MADISON - Yup, the Pulaski boys basketball team is Division 2 state champs.
The Red Raiders, who before this season, had never won a state tournament game in two previous trips, won the school's first boys state title and they did it their way.
By using its deliberate offensive style and stingy defense, Pulaski defeated Wisconsin Lutheran, 48-40, at the Kohl Center.
"I have no idea, it doesn't feel real," said Pulaski senior Cody Wichmann when asked how it feels to be a state champ. "It's just a great feeling. I'll appreciate it more when I have time to look back."
Once again it was up to Pulaski to force its style on Wisconsin Lutheran, which wanted a fast tempo and once again the Raiders (24-4) won out. The Vikings (22-6) were held to their lowest scoring output of the season and made just 12 of 35 shots.
Meanwhile, Pulaski executed the way it always seems to, making 16-of-26 shots from the floor, and many of those points came in close as the Red Raiders scored 30 of their 48 inside the lane.
"Wisconsin Lutheran is really quick and up in our shorts," Wichmann said. "That sets up easy screens, so we just go to the basket and tried not to settle for three-point shots like new did against Onalaska (in the state semifinal game Friday)."
That led Pulaski to a 31-20 lead after three quarters and that sort of lead is usually insurmountable, and it was. However, the Vikings did make a run, cutting the score to 44-39 with 26 second to play.
But that was as close as the score would be as Pulaski iced the game with free throws. Pulaski once again controlled tempo and won its first state title.
Shaw knew his team could engineer the game plan.
"We felt on both sides of the floor, we could dictate how this played out," Shaw said. "Once we got a few shots to go down in the beginning and a few stops our way; we're pretty good when we have the opportunity to play with the lead.
"These guys have a lot of experience in this situation. We've come through most of the time, so I was confident."
Ironically, Pulaski outscored Wisconsin Lutheran, 12-3, in fast break points. Shaw will let his players run when the opportunity presents itself and it usually catches the opponent by surprise.
"They've been part of that strategy and have had a lot of success with that," Shaw said. "They believe in the system."
While Wichmann scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds, had four assists and three steals, his fellow left-handed senior, Jordan Stiede, played big in the biggest game of his life.
The point guard dealt with Wisconsin Lutheran's constant pressure (just three turnovers) and scored 10 points, while running the offense.
"Jordan Stiede was awesome; controlled himself in the backcourt," Shaw said. "He was able to shake his defender and enter the sets and plays we wanted to run. He was everything."
From the tip Saturday, Pulaski had a comfortable, maybe loose look to it. The championship setting was no problem, just like the Vikings.
Shaw said Friday's overtime win over defending state champ Onalaska got his players ready.
"I felt when we pulled that game out we'd be much better tonight," Shaw said. "I thought we played a little bit looser. That was a tight game for us; didn't have that feeling all day today. Kids were loose. We were anxious to play better than the night before."
"Out there it doesn't feel like we're playing in front of a lot of people," Wichmann said. "Just try to play loose and we did."
- 3-pointers: Luke Van Lanen scored 13 points for Pulaski. … Pulaski was 1 for 7 on 3-pointers, while the Vikings were 3 for 13. … No Pulaski reserve attempted a shot, while Wisconsin Lutheran's reserves were 0 for 11.
- Game ball: Wichmann, who played a complete game in his final high school game of his career.
- Numbers game: 1 State title for the Pulaski boys basketball team.
For a complete boxscore, click on this link: http://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Results/Basketball_Boys/2013/d2game3.htm
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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