Madison Memorial’s girls basketball team made sure it didn’t need a comeback this time.
The Spartans, who rallied twice from second-half, double-digit deficits against Janesville Craig in the regular season, nearly led wire-to-wire in Friday’s WIAA Division 1 tournament opener.
Sophomore standout Leilani Kapinus scored a game-high 22 points, and the sixth-seeded Spartans beat the visiting 11th-seeded Cougars 54-42.
Craig finished the year with an 11-12 record.
“I thought Memorial came out with a lot of energy,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “Our kids definitely played hard, but Memorial came with it for 36 minutes.
“Sometimes they have two different gears. They were in their top gear all night tonight.”
The Cougars led briefly in the opening minutes, but Liliana Garcia’s driving layup to make it 9-7 with more than 13 minutes left in the first half put Memorial ahead for good.
The shot sparked a 6-0 spurt. The Cougars turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and trailed 28-20 at the break.
“Too many turnovers and too many missed shots,” said Storbakken, whose team finished with just 11 made baskets. “In the Verona game (to close the regular season), we hit shots in the second half. Tonight we never got going.”
Memorial used another 6-0 run early in the second half to go up by 12.
At one point, Craig forced four consecutive turnovers but couldn’t close the gap any closer than six points.
The Cougars got within 48-42 with 1:33 remaining, and they earned a trip to the line to get even closer but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Kapinus, the only Spartans player to score more than six points, made a free throw at the other end to get back to a three-possession lead.
Sophomore Cassie Goswick led Craig with 16 points, while junior Emily Pierson added a dozen.
“We had our chances,” Storbakken said. “We told them in the locker room that we’re young, and we’re going to expect to be near the top of the conference next season. We’ll be juniors and seniors next year instead of freshmen and sophomores.”
Memorial will play at third-seeded Madison East in a regional final Saturday.
MEMORIAL 54, CRAIG 42
Craig (42)—Pierson 2-6-12, Parkhurst 0-1-1, Fieiras 3-0-7, Goswick 4-5-16, Dunlavy 2-2-6. Totals: 11-14-42.
Memorial (42)—Kinney 1-0-3, Kapinus 8-4-22, Wilson 2-0-5, Brown 2-1-5, Rankins 2-2-6, Garcia 3-0-6, Rosales 1-0-2, Peters 1-0-3, Enemuoh 1-0-2. Totals: 21-7-54.
Janesville Craig 20 22—44
Madison Memorial 28 26—54
3-point goals—Craig 6 (Goswick 3, Pierson 2, Fieiras), Memorial 5 (Kapinus 2, Kinney, Wilson, Peters). Free throws missed—Craig 6, Memorial 8. Total fouls—Craig 20, Memorial 19. Fouled out—Parkhurst.