SUAMICO - Thursday's Division 2 boys basketball semifinal between Pulaski and Seymour not only featured teams that prefer different styles of play, but also teams with different histories.
Seymour has made 13 trips to the state tournament, the last coming in 2011, while Pulaski has made two trips to state, the last coming in 1989.
When the teams met Thursday in a sectional semifinal at Bay Port, none of it mattered. It was all about this night with a trip to the sectional finals on the line.
Which team could force its style on the other would move on to a sectional final, and Pulaski was that team. Behind a season-high 20 points from Luke VanLanen and 14 from Cody Wichmann, No. 1-seeded Pulaski defeated No. 2 Seymour, 45-39.
"We don't normally play well here at Bay Port," Wichmann said. "That was motivation in itself. We just came and had no regrets and came out on top."
"I'm happy for the seniors," Pulaski coach Dave Shaw said. "They've been here and close for a couple of years. Everybody says it's nice to have seniors and I guess it's true in games like this, where it means a little bit more and put forth that little extra effort."
Pulaski relies heavily on seniors Wichmann, Jacob Bader, Jordan Stiede, David Halla and Spencer Lawniczak. Furthermore, VanLanen, a junior, has started since his freshman season, and that experience was big Thursday.
Pulaski lost in a sectional semifinal the previous two seasons, but Thursday it didn't look fazed by the standing-room only crowd. From the tip, the Red Raiders controlled tempo and looked comfortable.
The Red Raiders took their time working the ball on offense, as usual, and after grabbing a 3-2 lead never trailed. That forced Seymour to play catch-up against a team that likes to use the clock.
"You want to make them to play from behind because they can kind of establish tempo," Seymour coach Jon Murphy said. "They control the game if they get up."
The biggest moment of the game came late in the third quarter. Leading, 31-23, Wichmann hit a 3-pointer to give the Red Raiders a 34-23 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"It was pretty big," Wichmann said of the shot. "I told Luke, ‘Here comes the three-ball,' and it happened."
An 11-point lead with eight minutes to play was ideal for Shaw.
"It all revolves around being able to pass and catch," Shaw said. "That's what we do every day in practice. They're drilled and they're sick of me in practice. That's what wins games in the end, if you can pass and catch."
Seymour did make Shaw nervous. Seymour clawed back to within 36-32 with 4 minutes, 9 seconds, but that still was enough cushion for the Red Raiders.
"Our guys are comfortable, but those guys put more gray hair on my head than any group I've had," Shaw said. "It's never easy."
It wasn't easy for Seymour all game. While Dakota Oskey (16.5 points per game) scored 17 points, Sandy Cohen was limited to 10 as Shaw said his focus was on Cohen, who entered the game averaging 16.8 ppg.
"We were 12 for 32 (from the field), that's not good enough," Murphy said.
Pulaski's defense was an issue for Seymour, but so was the pace of Pulaski, which doesn't allow an up-and-down game. Murphy said it's tough to get momentum rolling.
"It's hard to string quality possessions together because they're so far apart," Murphy said. "They're good at it."
Pulaski will take its style to Fond du Lac on Saturday for a sectional final game against Grafton. The winner makes the state tournament and that's been the goal all year.
"Four years, I haven't been there," Wichmann said. "One more game, we're just going to play our hearts out."
- 3-pointers: Seymour beat Grafton this season, 45-37. … Seymour opened with a box-and-one defense on Wichmann but only stayed in the defense until midway through the first quarter. Seymour then switched between a 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone and its man defense. … The announced attendance was more than 2,300.
- Game ball: VanLanen, who picked a great time for his first 20-point game of the season.
- Numbers game: 1 More win and Pulaski makes the state tournament.
PULASKI 45, SEYMOUR 39
Pulaski….12 11 11 11 — 45
Seymour...10 9 4 16 — 39
Pulaski (21-4): Brian Heiden 7, Dakota Oskey 17, Sandy Cohen 10, Casey Jefson 3, John Powless 2. 3-pointers: 2 (Oskey 1, Jefson 1). Turnovers: 10. Totals: 12 13-19 45.
Seymour (20-5): Taylor Splan 5, Luke VanLanen 20, Jordan Stiede 5, Cody Wichmann 14, David Halla 1. 3-pointers: 4 (Wichmann 2, Splan 1, Stiede 1). Turnovers: 7. Totals: 15 11-16 45.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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