Craig boys beat perennial power Memorial
JANESVILLE Jerry Ngobi set the tone against the fifth-ranked team in the state. Then Mike Murphy and his teammates closed the door on a momentum-building upset victory for Janesville Craig’s boys basketball team.
Ngobi scored all 13 of his points in the first half before going down with an injury and Murphy poured in a career-high 20 points as the Cougars topped Madison Memorial, 63-56, on Thursday night.
It was Craig’s first victory over Memorial since 1999 and moved the Cougars to 8-8 in the Big Eight Conference and 11-9 overall. The eight-time defending Big Eight champion Spartans fell to 15-4 overall, including 12-2 in the conference.
“We knew from the first game we played them that we only lost by one and we didn’t even play our best game,” said Murphy, who scored four points when the Cougars lost 56-55 in the teams’ first meeting in December. “Beating LaFollette last week was big for us and we had a lot of momentum going into this one. We really thought we could win. It was a team win; we really pulled through.”
The Cougars set the tone from the tip, stating that they weren’t going to back down as they built an 18-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Ngobi poured in nine points in the opening eight minutes alone.
“When I went and watched the film (from the first meeting), it wasn’t a fluke,” Cougars coach Mike Miller said. “It wasn’t like we played out of our heads and they didn’t play very well, so I knew we had a chance to beat them, especially at home. Our guys believed in that, so they weren’t going to take anything; they were going to play hard.”
Craig led 30-23 at halftime, but lost Ngobi—their leading scorer—to a nagging ankle injury just before the break.
Still, the Cougars never seemed rattled, as Murphy and senior forward Paul Foster combined for 11 points in the third quarter to keep Memorial at bay.
“We knew that we had given up some leads in the second half this season, so we just had to come out strong in the second half, execute and do what we do and we’d be fine,” Murphy said.
Never was that mentality tested more than during a stretch midway through the fourth quarter, when Memorial cut its deficit to just five points on two separate occasions.
The Cougars turned the Spartans back for good when senior Austin Schumacher buried a jump shot, Murphy followed up with a layup and junior Nolan Maresch went up and under for a bucket that built Craig’s lead back to double digits.
“We’re down to nine guys right now, so we have everyone coming and contributing and they did a great job,” Miller said. “It just continues to build confidence. It’s important going into the tournament that you’re playing your best basketball, and I think we are.”
The loss dropped Memorial to second place behind leader Sun Prairie in the Big Eight standings. Craig will look to keep its momentum rolling at third-place Middleton on Saturday.
“We can do anything right now,” Murphy said. “We feel like we can beat anybody in the Big Eight and we’re just going to keep moving forward.”
CRAIG 63, MEMORIAL 56
Memorial (56)—Weah, 2-2-6; Sutherland, 4-0-11; Walters, 2-0-4; Fountain, 1-0-2; Lindquist, 8-2-19; Roemer, 2-0-6; Willis, 2-0-6, Walls, 1-0-2. Totals: 22-3-56.
Craig (63)—Ngobi, 5-3-13; Malmenger, 1-5-7; Carlson, 1-2-4; Maresch, 2-2-6; Foster, 2-4-8; Murphy, 9-0-20; Schumacher, 2-0-5. Totals: 22-15-63.
Madison Memorial 9 14 11 22—56
Janesville Craig 18 12 15 18—63
Three-point goals—Memorial 4 (Sutherland 3, Lindquist), Craig 3 (Murphy 2, Schumacher). Free throws missed—Memorial 5, Craig 6. Total fouls—Memorial 20, Craig 10.