Pulaski comeback stuns Notre Dame
By Murray Gleffe
KAUKAUNA — The No. 2 seeded Pulaski girls’ basketball team found itself down 20-5 to start its WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal game March 5 against Notre Dame Academy.
Knowing the stage was big and his girls hadn’t been past a regional, Pulaski head coach Doug McElrone burned two timeouts in the first six minutes of the game.
The Red Raiders responded with a 50-18 run over the course of two halves in a 71-63 victory over the No. 1 Tritons at Kaukauna High School.
“Once we got past the initial wave of pressure and hype, we were okay,” said McElrone. “These kids haven’t been in a big game like this, so the nerves were there. Once we hit a couple of shots, more kept falling, and the floodgates opened.”
Pulaski will take on Beaver Dam in the sectional final Saturday, March 7, at Ashwaubenon High School at 3 p.m.
The winner will advance to the Resch Center and a berth in the WIAA Division 2 State Tournament.
Sheridan Flauger led the Red Raiders with 25 points, while Ashlyn Szymanski chipped in with 19.
Sammy Opichka paced Notre Dame with 30 points in defeat.
After Flauger hit an opening free throw, Notre Dame connected on 9 of its opening 12 shots.
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders committed seven turnovers and gave up six offensive rebounds.
Down 15 points, Pulaski slowed the tempo in the half court and started to connect on shots.
“Coming out of the timeout, we could have gotten blown out or fought back,” McElrone said. “Once we got Notre Dame out of its rhythm and half-court sets, our defense clamped down. They like to get up and down, and we got them into foul trouble, which helped.”
Pulaski climbed back to 25-17 after Maggie Hernandez put a couple of moves on display in the paint before finishing with a layup.
The Red Raiders then evened the game at 27-27 after Flauger hit a running left-handed layup.
“We know we have to play hard every second of every game,” said Flauger. “Getting down like we did, we had to pick each other back up. The huddles were great for staying positive.”
Notre Dame took a 31-30 lead into intermission, but Pulaski stayed hot from the outside, going on a 25-7 run to start the second half and a 55-38 lead with nine minutes remaining.
“We turned the ball over, and we got impatient on offense,” said Notre Dame head coach Sara Rohde. “We forced lots. Give credit to Pulaski – they knocked down their shots at a very high percentage.”
The Tritons crept back into the contest by exchanging free throws for triples – clawing back to 63-55 with 3:36 left after Opichka knocked down a jumper.
With about a minute remaining and the Red Raiders clinging to a six-point lead, Szymanski made a big defensive play in stripping Notre Dame’s Hope Barrington of the ball and sealing the victory.
Pulaski: 30, 41—71
Notre Dame: 31, 32—63
Red Raiders: Flauger 25, Szymanski 19, Hernandez 15, Litt 8, Lukasik 3, McQuillan 1.
Tritons: Opichka 30, Gregoire 12, Hardwick 10, Hope Barrington 7, Cribben 3, Lemens 1.