By the time Janesville Craig connected on its first field goal of the game, Muskego's girls basketball team was well on its way to a playoff victory.
The seventh-seeded Warriors held the 10th-seeded Cougars to just one made shot in the first half and cruised to a 49-30 win Feb. 24 in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal. Muskego saw its season end the following day with a 65-38 loss to second-seeded Sun Prairie in a regional final.
Muskego finished with its most wins since the 2011-12 season, ending with a 15-9 record.
"I thought defensively, we did a great job," Muskego coach Brian Hirtz said following the Craig win. "We had a great week of practice. We brought in our younger kids and they mimicked Craig. It was great to prepare us for tonight. I thought we were really prepared. We did a great job of getting over ball screens and just defending everything they had.
"It was maybe our best defensive effort of the year. It was just really, really good."
Muskego, which entered allowing 41.5 points over a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, already held a 13-2 lead by the time Hannah Halverson gave Craig its first field goal 8 minutes, 9 seconds into the game.
It was the lone shot the Cougars would hit in the first half, as they went 1 of 19 from the field and missed its only two shots from beyond the arc. But the Warriors only took a 22-12 advantage into the break because they kept sending Craig to the free-throw line. The Cougars stayed in the game by going 10-for-10 from the stripe.
"You never know what you are going to get nerve-wise, and we were able to build a lead and maintain it," Hirtz said. "It was a great start. It gave us that confidence and relaxed us a little bit."
The Warriors (15-8) began the second half on a 7-0 run and weren't threatened the rest of the way, leading by as many as 23 points.
Muskego continued its strong defensive play in the second half, as the Cougars finished 6-for-34 (17.6 percent) from the field and committed 22 turnovers. Halverson, Craig's leading scorer, scored just 2 points, while third-leading scorer Ali Carlson was limited to just 17 minutes and 5 points by foul trouble.
The Warriors were able to force Craig (10-13) out of its zone defense. Once Muskego spread the Cougars out, junior guard Maddy Harrison was able to find success taking it from the right side near the midcourt stripe straight up the middle of the lane for a layup or a pull-up jumper. She scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the second half but also set up teammates for easy baskets or trips to the foul line.
"I was looking to attack," Harrison said. "I knew when they spread out, I could get some kicks coming off of it and people would be open, so if it wasn't me scoring, I would have other people open."
Five different Warriors -- Savanah Balcerak, Sarah Anderson, Leah Bolskar, Kenzie Balcerak and Kenni Czarnecki -- each scored 5 points to supplement Harrison.
Sun Prairie entered the regional final on a 15-game winning streak since losing 57-45 to Mukwonago on Dec. 28. The Cardinals (21-3), ranked No. 8 in Division 1, built an early 10-1 lead and didn't look back.
The Warriors were led by Savanah Balcerak with 11 points.