A year ago, Janesville Craig’s girls basketball team might have stumbled after a long scoring drought on the road.
On Tuesday night, the Cougars set out to prove they are out to turn over a new leaf.
They coughed up a 13-point first-half lead and trailed with seven minutes left in a nonconference game at Lake Geneva Badger. But a 14-1 run, combined with strong shooting performances from the 3-point and free-throw lines, propelled Craig to a 63-55 victory.
Craig improved to 2-0, while the Badgers fell to 2-1.
“To win a close game early in the year is a big deal for this group,” said Craig head coach Kerry Storbakken, who had five players score in double figures. “Last year, we didn’t close out some of these games.
“But I think we wanted it more. Even (assistant coach Alison Hughes) said in that timeout when we got back up by two, our kids were playing harder. And they did that for the last eight minutes. I think it is a difference having seniors, and just a different year, different team.”
Storbakken called a timeout with 7:07 remaining and his team trailing 49-44.
The Cougars then got a major spark from guard Ellie Magestro-Kennedy.
The freshman scored the game’s next six points, including giving her team the lead for good with a pair of free throws with just less than five minutes left.
“That was huge,” Storbakken said. “I think that turned the tide of the game.”
It started the 14-1 run, which included a back-breaking 3-pointer from senior Hannah Dunlavy that made it 56-50 with 2:19 to play. That was the final 3 of the night for the Cougars, who went 11-for-30 from beyond the arc.
That late run helped the Cougars avoid a loss in a game they led 20-7 after they made 8 of their first 13 shots.
They then went on a drought of nearly 10 minutes without a made field goal and trailed 28-23 at halftime as the teams traded runs all night. Badger’s extended 2-3 zone defense caused the Cougars fits for the middle portion of the game.
“It’s a different game when the shots are going in,” Storbakken said with a laugh. “They did for a while, and then we were stuck on 20 for what felt like forever. Then they started going in again.”
Senior Rileigh Elgas went 10 of 14 from the line on the way to a team-high 13 points for the Cougars, who were 16 of 21 from the line overall. The Badgers, conversely, made 15 of 28 attempts.
Magestro-Kennedy and sophomore Kate Huml each finished with a dozen. Huml’s came on four 3-pointers early in the second half that kept the Cougars within striking range.
Dunlavy and junior Claudia Fieiras each had 11 points.
Craig is off until Dec. 5, when it returns to Big Eight Conference play for the first of two rivalry meetings on the road against Janesville Parker.
CRAIG 63, BADGER 55
Craig (63)—Gregg 1-0-2, Huml 4-0-12, Magestro-Kennedy 3-5-12, Elgas 1-10-13, Fieiras 4-0-11, Dunlavy 4-1-11, Alderman 1-0-2. Totals: 18-16-63.
Badger (55)—Todd 5-5-15, Welch 3-5-12, DeVries 1-0-3, Wright 0-2-2, Schulz 4-2-12, Johnston 5-1-11. Totals: 18-15-55.
Janesville Craig 23 40—63
Lake Geneva Badger 28 27—55
3-point goals—Craig 11 (Huml 4, Fieiras 3, Dunlavy 2, Magestro-Kennedy, Elgas), Badger 4 (Schulz 2, Welch, DeVries). Free throws missed—Craig 5, Badger 13. Total fouls—Craig 22, Badger 22.