb, so it was nice to get going,” McCann said. “We’ve been coming out slow, especially the away games. It was really nice to come out fast, and a lot of guys stepped up, which is awesome.”
Parker kept within striking distance until the final five minutes of the first half.
Craig led 28-21 when senior Jacob Ngobi—who finished with 11 points—scored on a put-back to start an 11-2 run to close out the half. Junior Jacob Lynch, who got the start and scored 10 points, added a layup off a feed from Luke Malmanger, and McCann followed with a put-back and a 3-pointer off a pass from Ngobi.
“We’ve had a little bit of history here lately with starting slowly, but this game is easy for guys to get up for,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said of the rivalry matchup. “That was the best game we’ve played in terms of sharing the basketball, everyone playing hard and the guys on the bench cheering. A great overall team effort.”
Craig outrebounded Parker 26-9 in the first half on the way to a 39-23 lead at the break.
Parker struggled to keep McCann in check, as he went 10 of 20 from the floor in the game. Vikings head coach Keith Miller also lamented that his team struggled to get back defensively and took too many 3-pointers (the Vikings were 11 of 28 from beyond the arc).
Senior Chris Galvan, who entered the game fifth in the Big Eight in scoring at 17.6 points per game, was whistled for three first-half fouls and did not score.
“We settled for 3s and shot way too many 3s and didn’t have enough urgency getting back on defense,” Miller said. “What makes Blake even better is that his teammates find him in a position to score. They make the extra pass, and he does the same. He’s quick to return the favor.”
Parker junior AJ Thompson—who scored a team-high 15 points—made his third 3-pointer of the game with 11:35 remaining to cut the Vikings’ deficit to 13, 48-35.
Craig responded with a 13-0 run that put to rest any thoughts of a comeback. McCann started the spurt with a transition layup off a feed from junior Jack Huml and ended it with his fourth 3-pointer of the night. In between, Seve Bertagnoli had a three-point play, Malmanger hit Lynch for another layup and Ngobi buried a 3.
The Cougars went deep into their bench shortly thereafter, and 12 different players wound up scoring as they swept the season series with their rivals.
McCann said Craig now must find a way to consistently string together strong performances.
“I just want to keep this going,” McCann said. “We haven’t won back-to-back games yet this year, and we should. Some games we play great, and some games we lay goose eggs. I think we can get it going now. We’ve just got to start out fast every game.”
Craig plays at Burlington in a nonconference game Monday night. Parker plays at Middleton on Thursday.
CRAIG 80, PARKER 53
Craig (80)—McCann 10-2-26, Huml 0-1-1, Bertagnoli 3-2-8, Ngobi 4-1-11, Malmanger 2-0-4, Lynch 5-0-10, Christensen 1-2-4, Rizzo 3-0-7, Scoville 1-1-3, Stried 0-2-2, Smith 1-0-2, Fieiras 1-0-2. Totals: 31-11-80.
Parker (53)—Dahlke 1-0-2, DeLong 2-0-6, Biba 2-2-6, Thompson 5-2-15, Bowers 1-0-3, Ellison 3-0-9, Curry 4-0-9, Stricklin 1-0-3. Totals: 19-4-53.
Janesville Craig 39 41—80
Janesville Parker 23 30—53
3-point goals—Craig 7 (McCann 4, Ngobi 2, Rizzo), Parker 11 (Thompson 3, Ellison 3, DeLong 2, Curry, Stricklin, Bowers). Free throws missed—Craig 6, Parker 5. Total fouls—Craig 15, Parker 16.