Strong defense propels Pulaski to victory over Southwest
By Josh Staloch
PULASKI – The Pulaski girls’ basketball team is moving on in the WIAA Division 1 postseason.
After its 44-36 victory over No. 3-seeded Green Bay Southwest Friday night, the No. 2 Red Raiders will face No. 1 De Pere, a 62-28 winner over Green Bay Preble, in Saturday’s WIAA regional final.
Pulaski used a strong defensive performance in the victory.
“We pride ourselves on locking in on defense,” said Pulaski head coach Doug McElrone. “I told the team at halftime, if we could hold Southwest to 21 points in the second half, we’re going to like where we’re at when the game ends. We gave up 15 in the second half, and that’s impressive when our tallest kid is 5-foot-10. That says lots about Dani McQuillan and Skylar Lukasik, my two kids who have to bang away in the post all game.”
Ashlyn Szymanski sank a 3-pointer on Pulaski’s first trip down the floor, and the home team was able to use that momentum to build an 11-1 lead.
Southwest’s Madison McFerrin then hit a trey of her own to slow the Red Raiders down a bit.
“We didn’t have a good start tonight, and that put us in a big hole,” said Southwest head coach Berri West. “But we chopped away bit by bit, took our time and waited for our opportunity. Things fell apart late, but overall, I’m proud of the girls. We’ve got a young team, and I’m proud of what we did this season. It’s not an ideal ending, but the girls know this isn’t the end – they’ll continue to improve.”
The Trojans, who only began playing Jan. 5, ended the season at 12-4.
It looked like Pulaski (14-7) might run away with it early on.
Sheridan Flauger nailed a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, and then, following a stop on the defensive end, Szymanski scored easily in the paint off a nice pass from McQuillan.
The Trojans, who trailed 28-21 after 18 minutes, kept their composure and made some critical shots down the stretch in the first half – including a big three from Chloey Bynum – to keep the game within striking distance.
“We played a good first half,” McElrone said. “I liked where we were at, up seven points at the half. Coming out in the second half, it was a different look. We struggled, to say the least.”
The teams found themselves in a defense-heavy stalemate to begin the second half, as neither team was able to find the basket for the first five and a half minutes after intermission.
That changed dramatically when McFerrin got hot and scored seven unanswered points to tie the game, 28-28.
Coach McElrone’s words hit home during a Pulaski timeout, as the Red Raiders quickly scored on a play that saw Szymanski find Lukasik with a nice interior pass to get the offense rolling again.
The Trojans took their only lead of the contest a couple of possessions later when Tavi Holmes hit a jumper for a 32-30 edge.
From there, Pulaski’s defense stiffened and didn’t Southwest anything resembling a good look at the basket.
The Red Raiders lost both contests this season to De Pere: A 57-48 set back Dec. 15 and a 48-35 loss Feb. 2.