Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team survived an off night Thursday.
Two days later, the Cougars’ struggles caught up with them.
A lackluster first half saw them fall behind by 17 points to visiting Verona. And though they came all the way back to take a brief lead, it was fleeting in a 57-50 Big Eight Conference loss to the Wildcats.
Craig, which won the first meeting between the teams in Verona, fell to 11-5 overall and 8-4 in the Big Eight. Verona improved to 6-8 and 5-6.
“It seemed like the first half, they were getting every loose ball,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “To our kids’ credit, they responded and took a one-point lead. But when you’ve got to climb that big a mountain it’s tough.
“There is no way they should have us down by 17.”
Craig led 12-11 about four minutes into the game, but Verona scored the next 18 points.
The Wildcats scored from inside and outside, in transition and on second chances during that stretch.
They made 14 of their first 22 shots and scored on second chances off three of those eight misses.
Verona led 33-22 at halftime and was up 15 points yet again just three minutes into the second half.
Craig regathered and cut its deficit to 10, 39-29, with about 13 minutes remaining. Both teams then went about four minutes without scoring. The Cougars had seven consecutive possessions with a chance to get within single digits but could not convert.
“We had our chances there,” Storbakken said. “It was 39-29 forever it felt like.”
The Cougars finally got within nine with 8:59 remaining, and they kept clawing. A 7-0 run that included a layup from senior Rileigh Elgas, two free throws from senior Hannah Dunlavy and one of five 3-pointser from senior Cassie Goswick got Craig within one, 44-43, with 5:25 left.
“We knew they couldn’t stay that hot (like in the first half),” Storbakken said. “And they didn’t.”
Sophomore Kate Huml’s 3—one of 10 for the Cougars overall—gave Craig a 49-48 lead with 3:59 to play.
But it did not make another basket the rest of the game.
Freshman Paige Lambe was a difference-maker for the Wildcats, scoring a game-high 18 points. Her layup out of the press break coming off Huml’s 3-pointer gave Verona the lead for good. And she followed with a three-point play that made it 53-49 with 3:02 left.
Verona went 4 of 6 from the free-throw line from that point on, which was good enough to salt the game away.
Goswick’s 15 points paced the Cougars. Dunlavy and Huml each added nine.
Craig travels to Sun Prairie for a Big Eight game Friday night.
VERONA 57, CRAIG 50
Verona (57)—Briggs 4-4-12, Lambe 8-2-18, Stremlaw 2-0-4, Nielsen 1-0-2, Murphy 3-3-12, Parman 1-2-5, Pederson 2-0-4. Totals: 21-11-57.
Craig (50)—Gregg 1-0-3, Huml 3-1-9, Magestro-Kennedy 2-1-6, Elgas 1-0-2, Fieiras 1-4-6, Goswick 5-0-15, Dunlavy 3-2-9. Totals: 16-8-50.
Verona 33 24—57
Janesville Craig 22 28—50
3-point goals—Verona 4 (Murphy 3, Parman), Craig 10 (Goswick 5, Huml 2, Gregg, Magestro-Kennedy, Dunlavy). Free throws missed—Verona 6, Craig 4. Total fouls—Verona 19, Craig 20. Fouled out—Pederson.