Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team restored its identity and regained its footing Friday night.
The Cougars communicated well, locked into a man-to-man pressing defense that forced Middleton into 22 turnovers and shared the ball well.
It all added up to the end of five-game losing streak and a rare sweep of the Cardinals after a 64-49 win at Craig High.
Craig (8-9 overall) improved to 5-8 in the Big Eight Conference and swept the season series against the Cardinals for the first time since 2005-06. Middleton fell to 10-6 and 8-4.
“It started with defense,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “These kids can play it. They kept Middleton out of the lane on the dribble drive and played with toughness, urgency and attitude.”
A back-and-forth first half saw Craig leading 29-23 at halftime. The Cougars, using a full-court press off made baskets, forced 11 turnovers each half.
But Craig suffered from a cold night of outside shooting. It was 2-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half and missed its first four attempts in the second.
Middleton’s 1-3-1 extended zone dared the Cougars to keep shooting from outside, and the Cardinals scored the first eight points out of halftime for a 31-29 lead.
“We were shooting about 55 percent inside the arc in the first half and had the lead,” Storbakken said. “We just kind of said, ‘Hey, good things happen when you go inside.’ And then we knocked down some big 3s toward the end.”
It was 32-32 when junior Brooke Parkhurst made a long two-point jumper that gave Craig the lead for good with over 11 minutes left.
The Cougars were up 45-40 with under six minutes left when they corralled an offensive rebound and found sophomore Hannah Dunlavy for a 3-pointer.
“We’re all very close and always cheer each other on, and we really just focused on communication,” said Dunlavy, who finished with 13 points. “We talk a lot, because we’re really close. But we just needed to communicate on the court, and we did.
“We finally started to talk and help each other.”
Middleton got back within five points once more but got no closer.
Craig sealed the game at the free-throw line. It made the front end of three bonus three times around the four-minute mark to extend the lead to nine, and the Cougars were 21 of 25 from the stripe overall.
Six-footer Sitori Tanin led the Cardinals with 18 points.
Junior guard Emily Pierson paced Craig with 16, while Goswick added a dozen and Parkhurst and Rileigh Elgas had nine each.
Dunlavy said ending the losing streak was key heading into a week that features the crosstown rivalry rematch at Janesville Parker on Thursday.
“Before the game, I said we needed this going into Parker next week,” Dunlavy said. “We needed a win get our morale and our confidence back up.”
CRAIG 64, MIDDLETON 49
Middleton (49)—Lemirande 3-2-10; Coleman 1-0-2; P. Tanin 1-1-4; S. Tanin 7-4-18; Dunn 0-4-4; Burac 1-0-2; Staples 1-2-4; Slottmeyer 1-2-4; White 0-1-1. Totals: 15-16-49
Craig (64)—Pierson 4-6-16; Parkhurst 2-5-9; Elgas 3-3-9; Fieras 2-1-5; Goswick 4-2-12; Dunlavy 4-4-13. Totals: 19-21-64
Middleton 23 26—49
Janesvlle Craig 29 35—64
Three-point goals—Middleton 3 (Lemirande 2, T. Tanin), Craig 5 (Pierson 2, Goswick 2, Dunlavy). Free throws missed—Middleton 13, Craig 4. Total fouls—Middleton 22, Craig 20. Fouled out—Elgas.