Verona bounced back from a Big Eight Conference home loss to Middleton with a road victory over Janesville Craig on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Freshman forward Paige Lambe led the Wildcats to a 57-50 win over the Cougars, two days after a 59-41 loss to the Cardinals.
Verona 57, Janesville Craig 50
Lambe scored a game-high 18 points to propel the Wildcats, who stormed ahead late in the second half.
The Cougars jumped out to a 12-11 lead, but Verona (6-8, 5-6 Big Eight) answered with an 18-0 run. The Wildcats made 14 of their first 22 shots and converted three of eight second-half chances during the spurt.
Verona led 33-22 at halftime and pushed its lead to 15 three minutes into the second half.Craig came all the way back, as sophomore Kate Huml drilled a 3 to give the Cougars a 49-48 lead with 3:59 remaining.
Lambe made a layup out of a press break to give Verona the lead for good. She converted a three-point play to make it 53-49 Wildcats with 3:02 left.
Senior guard Rayna Briggs and freshman guard Megan Murphy each added 12 points for the Wildcats.
Middleton 59, Verona 41
Briggs battled through an illness, scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half and knocked down all six of her free throws, but the Wildcats’ comeback fell short.
“I feel like our team did a really good job with their effort,” Briggs said. “A lot of the shots they (Middleton) blocked; they are just so big, there is nothing you can do about that.”
The Cardinals used their size advantage to capitalize on second-chance opportunities in the second half to maintain a double-digit lead. Senior Sitori Tanin (6-foot-2) scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds to power the visitors.
“I feel like just because they are taller doesn’t mean they should get rebounds,” Briggs said. “We should have boxed out and pushed them back further.”
Verona got within seven points with 7:46 left in the game. Senior Rachel Witthuhn converted a three-point play and senior Rachel Parman, who played through an ankle injury, drilled a 3-pointer to cut Middleton’s lead to 45-38. Sophomore McKenna Monogue had a three-point play and Tanin hit a runner in the lane to stretch it to 55-38 with 5:18 to go.
The Wildcats had a stretch with three turnovers in four possessions in the final six minutes.
“The wheels fall off and that is on me as a coach,” Verona coach Angie Murphy said. “When the wheels start falling off, I have to figure out what I can go to to calm them down. We have a very small margin for error.”
The Cardinals raced out to a 19-8 lead in the first half. Middleton seniors Josie Lemirande and Evie Coleman combined to score 15 points during the surge.
Megan Murphy knocked down 3s on back-to-back possessions to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 21-14 with 7:09 left in the first half. Coleman scored nine of her 11 points during the first half, and hit three 3s to give the Cardinals a 26-18 lead at the break.
Megan Murphy finished with 11 points and Parman chipped in eight.
Tanin scored 10 of her 15 points after halftime. One key sequence that summarized the game was when Middleton 5-foot-10 senior Kendall Roquet grabbed an offensive rebound early in the second half that led to a putback by 5-foot-11 senior Karina Bursac to give the Cardinals a 34-20 lead.
“I thought our posts battled. They should be proud of what they did,” Angie Murphy said. “They are a tough matchup. They are huge.”