On Sunday night, the calendar will flip to 2018.
On Thursday, the Janesville Craig girls basketball team turned back time.
The program used an often-stifling 2-3 zone defense to make runs to WIAA sectional final games in two of the past three seasons. But with a young, guard-heavy lineup, this year’s Cougars spent most of their first eight games playing man-to-man.
Against Stoughton in the championship game of Craig’s host Optimist Invitational tournament, the zone reemerged. It frustrated the Vikings into making just 3 of their first 30 shot attempts, and the Cougars built a 21-point first-half lead on the way to a 61-45 victory.
Craig is 6-3 heading into the new year. Stoughton fell to 9-3.
“It was really fun. We all had such high energy and everything was clicking,” Craig sophomore guard Brooke Parkhurst said of the first-half success. “We haven’t done the 2-3 in a while, but it was really good tonight.
“I don’t know how it worked, but it did.”
It was so good that Stoughton was just 3 of 27 from the field in the first half, and the Vikings at one point went 13 minutes without making a basket.
“They jumped out 5-0 by dribble-driving, so we had to try something,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “We tried the 2-3 and then just stuck with it. We have it and we practice it every night, but we’re more of a man team.”
Craig used momentum from the defensive end of the floor to break out offensively.
The Cougars trailed 10-7 with 12:29 left in the first half, but they hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions to spark an 18-0 run.
Junior Emily Pierson had 13 of her game-high 18 points in the first half, and Parkhurst had half of her 12.
The Cougars led 36-15 at halftime despite sophomore Cassie Goswick, tied for the team lead with Pierson in scoring, sitting all but three minutes in foul trouble. Storbakken credited sophomores Sarah Gregg and Abbey Schrader for pitching in key minutes.
“We just said to pretend it was 0-0 and to come out strong,” Parkhurst said of the team’s halftime mentality. “Because we knew they (Stoughton) would.”
The Vikings turned up the defensive pressure to cut their deficit to 10 points, 47-37, on a banked 3-pointer with 8:14 left in the game.
But Craig freshman Claudia Fieiras drove in for a bucket to make sure the lead never got to single digits. Parkhurst followed with a free throw on the Cougars’ next trip, and Goswick scooped in a shot for a quick 5-0 spurt that eased some of the pressure.
Stoughton, which got 11 points from three different players, never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
And now the Cougars, with one junior and four sophomores in the starting lineup, will carry a 6-3 mark into 2018, where they’ll have back-to-back Big Eight Conference home games beginning Thursday against Madison Memorial.
“The kids are feeling really good right now,” Storbakken said. “They’re so young that they just go out and play. What you see in games is how they practice. This is a good way to end 2017.”
“We’ve done a lot better than expected,” Parkhurst added. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”
Milton tops Tremper—The Milton girls basketball team raced out to a 17-point lead and beat Kenosha Tremper 74-49 in the consolation game of the Optimist tournament.
Emma Martin and Chloe Buescher scored 14 points apiece, and Kailey Harbort added a dozen for the Red Hawks, who were 18 of 20 from the free-throw line.
Milton is 7-3 and hosts Badger South Conference unbeaten Monroe on Jan. 5.
CRAIG 61, STOUGHTON 45
Stoughton (45)—Bach 4-0-11, Kissling 2-6-11, Nelson 0-2-2, Trieloff 1-1-3, Halverson 3-4-11, Baker 1-2-4, Ashworth 1-1-3. Totals: 12-16-45.
Craig (61)—Gregg 2-0-5, Pierson 5-5-18, Parkhurst 4-4-12, Elgas 1-1-3, Fieiras 2-2-7, Goswick 3-2-9, Dunlavy 2-0-6, Schrader 0-1-1. Totals: 19-15-61.
Stoughton 15 30—45
Janesville Craig 36 25—61
3-point goals—Stoughton 5 (Bach 3, Kissling, Halverson), Craig 8 (Pierson 3, Dunlavy 2, Gregg, Goswick, Fieiras). Free throws missed—Stoughton 3, Craig 7. Total fouls—Stoughton 22, Craig 15. Fouled out—Trieloff, Halverson, Goswick.
MILTON 74, TREMPER 49
Tremper (49)—Pacetti 2-0-4, Ester 4-3-12, Hoyle 2-0-4, Verhegen 2-2-6, Lynn 1-0-3, McGonegle 2-0-4, Coshun 6-4-16. Totals: 19-9-49.
Milton (74)—Honold 1-0-3, Martin 5-2-14, Albrecht 3-0-8, Buescher 5-4-14, Randall 2-2-6, Harbort 3-6-12, Hanke 1-0-3, A. Campion 1-0-2, Steinke 0-2-2, Stuckey 1-0-2, Falk 1-0-2, K. Campion 2-2-6. Totals: 25-18-74.
Kenosha Tremper 26 23—49
3-point goals—Tremper 2 (Ester, Lynn), Milton 6 (Martin 2, Albrecht 2, Honold, Hanke). Free throws missed—Tremper 5, Milton 2. Total fouls—Tremper 16, Milton 11.