Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team saved perhaps its best overall team effort of the year for the postseason.
It earned the Cougars a third chance at playing Big Eight Conference rival Madison Memorial.
Four players finished with at least nine points, and No. 11-seeded Craig went on the road to beat No. 6-seeded Lake Geneva Badger 61-42 in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal Friday night.
“I’m very proud of the team for working together and not letting anything get to us,” said Cougars senior Emily Pierson, who scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in a first half to help build a double-digit lead. “Everyone on this team supports each other.
“It’s a team effort in games like this.”
Craig, in beating Badger for a second time this season, earned a trip to play the No. 3-seeded Spartans in Madison tonight. Memorial swept the Cougars in the regular season, but it won one game in overtime and the other by just two points.
Against Badger, Craig never trailed. The Cougars opened the game on a 10-0 run and made five 3-pointers in the first half.
“The last few games, Emily has been huge for us, but teams are going to start concentrating more on her,” Craig head coach Kerry Storbakken said. “I thought tonight, out of 23 games, we were our most balanced. We got contributions from up and down the lineup.”
Cougars starters Claudia Fieiras and Rileigh Elgas, who each finished with 11 points, were each called for three fouls in the first half. And each picked up their fourth in the opening six minutes of the second half before later fouling out.
Junior guard Sarah Gregg and freshman guard Kate Huml picked up added minutes and helped keep the Badgers at bay.
Badger did, however, cut its deficit to just five points, 37-32, with eight minutes to play.
Fieiras returned from the bench to hit a critical 3-pointer that sparked a 14-4 run that helped the Cougars put the game on ice. Elgas had a pair of inside buckets and senior Hannah Dunlavy added four points during that stretch.
“What made this game even more impressive is how we did it with two of our starters out with foul trouble,” Storbakken said. “We told the girls all week that everyone needed to step up and be a threat.”
Craig was also solid from the free-throw line, going 17 of 22 overall and 15 of 18 in the second half.
Badger senior Jada Moss was a force to be reckoned with inside. She scored 25 of her team’s 42 points.
Between defending Moss and attempting to avoid further foul issues, the Cougars went to their 2-3 zone for much of the second half. The Badgers went 1 of 20 from 3-point range, including 1 of 16 in the final 18 minutes.
Craig plays at Memorial at 7 p.m. tonight, exactly one week after the Spartans beat the Cougars, 58-56.
“We’ve been right with them in two games, and it’s hard to beat a team three times, especially with how close they’ve been,” Pierson said. “We just need to keep working together like we did tonight.”
CRAIG 61, BADGER 42
Craig (61)—Gregg 1-2-5, Huml 0-2-2, Pierson 5-4-17, Parkhurst 3-3-9, Elgas 5-1-11, Fieiras 3-2-11, Dunlavy 1-3-6. Totals: 18-17-61.
Badger (42)—Welch 1-0-2, Sproul 1-4-7, Wieseman 4-0-8, Moss 11-3-25. Totals: 17-7-41.
Janesville Craig 29 32—61
Lake Geneva Badger 19 23—42
3-point goals—Craig 8 (Pierson 3, Fieiras 3, Gregg, Dunlavy), Badger 1 (Sproul). Free throws missed—Craig 5, Badger 4. Total fouls—Craig 15, Badger 21. Fouled out—Elgas, Fieiras.