By Murray Gleffe
PULASKI—With 6:02 remaining in the game, the Green Bay Southwest boys’ basketball team held a 10-point lead and was on the brink of heading to the sectional finals.
Then, just like that, it was gone.
The Kaukauna Ghosts went on a game-ending 17-4 run to defeat the Trojans, 66-63, in a sectional semifinal game March 7 at Pulaski High School.
“It stings right now very much,” said Southwest head coach John Polkowski. “The seniors were culture changers for us this season. They got us to where we are today and to the 22 wins that we accomplished.”
Will Pytleski led Southwest with 30 points before fouling out with less than 2 minutes left.
Owen Stieber added 15 points, while Carson Landy contributed 10, all in the second half.
Ian Way was the only other player to tally points for the Trojans.
The Ghosts were led by 6-foot-5 post player Donovan Ivory who had 22 points, while sharp-shooting guard Logan Jedwabny had 15 points for Kaukauna.
The Ghosts advanced to take on Nicolet at Watertown High School for the right to move on to the WIAA Division 2 State Tournament.
Southwest showed no nerves as the No. 1 seed, jumping out to a 10-0 lead by beating the Ghosts’ 1-3-1 trapping zone with two easy layups and two open triples.
“We were prepared and knew how we were going to go about their style of defense,” added Polkowski. “The guys owned it all week and were dedicated to the plan.”
Kaukauna called a quick timeout and immediately got back to within a point with steals and the creativity of Jedwabny.
With 6:48 left in the first half, Kaukauna finally pulled even with the Trojans at 19 apiece after Jacob Newhouse converted on a backdoor cut and lay-in.
The offense picked up as the half progressed with neither team garnering more than a two-possession lead.
With the Ghosts in front 34-33 with 2:09 left until intermission, the Trojans got a quick five points in just 10 seconds.
First, Stieber hit a corner three. As the ball was in the air, a Trojans player was fouled, giving the ball back to them.
Pytleski made the Ghosts pay with a power layup off the glass.
Kaukauna finished the half on a mini-spurt to take a 40-38 lead into the break.
With 11:00 left in the game, nothing had been decided as both teams were deadlocked at 47 apiece.
Southwest then nailed three deep three-pointers to take a 59-49 lead with 6:20 left.
“We went too a full-court trapping defense after I called a couple timeouts,” said Kaukauna head coach Mike Schalow. “I thought the kids got physical and tough during that sequence and we forced multiple turnovers that led to points.”
Slowly and methodically, Kaukauna whittled the lead down, and after Keaton Ferris knocked down a triple, the Ghosts were within four with 3:51 remaining.
A little later, after the Trojans failed to convert on a bonus situation from the charity stripe, Jedwabny tied the game at 61 after a transition layup.
After Pytleski hit two free throws, he was called for his fifth foul on the ensuing Ghosts’ possession that gave Newhouse a conventional three-point play.
Kaukauna was up 64-63 with 1:19 left, and the Trojans had one less offensive option down the stretch.
Southwest wound the clock down appearing to hold for the final shot.
With just under 5 seconds to go, Stieber pulled the trigger on a 20-footer from the right wing that missed off the heel of the rim.
After being fouled, Newhouse calmly drained two free throws for the Ghosts to give them a 66-63 lead with just 3.6 seconds left.
The Trojans’ desperation heave at the buzzer was blocked ending their season.
“It hurts a lot now that the season is over,” said Southwest forward Carson Landry. “We were in control of the game and just couldn’t finish. Will, Ian, Nick and all my brothers left it all on the court.”
Green Bay Southwest: 38, 25—63
Kaukauna: 40, 26—66
Trojans: Pytleski 30, Stieber 15, Landry 10, Way 8.
Ghosts: D. Ivory 22, Jedwabny 15, Newhouse 13, Ferris 10, B. Ivory 6.