PULASKI — Kaukauna knew when it drew Pulaski in a regional semifinal game its patience was going to be tested against a team that won the Division 2 state title last season playing a slow-tempo style.
The Ghosts knew there would be periods where literally nothing would happen; they just would have to figure a way to persevere.
“It’s a mindset of trying to stay the course because they’re so patient,” Kaukauna coach Mike Schalow said. “You might go two minutes without a shot, so you have to understand you have to have patience.”
After 4-2 first quarter, No. 5-seeded Kaukauna picked up the pace as much as it could and in the end the Ghosts scared No. 4 Pulaski out of the postseason with a 43-35 win, sending Kaukauna to No. 1 Seymour on Saturday in a regional final.
Schalow, who led the Ghosts to a state runner-up showing in 2012, knew what the key was to Friday’s win.
“I think it was us trying to keep our composure more than anything,” he said. “They came out and ran a triangle-and-two on Kyle (Schalow) and Carter (Belling), saying they were going to take them out of the game.
“We had to get some other guys some shots. We just kind of grinded it out on the defensive end, switched things up, tried to keep them off balance and once we got the lead, we were able to throw some things back at them.”
One of the reasons Kaukauna (15-8) got the lead was 6-3 Trent Nytes. With Pulaski (17-5) paying attention to guards Schalow (11 points per game) and Belling (10 ppg.), Nytes (13.6 ppg.) found himself with chances around the basket and made the most of them with 14 points.
“I was looking to get inside because they were playing a triangle-and-two,” Nytes said. “We did a good job of getting it inside.”
Nytes helped Kaukauna hold a lead after every quarter, but it was the final quarter where that obviously mattered most. With Pulaski’s deliberate style, Schalow wanted the lead late to force Pulaski to play faster and he got that as the Ghosts held at least a two-possession lead most of the fourth quarter.
“If we had a lead we had a chance to go to a variety of defenses,” Schalow said. “On offense, if we could get the lead and get to the free-throw line; that proved to be a factor down the stretch.”
Kaukauna goes for a regional title Saturday at Seymour. Schalow said he thought his team was nervous Friday but then settled in.
Now he feels good about his team, which he knows has to play well to advance.
“Getting that first game, you have to find a way to win,” Schalow. “We’ve been battle-tested, we have a good league. We know Seymour’s good. If we come to play, hit some shots and defend, we have a chance to win that game.”
Added Nytes: “Looking forward to it a lot; ready to go. Shutting down Sandy Cohen is the key.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay