Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team had the seventh-ranked team in the state on the ropes for 25 minutes Thursday night.
Craig led Madison Memorial by two points at half and trailed by only two with 11 minutes left.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, they couldn’t deliver a knockout punch in losing their sixth straight Big Eight Conference game.
Dryden Schaefer scored 23 points and Cade Ellingson added 17 to lead Memorial to a 67-58 win on Bob Suter Court.
Craig, despite 21 points from senior guard Jack Huml, fell to 6-6 overall and 3-6 in the Big Eight.
The Spartans used a 16-6 run to start the second half to improve to 9-1 overall and 8-1 in conference play.
That puts Memorial one game behind top-ranked and unbeaten Madison East.
“The second half was the difference, no question about it,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “I looked up at the scoreboard with about four minutes left in the game, and I think we’d only scored about 15 points the second half.
“For some reason, we just weren’t moving the ball well enough that second half. And give them credit. They’re very sound defensively and well-coached.”
The turnover bug plagued Craig in the second half. After only three turnovers in the first half, the Cougars had 11 the final 18 minutes.
The Cougars controlled the tempo the first half, as well, in building a 31-29 lead. Huml had 13 points to lead all scorers at the break.
Craig stayed within striking distance thanks to the 3 ball. The Cougars hit 12 3-pointers for the game, including five by Huml. Craig made only six 2-point baskets but took advantage of 16 missed free throws by Memorial.
The closest Craig got in the final eight minutes was a 50-44 deficit with 6:11 to play on Jacob Lynch’s two free throws. Memorial then put the game away with a 10-2 run to take a 61-46 lead with 2:32 to play.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for you in this league,” McCormick said of the six-game conference losing streak. “Our kids are frustrated. But you just have to get back to work and get ready for another game on Saturday.
“We still believe, and the kids have stayed positive. It’s a big game for us Saturday night.”
Craig hosts Beloit Memorial at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
MEMORIAL 67, CRAIG 58
Memorial (67)—Ellingson 5-5-17; Caropreso 5-2-12; Yu 1-5-7; Brown 2-0-4; Schaefer 8-4-23; Lewis 0-1-1; Jackson 1-0-3. Totals: 22-17-67
Craig (58)—Huml 7-2-21; Bertagnoli 2-0-6; Fieiras 1-1-4; Leverson 5-2-13; Lynch 3-2-10; Ronde 1-1-4. Totals: 19-8-58
Madison Memorial 29 38—67
Janesville Craig 31 27—58
Three-point goals—Memorial 6 (Schaefer 3, Ellingson 2, Jackson), Craig 12 (Huml 5, Bertagnoli 2, Lynch 2, Leverson, Ronde, Fieiras). Free throws missed—Memorial 16, Craig 7. Total fouls—Memorial 19, Craig 24. Fouled out—Ellingson