The emotions in the Janesville Craig locker room Friday night did not typify those of a team that spent most of the second half trailing by double digits.
Cougars head coach Ben McCormick could not find fault in his players’ effort. But for a good portion of the night, they simply couldn’t buy a bucket.
Craig shot just 23 percent in the first 23 minutes and could not recover in a 72-64 loss to visiting Sun Prairie in a Big Eight Conference boys basketball game.
The Cougars (4-1, 3-1 Big Eight) suffered their first loss of the season.
“This is probably the most upbeat locker room I’ve been in after a loss,” McCormick said. “I just thought our guys really battled to the end and competed. We were down 19 and cut it to six.
“We had guys come off the bench, got stops and turnovers.
“But the ball just did not go in the hoop tonight.”
Craig scored the first seven points of the game and connected on 5 of its first 12 shot attempts in taking a 14-9 lead.
Between that point and five minutes into the second half, however, the Cougars made just 4 of their next 27 attempts. From layups to open 3-pointers, the Cougars simply couldn’t connect.
“We had some shots right around the basket,” McCormick said. “We took decent shots. Sometimes they just don’t go in.”
A 21-7 run to end the half gave the Cardinals a 30-21 lead at the break.
“They hit a 3 at the end of the first half to get it to nine, and I don’t think that helped,” said McCormick, whose team was without senior guard Jack Huml due to injury.
Sun Prairie then made 5 of their first 7 shots in the second half—while the Cougars missed 5 of their first 6—to lead 42-25 with 13:06 remaining.
The lead grew to 19 multiple times over the next seven minutes, though a spirited Craig effort helped the Cougars close within single digits in the final minute.
Brock Voigt scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the second half for Sun Prairie. Alex Voigt added 12, and Brendan Wherley hit three of the team’s nine 3-pointers on the way to 11.
Senior Aaron Leverson scored 16 for Craig, while Seve Bertagnoli had 13 and Jacob Lynch and Brandon Ronde pitched in 10 each.
“We’re pretty upbeat,” McCormick said. “We’re not hanging our heads. We’ll get back to work.”
Craig plays at Madison La Follette on Thursday.
SUN PRAIRIE 72, CRAIG 64
Sun Prairie (72)—Williams 2-3-7, Auston 2-1-7, B. Voigt 6-6-19, Hughes 1-5-8, A. Voigt 5-0-12, Wherley 4-0-11, Hale 1-0-2, Nelson 1-4-6. Totals: 22-19-72.
Craig (64)—Christiansen 1-0-2, Scoville 1-0-2, Bertagnoli 5-0-13, Fieiras 3-2-8, Leverson 4-7-16, Smith 1-0-3, Lynch 5-0-10, Ronde 4-0-10. Totals: 24-9-64.
Sun Prairie; 30 42—72
Janesville Craig 21 43—64
3-point goals—Sun Prairie 9 (Wherley 3, A. Voigt 2, Auston 2, Hughes, B. Voigt), Craig 7 (Bertagnoli 3, Ronde 2, Leverson, Smith). Free throws missed—Sun Prairie 9, Craig 3. Total fouls—Sun Prairie 16, Craig 19.