The best player on the floor Tuesday evening wasn't going to let his team lose.
So when Madison Memorial came back from an early double-digit deficit to pull within 33-32 of host Sun Prairie, junior guard Darius Chestnut decided to take matters into his own hands.
The emerging 6-foot-2 junior guard scored eight straight points on three consecutive possessions, hitting two three-point baskets and finishing off a driving layup to put Sun Prairie on top 41-32, paving the way for the Cardinals' 62-50 Big Eight Conference victory.
Chestnut finished the contest with a career-best 25 points as Sun Prairie won its third straight contest and improved to 7-5 overall and 5-4 in league play.
"No question," Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos said when asked afterward if this was Chestnut's best varsity game. "He got to the rim a couple of times and made some threes on the baseline right away, and that gave him confidence for the rest of the game."
Chestnut, of course, got plenty of help from his teammates.
Senior Addison Ostrenga (6-4), a University of Iowa football recruit, used his physical strength and toughness to muscle his way to 10 points, include four second-half baskets that helped to stem a couple of Memorial rallies.
In addition, Ostrenga made things difficult for sophomore Sam Mickelson, a 6-foot-7 forward who entered the contest as the Spartans' top scorer at 19.0 points per game.
Mickelson finished with 11, but he had to work extremely hard to get all of those points and missed several chances in the lane due in part to Ostrenga's presence.
"Addison got feisty down the stretch and was able to finish better around the basket," Boos said. "We wanted Addison to wall-up Sam because we didn't want him to foul. Sam is an excellent free-throw shooter."
Senior wing Ben Olson (6-4) contributed 12 points and was able to drive to the basket and make some mid-range jump shots, particularly in the first half when the Cardinals' built a 27-22 lead at intermission.
Sun Prairie also received some solid play off the bench as senior Tyus Willis (6-1) scored six points while senior Ethan Metz (5-11) and sophomore Ean Ackley (6-1) each knocked down three-point baskets.
"We are starting to improve our man-to-man defense," Boos said. "We needed to get better in that area and we have."
Sun Prairie, which played zone defense in many of its previous contests, went exclusively to a man-to-man against Memorial and it held the Spartans to just 50 points.
About the lone drawback to the Cardinals' win Tuesday was their abysmal showing at the foul line. Sun Prairie went 5-of-14 from the stripe and missed three front ends of the bonus in the second half.
"We have to get better at the line, it's been a problem," Boos said. "I thought we played hard for a Tuesday night game. It's nice to get three in a row, but things don't get easier for us."
Sun Prairie hosts first-place Madison La Follette on Friday.
Memorial, meanwhile, showed plenty of fight and is improving under long-time coach Steve Collins.
The Spartans started three underclassmen and used three more off the bench against Sun Prairie.
In addition to Mickelson's 11 points, Memorial got 11 from senior Cole Hendrickson (6-3), nine from junior Braylen Blue (6-4) and seven from freshman Ian Wischhoff (5-11).
Memorial is now 2-7 in league play and 5-7 overall, but the Spartans continue to gain experience and could upset a team or two during the second round of league play.