The longtime rivalry between Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker in girls basketball is as intense as you’ll find.

The games between the two city schools hardly ever seem to disappoint thanks to a slew of nail-biters through the years.

Jennah Hartwig knows the rivalry better than most. She was a four-year starter for the Vikings in the early 1990s and is now Parker’s head coach.

The teams renew their heated rivalry at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Craig.

“To me, those games have always been what I would consider old school basketball,” Hartwig said. “The gym is packed, the crowd is loud, and it’s just always a fun game for everybody involved.

“It seems like it doesn’t matter what the records are or who is on the court. It’s a battle each and every time.”

Parker won both meetings last season, but Craig had won the previous seven.

Craig coach Kerry Storbakken echoed Hartwig’s sentiments on the longtime rivalry.

“It’s the best atmosphere we play in all season until you get to the tournament,” Storbakken said. “That’s why everybody enjoys it so much.

“It’s cliche to say, but you really can throw out all the records when we play each other. It seems that every game is close, and this year shouldn’t be any different.”

The teams are a combined 2-5 heading into their respective Big Eight games tonight, but both teams have played brutally tough early-season schedules.

Craig is 1-2, but the two losses were to state-ranked Madison East and Sun Prairie.

Parker sits at 1-3, with losses to East, Verona and Milwaukee Pius.

Both coaches knew the schedule was going to be rough early on, but both are pleased with the progress their teams are making.

“We’re so young, starting four sophomores, that we can’t get caught up in wins and losses,” Storbakken said. “I’ve really liked our energy and the hard work the girls are putting in. We’ve competed in every game.”

Hartwig believes her team took a step forward last week despite leading at half against East only to go stone-cold in the second half of an eventual 67-50 loss.

“I really like the way the girls have practiced and got after it since then,” Hartwig said. “The intensity is there. We just have some things to clean up, especially our press break.”

The Vikings will get that chance tonight at home against Sun Prairie before the longtime crosstown rivalry tips off once again Saturday night.

Here’s a look at three key area high school basketball games on tap over the next couple days:

Janesville Parker (currently 1-3 overall, 1-2 Big Eight) at Janesville Craig (currently 1-2, 1-2), girls, 7:30 p.m., Saturday—The Vikings swept the regular-season series last year and both teams have struggled out of the gate while facing the Big Eight’s top teams.

Parker junior Julia Hartwig, who committed to UW-Green Bay earlier in the week, leads the Big Eight in scoring at 16.5 points per game. Sophomore Tina Shelton is averaging 10.1 points per game.

“We know Julia is going to get her points,” Storbakken said. “We just have to try and shut down everybody else.”

Craig counters with a balanced attack. Emily Pierson, Cassie Goswick and Rileigh Elgas are all averaging better than 10 points per game.

“Craig’s going to pressure us full-court, and we have to be ready for that,” Hartwig said. “I look for another close game that will probably come right down to the wire.”

Best guess: Parker 51, Craig 47

Craig (2-2, 1-2) at Middleton (1-2, 1-2), boys, 7:30 p.m. Friday—The Cardinals won all three meetings a year ago, including a thrilling three-point win in a WIAA Division 1 regional title game.

Middleton picked up its first win of the season Tuesday against Madison West and looks to make it four straight over Craig.

Brogan Brunker leads the conference in scoring at 26 points per game.

Craig is coming off a close loss to third-ranked Sun Prairie, but the Cougars rebounded from a tough loss to Madison La Follette last Thursday by upsetting Madison East on Saturday on Jack Huml’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Senior Blake McCann is second in the Big Eight in scoring at 21 points per game.

Best guess: Middleton 73, Craig 66

Evansville (3-1, 2-0 Rock Valley) at Beloit Turner (2-1, 1-1), boys, 7:15 p.m., Friday—Two teams with conference-title hopes clash.

Evansville is led by Zach Mielke. The four-year starter leads the Rock in scoring at 21.2 points per game.

Turner counters with a balanced attack and has had to replace two-time Rock Valley South Player of the Year Alec Fruin. Steve Dillard is averaging more than 20 points through the first three games.

Best guess: Evansville 67, Turner 58 does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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