WIAA boys basketball: Pulaski defeats Wisconsin Lutheran 48-40 for D2 state title

WIAA boys basketball: Pulaski defeats Wisconsin Lutheran 48-40 for D2 state title

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WIAA boys basketball: Pulaski defeats Wisconsin Lutheran 48-40 for D2 state title

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MADISON Yup.

The Pulaski boys basketball team beat Wisconsin Lutheran 48-40 in the WIAA Division 2 state championship at the Kohl Center on Saturday night, delivering a long-awaited team state title to a school that has been close at times in the past but never captured one.

The Red Raiders (24-4) labeled this a business trip before they arrived here, and they took care of it by the end. After winning the first tournament game in program history in a semifinal against defending state champion Onalaska on Friday it had lost its opener in both previous trips to state in 1975 and 1989 Pulaski finished the deal against a Vikings team that won a title in 2009.

Perhaps it was the senior leadership of a class that included University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit Cody Wichmann and point guard Jordan Stiede. Maybe it was that this team long ago bought into a slow-it-down system brought in by fourth-year coach Dave Shaw that, while not always popular, has proven effective. Or maybe it was the community support the team has had from the start, evidenced by the 1,000 T-shirts they have sold to supporters with the “Yup” slogan that has become quite the rage in Pulaski.

Whatever it is, the Red Raiders finally are state champions.

“I don’t even think we have one (as a school),” Wichmann said. “It’s going to feel good to see that banner come down and get our rings. It’s just a great time for Pulaski.

“I mean, we had a lot of people here today. We had a sign that said the last one out of Pulaski, turn out the lights. Basically, our whole school and community is here. We love the support. We did it for them.”

They got to see Pulaski playing as well as it has at any point this season, with the stakes at their highest.

In a game in which Pulaski wanted to slow the tempo and Wisconsin Lutheran wanted to speed it up, it was the Red Raiders that dictated play on both sides of the ball throughout, grabbing the momentum early and never coming close to relinquishing it.

Pulaski shot a staggering 61.5 percent from the field (16-for-26), scored 30 points in the paint and held the Vikings to a season-low in points. It mostly played its 1-3-1 zone defense before going to its 2-3 in the fourth quarter when Wisconsin Lutheran tried to make a final run.

The Red Raiders used a little bit of every defense in their arsenal throughout their tournament run, using only man in a sectional semifinal against Seymour, mixing man and the 1-3-1 against Grafton in a sectional championship and doing the same against Onalaska.

“I think over the course of our 26 games, when we have been in this position, as other teams are when they are up, they are able to control,” Shaw said. “They have a lot of experience in that situation over the years and have come through most times.

“I was very confident that we were able to make the plays that we needed to do, and get the stops we needed and really dictate tempo. I have all the confidence in these guys to make things happen, and they did.”

Wichmann, meanwhile, finished with a game-high 17 points and added five rebounds, four assists and three steals while playing all 32 minutes. He perhaps helped put the game away at the end of the third quarter, when he hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining and then made a layup off a steal just 21 seconds later to give Pulaski a comfortable 31-20 lead entering the fourth.

“The game is never over,” Wichmann said. “But, yeah, I kind of felt like it was going to go our way.”

The Vikings (22-6) cut their deficit to five points late in the game, but four free throws by Wichmann in the final 22 seconds sealed the deal and delivered the gold ball to Pulaski.

“Right now in the moment, you are still almost in the game mode focusing on what happened,” said junior guard Luke Van Lanen, who scored 13 points. “In a couple days, it’s going to feel amazing. Not only for the team, but the whole town of Pulaski.”

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