Janesville Craig’s girls basketball players did not leave their gym Tuesday night feeling like they had captured a moral victory.
But they left feeling about as good about the direction of their season as they could after a loss.
The Cougars rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit against Marshall, the No. 2-ranked team in the state in Division 3, led with one second left in regulation and hit a buzzer-beater to force a second overtime.
In the end, though, the Cardinals were too much. Senior Laura Nickel scored five of her game-high 27 points in the second overtime, and Marshall prevailed 69-62 in a nonconference game on Bob Suter Court.
“I think it’s a good game to learn from,” said Craig junior Kate Huml, who scored 20 of her team-high 24 points after halftime, including the aforementioned buzzer-beater. “Everyone had a bunch of energy and effort, which makes a big difference.
“I think that’s something we’ve been working on, and it’s really helped us. Just have that energy, whether we’re up 15 or down 15.”
Craig (6-6) was certainly forced to remain even-keeled through what was a wild game.
There were two ties and six lead changes between the teams in the opening nine minutes. But then Craig went nearly nine minutes without making a basket and trailed 29-18 at halftime.
The Cougars did not make a single 3-pointer in the first half, but the shots started falling quickly in the second. They trailed 37-23 with 14:40 left but then made 3-point baskets on four of their next five possessions—each of them coming from a different player—to get back within two.
“Our shot selection was great in the first half, they just weren’t falling,” Craig head coach Kerry Storbakken said. “We didn’t do anything magically different in the second half, they just started going in.
“Give our kids a lot of credit. We’re young, and that was a really good team we played.”
Despite the comeback, the Cougars could not wrestle the lead back their way until the final minute of regulation. There, they put together a 7-0 run that included back-to-back buckets by freshman Mya Nicholson and then a 3-pointer from Huml that put Craig up 53-52 with 8.7 seconds left.
After a Marshall timeout, Nickel drove inside the arc and drew contact. Craig was whistled for the foul with 0.4 seconds left, and Nickel made one of two free-throw attempts to force overtime.
The Cougars trailed throughout the first overtime, but Huml buried a jumper from near the free-throw line at the buzzer to force a second.
There, Marshall scored six quick points and never looked back as Craig played without all-time leading scorer Claudia Fieiras and sophomore and third-leading scorer Ellie Magestro-Kennedy after both fouled out.
“They (Marshall) are 13-1, and their only loss is to Beaver Dam and they’ve won a couple state championships in the last few years,” Storbakken said. “I don’t think the girls think it’s a moral victory, but I think they know they played a good game, were right there and that we’ll win a lot of games if we play like that.”
Nicholson finished with 14 points and Fieiras 10 for the Cougars, who host Baraboo on Thursday night.
MARSHALL 69, CRAIG 62, 2OTMarshall;29;24;5;11—69
MARSHALL (fg ft-fta pts)—Lutz 5 6-6 16, Andrews 3 1-4 7, Rateike 3 0-1 6, Weisensel 2 4-6 10, Nickel 9 8-11 27, Ward 1 0-0 3. Totals: 23 19-28 69.
CRAIG—Campbell 2 1-3 5, Huml 10 0-0 24, Magestro-Kennedy 2 1-2 6, Fieiras 4 1-1 10, Clarke 0 1-2 1, Nicholson 4 4-4 14, Alderman 1 0-0 2. Totals: 23 8-12 62.
3-point goals: Marshall 4 (Weisensel 2, Nickel, Ward), Craig 8 (Huml 4, Nicholson 2, Magestro-Kennedy, Fieiras). Total fouls—Marshall 14, Craig 24. Fouled out—Magestro-Kennedy, Fieiras.