Pulaski boys prep for another Kaukauna showdown

Pulaski boys prep for another Kaukauna showdown

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Pulaski boys prep for another Kaukauna showdown

The Pulaski boys basketball team finds itself in the same position it did last season, just two wins away from the WIAA Division 2 state tournament but with Kaukauna standing in its way.

The top-seeded Red Raiders don’t want history to repeat itself when they play the No. 3 Ghosts at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ashwaubenon High School.

Kaukauna won last year’s semifinal showdown 72-55 — it led by 16 points at the half — and went on to capture the D2 state title.

The Ghosts still have their biggest standout from that title run in junior point guard and West Virginia recruit Jordan McCabe. But they don’t have his sidekick in senior shooting guard Adam Smith, who is out for the season with a broken foot.

Which might mean Kaukauna is dangerous but also a bit more vulnerable.

Still, the Red Raiders could have their hands full with McCabe. He scored 34 points in a regional championship win over Luxemburg-Casco and is averaging 23.4. He has scored 30 or more points four times this season, including putting up 46 against Kimberly and 42 against Appleton West.

“What we talked about at practice is that we need to worry about ourselves first and Kaukauna second,” Pulaski coach Dave Shaw said. “That’s a big job for us. We need to do what we do and do it well, and be efficient on both sides of the court.

“Then we will spend time on Kaukauna. We are certainly aware of the pieces that they have that are back.”

While Kaukauna is a different team without Smith, the Red Raiders are also a different squad from last season.

By the numbers, they are better.

Pulaski is 20-4 overall, finished second to Bay Port in the Fox River Classic Conference at 15-3 and was the only local team to earn a No. 1 seed in the WIAA tournament.

It’s the first time the Red Raiders have won 20 or more games in a season since 2012-13, a campaign that ended with the program’s first state championship.

Their only bad week the entire season came during a brief two-game losing streak last month against Green Bay Southwest and Bay Port. They have won four straight since, including a 64-55 win over West De Pere in a regional final.

The 1-2 punch of senior point guard Wade Geenen and senior forward Jacob DeStarkey has led the way.

DeStarkey averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds in league play, while Geenen averaged 14.8 points. Both were first-team all-conference picks.

Pulaski also has senior forward Luke VandenHeuvel, who was named the FRCC’s defensive player of the year.

“I think we were pretty consistent this season playing to our strengths and maybe overachieving,” Shaw said. “We have had some good players over the years and good teams as well, but this is a senior-laden team who I think as the season progressed was able to use some of that senior savvy and maybe pull out some games and be in some games and be a tough out.

“I guess we can hang our hat on that.”

The Red Raiders are one of three teams from the area remaining entering sectionals.

Bay Port, a No. 2 seed in D1, will play No. 3 Hartland Arrowhead at 7 p.m. Thursday  at Fond du Lac.

The Pirates (22-2) are riding an 18-game winning streak and won both regional contests against Green Bay East and Kettle Moraine by double digits.

Arrowhead (19-5) beat De Pere 61-59 in a regional final and won the Classic Eight title with a 13-1 mark.

“Hopefully, we got the playoff jitters out of the way,” Bay Port coach Nate Rykal said. “We played well in spurts against East and Kettle Moraine.

“I think if we play the way we can we will do very well against Arrowhead. We are as healthy as we have been all season and can play much better than we did Saturday.”

If Bay Port wins, it could have a rematch with Kimberly in a sectional championship. The Papermakers are the last team to beat the Pirates, and that came before Christmas.

In Division 5, Lena beat Suring 65-61 in overtime to reach sectionals and will play top seed Gresham at 7 p.m. Thursday at Green Bay Preble.

Lena, a No. 3 seed, is attempting to reach state for the third time in team history and the first time since 1992.

The Wildcats (20-5) finished third in the Marinette-Oconto Conference and have a season-high six-game winning streak.

Gresham is 22-3 overall and has won 17 of 18.

Pulaski standout Jacob DeStarkey averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Fox River Classic Conference.

Pulaski standout Jacob DeStarkey averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Fox River Classic Conference.

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