ASHWAUBENON – Jordan McCabe is like a magician on the basketball court.
The Kaukauna junior guard performed some familiar tricks on Thursday much to the dismay of Pulaski.
McCabe scored 24 of his game-high 32 points to rally the Galloping Ghosts to a 73-63 victory over the top-seeded Red Raiders in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal boys basketball game in front of a packed crowd at Ashwaubenon High School.
It’s the second straight year Kaukauna has upended Pulaski to reach the sectional finals.
The Ghosts will get another rematch on Saturday when they face Cedarburg at Menasha for the right to go to state.
“We didn’t panic when we got down seven late,” Kaukauna coach Michael Schalow said. “That was a credit to our guys. We played in a lot of tough games over the course of the season. Our schedule is very challenging and because of that we were able to rely on those experiences tonight.”
The Red Raiders (20-5) appeared to have the defending Division 2 state champions on the ropes in taking a seven-point lead with less than 6 minutes remaining.
However, Kaukauna (16-9) responded by ending the game on a 23-6 run, which saw McCabe score eight points and dish out assists for some easy buckets in the paint. It’s the fifth time this season the West Virginia recruit has scored at least 30 points.
“I thought I had him on a few,” Pulaski senior Jacob DeStarkey said. “I gave him a couple of body checks and thought he was going to lose balance, but he found a way to put it in the hole. He’s just an incredible player and you really can’t do a whole lot to stop him. He’s just in a zone. It’s insane.”
Pulaski performed like a much different team than the one that fell 72-55 to Kaukauna in the sectional semifinals last year.
DeStarkey was able to take advantage of some turnovers early in scoring 10 of his 18 points in the first half, which ended with the Red Raiders leading 29-28.
“Coach knew our strengths this year weren’t running the flex and slowing it down, so he gave us an offense that he thought was the best fit for us and gave us the best position to win,” DeStarkey said. “He knew we were one of the more athletic teams he’s had in a while that could push the ball and score in transition and keep the tempo up instead of slowing it down.”
DeStarkey was on the bench with three fouls at the end of the half, but McCabe was also sitting for the latter portion of it with two fouls.
“We know how we want to finish and we have to finish with Jordan on the floor,” Schalow said.
“The fact that we kept it to one possession was really important, knowing that he had the two fouls. Plus, he was going to be really fresh on top of it for the second half because there have been a lot of games where he played 35 out of the 36 minutes. Now, you got a lot less than that, so he was fresh and ready to go certainly in that second half.”
Thursday’s game saw nine ties and eight lead changes.
The most exciting exchange took place with less than 11 minutes left in the second half when McCabe hit a 3-pointer from the left corner. Following a foul on Pulaski away from the ball, McCabe came back with another trey from the same spot to give the Ghosts a 42-39 lead in one trip down the floor.
Junior Dylan Kurey added 12 points, while sophomore Luke Eiting tallied 16 points for Kaukauna. Meanwhile, freshman Keaton Ferris made three 3-pointers to accounts for his nine points.
Pulaski was led by senior Wade Geenen’s 22 points, including 16 in the second half.
“We knew we would be in it this year,” said Geenen, one of six seniors on Pulaski’s team. “It’s tough losing like that, but we had runs and didn’t stop their run at the end of the game. That’s what it came down to.”
Kaukauna will try to advance to state for the second straight year when it plays Cedarburg, which it beat last year 71-49.
“They’re experienced,” Schalow said of Cedarburg. “They pretty much got everybody back from last season. It’s certainly going to be a challenge and a hard-fought game. It’s kind of ironic that it’s going to be at Menasha and the same two teams for the right to go to state.”
Kaukauna…28 45 – 73
Pulaski…29 34 – 63
KAUKAUNA – Carl 2, McCabe 32, Vosters 2, Ferris 9, Kurey 12, Eiting 16. 3-pt: McCabe 4, Ferris 3. FT: 8-11. F: 11.
PULASKI – Stiede 8, Narges7, Malewiski 6, Geenen 22, DeStarkey 18, VandenHeuvel 2. 3-pt: Stiede 1, Geenen 3. FT: 5-9. F: 14.