Pulaski girls basketball team comes up short in overtime

Dustin Riese

It may not always be pretty, but a win is a win when it comes to high school sports. That is what the Seymour Thunder and Pulaski Red Raiders were trying to do Nov. 17 as this was a good old-fashioned defensive tussle.

Whether it be shots not falling, panicking on the offensive end or just all around sloppy play, neither of these teams could get much of anything going. That was until the final four minutes of the game when the action not only picked up, but all of a sudden, buckets were falling and both offenses started to come to life. All that led to an extra four minutes as a Keira VandeHei layup with 6.5 seconds to go in overtime handed Pulaski a tough 39-37 defeat.

“We needed to hit some of our wide-open looks, and we haven’t been doing that,” head coach Doug McElrone said. “When you have an open look, you have to knock it down. It’s hard to win games when the shots don’t fall, especially ones that we know we should make.”

Defense was the theme all night for the Thunder, especially during the first half as they held Pulaski without a field goal for nearly six minutes. Alayna VandeHei and Natalea Hill managed to put the Thunder on top 6-1 early as the Red Raiders were searching for answers. Leave it to Maggie Lardinois to put an end to the field goal less drought of four minutes, but that was the only field goal Pulaski would make for nearly 10 minutes as they trailed 7-6.

In desperate need of an offensive spark, Pulaski started to work the ball inside as Olivia Sprangers gave Pulaski their first lead before converting on a steal shortly after. Following another defensive stop on the other end, Lardinois was left alone in the corner as her 3-pointer gave Pulaski the 14-7 lead.

That was the largest lead of the game for Pulaski as the Thunder offense picked up five quick points from Salem Boyd to pull within 14-12 before two big buckets late in the half had Pulaski in front 18-12. While the offensive numbers weren’t pretty, It was the defense that McElrone was happy about as that was the reason for the early first half lead.

“Our defense was great but we need to capitalize on turnovers,” he said. “If the stats are correct, we forced 25 turnover,s which is a very high number, but only managed to come away with 37 points. That can’t happen. It’s tough to win that way, and we need to do a better job converting on more of those turnovers.”

Hoping for more offensive support in the second half, it was more of the same for both sides as a mix of poor shot selection and pressure defense continued to make life difficult on the offensive end. Even with Lardinois and Sprangers maintaining that six-point lead, Boyd took it upon herself to keep things close while Hill managed to tie things up 22-22. Things would remain tied for the next several minutes before Ellie Mangold knocked down a free throw to put the Red Raiders back in front 25-24.

With the lead again, Pulaski continued to rely on their defensive pressure as they came away with a few more turnovers leading to four quick points for Sprangers to build the lead back up to 29-24. On the verge of letting this one get away, VandeHei connected for one of her biggest shots of the game as a triple from the left wing pulled the Thunder back within two. Seymour continued to chip away from there, grabbing a late lead before seeing things tied back up at 33. With the ball in their hands and a chance to end the game, Pulaski chose to play for the last shot as the Mangold fade was off the mark sending things to overtime 33-33. That was the kind of night it was offensively for Pulaski as they had the looks but couldn’t knock them down.

“It was just one of those nights where the shots wouldn’t fall for us,” Lardinois said. “If we hit some shots, we open up our driving lanes for our guards, it’s a completely different game offensively. Credit to Seymour for keeping the pressure on us early and taking us out of our rhythm and then making sure we would only get one opportunity at the hoop. The season is still young, and we know we are going to get better.”

Set to begin the overtime period, it was the Thunder striking first as Boyd wasted no time getting going, so much so that she scored the first four points of the overtime period to give the Thunder their biggest lead since early in the first half 37-33. Not to be out done, Pulaski got more aggressive on the offensive end, which led to a pair of free throws from Sprangers and an easy lay up from Mangold to tie things up at 37-37.

Still tied and under 30 seconds to go, Seymour had the ball in their hands with a chance to finish things off. Credit the Red Raiders defense for making life difficult, but all it took was a minor breakdown defensively that allowed VandeHei to get to the rim and put home the go-ahead shot with 6.5 seconds remaining. Needing a bucket to tie things up, Pulaski had a chance, but couldn’t get a shot off in time.