Craig boys ride nice victory into playoffs
JANESVILLE Could the Janesville Craig boys basketball team repeat last season's memorable playoff run?
The Cougars certainly looked like a dangerous playoff team Thursday night.
Craig (6-16, 6-12) jumped out to a 35-13 first-half lead and never looked back en route to a 76-61 victory over Madison East in a Big Eight Conference finale.
Brett Pickarts and Cameron Wright led a balanced attack with 16 points apiece to help the Cougars charge into the tournament on an impressive note.
Craig looks to build upon last season's deep playoff run when it hosts Muskego in a WIAA Division 1 opener Tuesday.
"There aren't any similarities between this team and last year's team, other than this team can make the same type of playoff run," said Craig coach Mike Miller, who directed last season's team to a sectional semifinal appearance. "This current team is a little bit deeper than last year's team."
Craig showed plenty of depth and balance against the Purgolders.
Peter Roth, Zach Olson and Joe Sarow kicked off their final regular-season game of their careers in style with baskets to help Craig open a quick 7-0 advantage and an 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Cougars continued the onslaught, outscoring East 28-17 in the second quarter on their way to a 46-24 halftime lead.
"We've been preaching to get the ball inside first and then we'll have outside shots, and tonight the ball movement was very good," Miller said. "We made extra passes tonight, which overall I thought we were very good."
The Purgolders continued to be a step behind the Cougars in the second half.
Pickarts' layup midway through the third quarter gave Craig its biggest lead of the game, 54-29.
"Our defense was better tonight," Miller said. "We've been working on our zone and last time we played East, they hit six three-pointers in the first half on their way to victory. So we came out and played them better."
The Purgolders finally solved the Cougar zone in the fourth quarter. Rudy Bentley scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the second half to cut the deficit to 14 late in the fourth quarter.
But that was as close as East would get as the Cougars closed out the game with a decisive victory on Senior Night.
"We started some seniors, including one who had never started before, and they got us out to a great start that really set the tone," Miller said. "I'm proud of the way they played."
CRAIG 76, MADISON EAST 61
East (61)—Bentley Jr., 6-6-22; Kietzer, 5-4-14; Burks, 3-1-7; Karlin-Kamin, 1-0-3; Redd, 1-0-3; Staples, 3-0-6; Wright, 0-1-1; Seymore, 2-1-5. Totals: 21-13-61.
Craig (76)—Pickarts, 6-0-15; Cooney, 2-0-6; Wright, 6-3-15; Foster, 1-1-3; Malmanger, 1-4-7; Sarow, 2-3-7; Roth, 2-2-6; Eden, 1-1-3; 1-2-5; Hayden, 1-0-2; Ngobi, 2-3-7. Totals: 25-19-76.
Madison East 7 17 17 20—61
Janesville Craig 18 28 15 15—76
Three point goals—East 6 (Bentley 4, Karlin-Kamin, Redd), Craig 7 (Pickarts 3, Cooney 2, Malmanger, Olson). Free throws missed—East 5, Craig 5. Total fouls—East 19, Craig 13. Fouled out—Kietzer
Junior varsity—Craig won.