The Janesville Craig girls basketball team saw victory No. 1 of the young season slip away Tuesday night.
Madison Memorial’s McLain Mahone scored 18 points and hit a crucial basket with six seconds left to lift the Spartans to a 49-46 win in the Big Eight Conference opener on Bob Suter Court.
Craig (0-2, 0-1) had a chance to force overtime, but Mya Nicholson’s off-balance attempt from 3-point range at the buzzer fell short. Nicholson led all scorers with 24 points.
The Cougars battled back from an early 16-2 deficit but could not put the finishing touches on a win.
“We were climbing back in both halves but just couldn’t get over the top,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “The effort was there, but our execution, especially against their press, at times, was not where it needed to be.
“Realistically, and we talked about it afterward, we feel like we should be 2-0 right now, and instead, we’re 0-2. We’ve got to find a way to win these close games.”
Playing without starters Kate Huml and Ellie Magestro-Kennedy, Craig relied too heavily, at times, on Nicholson. The sophomore scored her team’s first 12 points and single-handedly helped erase the early 14-point deficit.
The Cougars eventually tied the Spartans 22-22 at half, but then quickly fell behind 29-22 early in the second half. Craig trailed 36-29 before going on an 8-0 run to take a 37-36 lead with 6:06 to play. Lily Campbell scored six of the eight points during the run, all on free throws.
Memorial (1-1, 1-0) built a 47-41 lead with 2:25 to play, but Craig got within four on a Ella Clarke basket with 1:04 to play, and Nicholson’s fifth 3-pointer of the game made it 47-46 with 36 seconds left.
The Spartans pushed the lead to three on Mahone’s driving layup with six seconds left, and without a timeout, Nicholson was forced to drive the length of the court and try to get off a 3-point attempt to tie. The deep 3 from well beyond the arc came up short.
“It’s still the first varsity experience for a lot of these players,” Storbakken said of his young team. “And like I said, I can’t fault the effort.
We’re going to be a much different team when we get Kate and Ellie back, but it still hurts to come up short in two games where we felt like we should’ve won.”
Next up for Craig is a nonconference game Saturday at Milwaukee Pius XI.
MEMORIAL 49, CRAIG 46
Memorial (49)—Rogers 1-0-2; Harden 3-0-6; Rauwolf 4-1-10; Myers 5-1-11; Sparks 0-2-2; Mahone 3-4-18. Totals 20-4-49.
Craig (46)—Campbell 0-8-8; Pierson 2-1-5; Bertocchi 2-1-5; Clarke 1-2-4; Nicholson 6-7-24. Totals: 11-19-46.
Halftime—Memorial 22, Craig 22. Three-point goals—Memorial 4 (Mahone 3, Rauwolf), Craig 5 (Nicholson 5). Free throws missed—Memorial 4, Craig 5. Total fouls—Memorial 22, Craig 12. Fouled out—Harden.