Last Saturday, Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team played its worst game of the season.
The Cougars were lifeless in a double-digit loss to Verona, which at the time occupied the Big Eight Conference cellar.
They came back to life this week.
Three days after winning a triple-overtime game at Mount Horeb, Angelo Rizzo and Caleb Scoville combined for 51 points to lead Craig to a 70-65 upset win over eighth-ranked Sun Prairie.
The Cougars trailed by nine in the first half but owned the second half in improving to 9-8 overall and 6-7 in the Big Eight. Craig scored 43 points in the second half.
Sun Prairie saw its three-game winning streak snapped in falling to 8-3 in the conference and out of second place.
Rizzo led all scorers with 29 points, including two critical free throws with 9 seconds left that made it a two-possession game.
The junior said the Cougars never lost faith.
“Everybody was kind of down after the Verona game, but we knew we were better than that and had a chance to prove it this week,” Rizzo said.
“We got that big win over Mount Horeb on Tuesday, and tonight, even when we got down the first half, we knew we could play with them.
“They shot really well the first time we played them, but we also know we’re a good shooting team. The second half it all came together for us.”
Craig trailed 35-27 at half and still trailed by six with 11:10 left.
The Cougars then went on a 9-0 run to take a 50-47 lead with 8:02 to play. Rizzo capped the run with a 3-pointer.
Sun Prairie quickly tied the game at 50-50 and took its last lead of the game with 7:31 left.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch before Craig took the lead for good at 59-58 on a Scoville free throw with 3:49 to play. Scoville finished with 22 points.
Leading by four, Scoville made two more free throws with 17 seconds left to push the lead to 68-62.
Coming off the victory at Mount Horeb, Craig coach Ben McCormick figured his team would play well against the Cardinals.
“I know if there were a lot of people out there that didn’t give us much of a chance tonight, but no one in our locker room thought that,” McCormick said. “These guys have never stopped believing, and they know that when we get it going on the offensive end like we did that second half, we can play with anybody. It’s not lip service.
“That’s a really good team we just beat. We had a good plan coming in, and our guys executed it well.”
Craig will need to keep the momentum rolling, as it plays at unbeaten and top-ranked Madison La Follette on Thursday.
CRAIG 70, SUN PRAIRIE 65
Sun Prairie (65)—Schaefer 5-3-15; Hale 1-0-3; Hughes 2-0-4; Olson 2-0-5; Ostrenga 3-2-8; Ware 3-2-8; Luster 6-1-15; Radlund 2-0-5; Carpenter 0-2-2. Totals: 24-10-65
Craig (70)—Harriel 3-3-9; Scoville 9-4-22; Rizzo 11-4-29; Brown 1-0-2; Hughes 2-1-6; Halverson 1-0-2. Totals: 27-12-70
Sun Prairie 35 30—65
Janesville Craig 27 43—70
3-point goals—Sun Prairie 7 (Luster 2, Schaefer 2, Hale, Olson, Radlund), Craig 4 (Rizzo 3, Hughes). Free throws missed—Sun Prairie 3, Craig 4. Total fouls—Sun Prairie 17, Craig 14