Red Raiders to rely on depth, defense
By Murray Gleffe
PULASKI – The Pulaski Red Raiders girls’ basketball team has been knocking on the door to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) state tournament for several years.
Two seasons ago, first-year Pulaski Head Coach Doug McElrone took the Red Raiders to the sectional final, where they ran into the buzz-saw known as Beaver Dam.
Last season, Pulaski moved up to Division 1 and had to tangle with De Pere (regional final loss, 62-46) and its probable two future Division I recruits.
In 2021-22, Pulaski moves back to its customary Division 2 bracket, but potentially waiting in their wings to get over-the-hump are the defending champions, Notre Dame Academy.
“We’ve had two successful seasons since I’ve been coaching, and I expect more of the same this year,” McElrone said. “We legitimately have 13 or 14 girls who can get varsity minutes right now. Our program isn’t going to rewrite the ship. We know the types of kids we have and what they can do. We run a 5-out on offense and let the kids play. As in years past, our defense will create our offense.”
The talent is there, as the Red Raiders return five of their top seven scorers from last season, but Sheridan Flauger, now playing at Division II UW-Parkside, graduated.
Ashlyn Szymanski and Brynn Egnarski anchored a backcourt that averaged close to 17 points and 11 rebounds per game on a team that won 14 games, including wins over Bay Port, Green Bay Southwest and Sheboygan North.
“I think we’re going to turn some heads this year,” Szymanski said. “We have a fast team. Everybody has a role. The team communicates well on the floor. We know when a pass is coming or what to do on a screen to get open.”
If Pulaski is to increase its win total, the defense will most likely have to remain stout.
Last season, the Red Raiders held teams to 40 or fewer points in 12 games.
Madeline Christenson, Olivia Kubiak, Taylor Olson and Ella Wiese all contributed on that side of the floor to make the Red Raiders one of the best in the conference.
The unanswered question going into the season is, can Pulaski get production from its frontcourt to alleviate opponents from overplaying them on the perimeter?
Sophie Majewski and Gabrielle DeCleene could fit the bill, with both pushing 6-foot and having the ability to throw their bodies around in the post.
Also in the mix is Sydney Gwidt who didn’t play in 2020-21.
“Those frontcourt players have put in lots of time over the spring and summer months to be comfortable,” McElrone said. “We still aren’t going to be big compared to other conference teams. We have gained our physicality by doing cross-fit.”
Unbeknownst to many, Pulaski is a community that is growing but only has a little more than 3,000 people in its incorporated area.
“I don’t work at the high school,” McElrone said. “However, it’s cool to walk into the hallways and have kids acknowledge you. It shows lots of students are showing up to follow our games and make a difference.”
Teams can now play a maximum of 24 games (per WIAA guidelines) before the postseason begins.
It gives squads who compete in the 10-team Fox River Classic Conference the ability to schedule additional games, where in previous years, they were unable to make happen.
“I don’t know if it opens anything up for our program,” McElrone said. “I’m an old school coach who values practice time and teaching fundamentals to get better. With the new format, it will be important to have some depth and not just play five or six girls for an entire 36 minutes. For the kids, it’s great. They want to play as many games as they can. In the end, that’s what’s most important.”
2021-22 Pulaski girls’ basketball regular-season schedule
12/9 – De Pere
12/14 – @ Sheboygan South
12/17 – Green Bay Southwest
12/28 – @ Appleton North
12/29 – @ Luxemburg-Casco – 7:15 p.m.
1/4 – @ Notre Dame Academy
1/7 – Sheboygan North
1/11 – Green Bay Preble
1/14 – @ Bay Port
1/18 – Manitowoc Lincoln
1/21 – Ashwaubenon
1/25 – @ De Pere
1/28 – @ Green Bay Southwest
2/1 – Sheboygan South
2/4 – @ Sheboygan North
2/8 – Notre Dame Academy
2/11 – Bay Port
2/15 – @ Green Bay Preble
2/17 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln
2/21 – @ Shawano
2/24 – Ashwaubenon
Sports editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.