For about six minutes Thursday night, Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team looked a bit lost.
Beloit Memorial’s 1-3-1 zone defense had the Cougars out of position and facing an early deficit.
Once the Cougars broke that zone, however, they never looked back.
They scored 16 straight points in about the next six minutes, got 15 points from senior Aaron Leverson and cruised to a 65-42 road victory at Barkin Arena to open up Big Eight Conference play.
“We got caught a little off guard,” said Leverson, who was an efficient 6 of 8 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line.
“But basically, once we started moving the ball and passing it to the high post, it was easy to find shots.”
Craig improved to 2-0 overall, while Beloit fell to 0-2.
The Purple Knights built a 10-3 lead in the opening four minutes and were up 13-7 on Kobe Chandler’s 3-pointer.
“We just weren’t aligned correctly, and it was pretty loud, so we had some trouble communicating to the other end of the floor,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “We took a timeout and got settled in to where we should be.”
Beloit didn’t score again until a put-back basket with 5:39 left in the half.
And Craig poured in 16 consecutive points in that span, including five from senior Brandon Ronde and eight from senior Jack Huml, who scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
“Another big part of our offense was playing defense, because our defense feeds into our offense,” Leverson said. “We get steals and long rebounds and get out to fast breaks, and that really ruins their zone.”
Leverson hit a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer in the first few minutes of the second half to help ensure that the Purple Knights never threatened a comeback.
McCormick was pleased with his team’s rebounding. Beloit shot under 30 percent from the floor, and the undersized Cougars did their best to limit second chances.
Senior Jacob Lynch had 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench, while senior forward Jake Fieiras hauled in 13 boards.
“We dug in and played better defense after those first few minutes and rebounded well,” McCormick said. “Fieiras was an animal on the boards, and Lynch really played well, too.
“We did a good job on the glass.”
Terrell Ringer led the Knights—who made just 6 of 20 free-throw attempts—with nine points.
Craig will attempt to remain unbeaten when it hosts crosstown rival Janesville Parker at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
CRAIG 65, BELOIT 42
Craig (65)—Huml 4-0-10, Scoville 3-0-6, Bertagnoli 3-1-7, Rizzo 1-0-2, Fieiras 1-0-2, Leverson 6-2-15, Smith 1-0-2, Lynch 1-0-2, Lynch 5-0-10, Ronde 2-2-8, Clark 1-0-2, Harriel 0-1-1. Totals: 27-6-65.
Beloit (42)—France 1-0-2, Ringer 3-2-9, Payne 0-1-1, Cook 3-1-7, Freeman 1-0-3, Bell 1-2-4, Bach 3-0-6, White 3-0-6, Gaines 1-0-2, Boyd 2-0-5, Chandler 1-0-3. Totals: 16-6-42.
Janesville Craig 35 30—65
Beloit Memorial 23 19—42
3-point goals—Craig 5 (Huml 2, Ronde 2, Leverson), Beloit 4 (Chandler, Ringer, Boyd, Freeman). Free throws missed—Craig 5, Beloit 14. Total fouls—Craig 18, Beloit 15.