Bay Port pulls away from Pulaski in second half
By Greg Bates
PULASKI – The opening half of AJ Lieuwen’s first career varsity start for the Bay Port boys’ basketball team was a feeling-out process.
The sophomore guard hit a pair of short shots but missed his only two 3-point attempts against Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) foe Pulaski.
At halftime, Bay Port head coach Nate Rykal had a quick talk with his young player.
“I said, ‘Let it come to you. As soon as you get that first one, things will feel great,’” Rykal said. “He took that to a whole other level.”
Lieuwen scored 14 second-half points, hitting 6-of-7 shots, to help Bay Port turn a four-point halftime lead into a season-opening 74-49 blowout victory in a fan-less Pulaski gymnasium on Monday night.
Rykal wasn’t surprised Lieuwen – who his coach said has a calmness about him – played so well and scored 18 points in his debut as a starter.
“He’s a kid who works hard at it, and it shows,” said Rykal. “You get your opportunities to make shots, and he did it tonight. He showed he’s a basketball player. He gets after it all the time, not just some of the time.”
Bay Port (1-0, overall) held a 34-30 lead at halftime as Gunnar DeCleene had 14 points.
Lieuwen drained a 3-pointer 3:14 into the second half to put his team up 46-34.
Pulaski’s Bo Bramschreiber answered with a three of his own, but Lieuwen came down the court and hit another 3-pointer to make it a 14-point Bay Port advantage.
The Pirates took their biggest lead of 23 points, 61-38, by capping a 27-8 run out of halftime.
Bay Port turned to its transition game to get the offense cooking.
“It started with energy, and we talked about that, the energy level at halftime,” Rykal said. “We need to step it up a little, and as a collective group, we did that well. The energy level was good. We created some things with our defense and got some easy baskets on the other end, so that helped us extend the lead.”
Pulaski (0-2) only hit three field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half.
“We preach about the first three minutes of a half, especially the second half, and we didn’t come through on the offensive end and that led to some runouts for them,” Pulaski assistant coach Jon Rohde said. “They hit some shots and kept pouring it on, and we didn’t have any answers.”
Bay Port outscored Pulaski 40-19 in the second half.
According to Rykal, his team had 23 baskets when they attacked the rim, while Pulaski scored five.
The Red Raiders, which were led in scoring by Bramschreiber’s 14 points, had only six 2-point baskets for the game, as they hit nine shots from beyond the arc.
DeCleene scored a game-high 19 points.
Rykal said he liked the play from his perimeter guys, but the longtime coach noted his big men on the inside need to get more involved.
Post Nate Forsythe had seven points.
“I’d like to be able to throw it inside,” Rykal said. “Pulaski, they don’t have much size, but they still do a good job of collapsing or doubling or tripling. With Nate, we’re trying to get him the ball, and it wasn’t going all that well. He wants to score, too, like anybody else. He did a great job starting the second half of making some nice passes that led to baskets.”