Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team needed about 27 minutes to shake off the holiday rust Friday night.
The Cougars went more than two weeks without playing a game, and they struggled to find a rhythm early in their return to the court against winless Madison West.
But they scored 14 straight points during one stretch of the second half and pulled away from the Regents, winning the Big Eight Conference contest 53-42 on Bob Suter Court.
Craig improved to 5-5 overall and 4-4 in league play. West fell to 0-10 and 0-8.
“We just rushed so much early. We didn’t have any patience to start the game,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “The first half, offensively, that was about as bad as we’ve played all year.
“We didn’t know if it was the time off or our substitution patterns. We just struggled to find a rhythm.”
Defensively, the Cougars were fine, as they allowed the Regents to make just 7 of 34 shot attempts in the first half. But West grabbed eight offensive rebounds and trailed just 23-16.
Craig’s offensive struggles carried over to start the second half, when it turned the ball over on four straight possessions.
The Regents got within one point three separate times but never forged a tie or gained a lead. The Cougars led 33-31 with about eight minutes left when they went on their 14-0 run to finally pull away.
Senior forward Luke Malmanger, returning to the lineup after a long absence due to injury, scored four of the first six points during that stretch and finished with 10 total.
“We did a much better job on the boards in the second half,” McCormick said. “Luke played well, and Seve (Bertagnoli) was really tough. He played with good energy.”
Bertagnoli went 8-for-8 from the line and added 11 rebounds. Senior Blake McCann was the Cougars’ leading scorer with 18 points—nine coming in each half.
On a night when an offensive flow was hard to come by, Craig did much of its damage at the stripe. The Cougars were 18 of 21 from the line overall.
West got a team-high nine points from Chamar Reed.
Craig plays on the road against Verona in a conference game Thursday night.
CRAIG 53, WEST 42
West (42)—E. Thompson 2-0-5, Reed 4-1-9, McCray 3-0-6, Shanklin 3-2-8, Grosse 1-1-4, Wollaeger 1-1-3, D. Thompson 0-1-1, Brown 1-0-3, Patton 1-0-3. Totals: 16-6-42.
Craig (53)—McCann 7-3-18, Huml 1-0-2, Bertagnolli 0-8-8, Ngobi 4-0-8, Malmanger 2-6-10, Lynch 2-0-4, Ronde 1-0-2, Scoville 0-1-1. Totals: 17-18-53.
Madison West 16 26—42
Janesville Craig 23 30—53
3-point goals—West 4 (E. Thompson, Grosse, Brown, Patton), Craig 1 (McCann). Free throws missed—West 2, Craig 3. Total fouls—West 18, Craig 10. Fouled out—McCray.