Jack Huml and Janesville Craig simply want to peak at the right time.
With a statement victory now under their belts, the Cougars just may have set the tone for the stretch run of the season.
Huml, a senior guard, scored seven of his game-high 29 points in overtime as Craig rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit to beat No. 6-ranked Madison La Follette 73-70 in overtime Saturday night on Bob Suter Court.
Craig improved to 9-9 overall and 6-9 in the Big Eight Conference, while dropping the Lancers to 13-4 and 11-3.
“That was so much fun,” said Huml, who made six 3-pointers. “I think they’re probably the best offensive team in the conference right now, and we held them to 70 in overtime. Defense has been a problem for us lately, and we stepped up on that end.
“We’ve been saying constantly that we just need to peak at the end of the season going into the playoffs. That’s all that matters.”
Saturday’s game was a classic that saw 10 lead changes and four ties over the final eight minutes of regulation and overtime.
Trailing 71-70 in the final minute, Huml hit a floater from the elbow that gave the Cougars the lead for good.
La Follette missed a pair of chances at the opposite end, and Huml made two free throws to make it a three-point game. The Lancers missed a 3-pointer, and Craig ran out the clock before celebrating in front of its own bench.
“This was a big win for us. We needed it after getting pummeled a little bit by Sun Prairie,” senior forward Brandon Ronde said. “We always just talk about the mentality to keep it up, and we have to do that from here on out.”
Ronde was the catalyst in the second half.
Despite building an 11-point first-half lead, the Cougars trailed 31-28 at the break. And the Lancers pushed their lead to 12, 45-33, with 13:35 remaining.
But Ronde scored all 15 of his points in the second half, leading Craig’s comeback charge.
“I just saw open shots. I know I’m not usually aggressive driving, so I saw opportunities to drive and just took advantage of it,” said Ronde, who came in averaging about four points per game and had scored a career-high 10 points three different times this season. “After that lucky layup I had that I threw up, I was feeling pretty good.”
The teams traded the lead seven times in the final eight minutes of regulation. La Follette led 64-61 when Ronde buried his second 3-pointer of the game with 52 seconds left.
The Lancers held for a last shot and got to draw up a baseline inbounds play with just over three seconds left. Donneil Gray drove into traffic and could not convert on a shot where the La Follette bench believed there was contact.
There was no call, and the game went to overtime, where Huml and the Cougars came through in the clutch.
“Just stay aggressive and don’t let off the gas pedal,” Huml said of his late-game mentality.
Troy Reeves scored 14 points to lead La Follette, which had six players finish with at least eight.
Senior guard Aaron Leverson added 10 points for Craig.
The Cougars will attempt to keep momentum rolling against two more teams ahead of them in the Big Eight standings this week. They play at Madison East on Thursday and host Middleton on Saturday.
CRAIG 73, LA FOLLETTE 70 (OT)
La Follette (70)—Do. Gray 2-5-9, Da. Gray 3-2-8, Probst 2-7-12, Reeves 5-2-14, Stewart 4-1-12, De. Gray 4-6-15. Totals: 20-23-70.
Craig (73)—Huml 10-3-29, Scoville 0-2-2, Bertagnoli 2-0-5, Rizzo 1-2-4, Leverson 3-2-10, Lynch 3-2-8, Ronde 5-3-15. Totals: 24-14-73.
Madison La Follette 31 33 6—70
Janesville Craig 28 36 9—73
3-point goals—La Follette 7 (Stewart 3, Reeves 2, Probst, De. Gray), Craig 11 (Huml 6, Ronde 2, Leverson 2, Bertagnoli). Free throws missed—La Follette 10, Craig 4. Total fouls—La Follette 13, Craig 22.