Pulaski boys basketball team holds on as buzzer beater falls short

Dustin Riese

In what was their final game until the new year, the Pulaski Red Raiders (5-3) faced off against the Manitowoc Lincoln Ships (3-4) for what was another classic Fox River Classic Conference contest Dec. 22. With both teams looking to get on a roll after an up-and-down start, this was one of those games that went down to the wire.

Trailing by nine late in the second half, Edward Bolchen put the Ships on his back as he connected for several triples as part of his game-high 26 points. That included a four-point play with less than a minute to go as the Ships pulled within one of the Red Raiders. Looking to ice the game at the free throw line, Pulaski missed a pair of free throws as Manitowoc had a chance to win the game, only to see Bolchen’s buzzer beater fall short as Red Raiders held on for the 55-54 win.

“This was a good win for us tonight,” head coach Jeff Polkowski said. “Manitowoc shot the ball well from distance tonight and did a great job making us work for our points. We have a lot of improvements to make, but can head into the holidays with some positive momentum.”

In a time where the 3-point ball has changed the game of basketball, both teams came out on fire from distance with Dixon Holewinski opening the game with a triple followed by the Bolchen triple. In fact, the first three made buckets for Manitowoc came from beyond the arc as the Ships opened up an early 9-5 lead. Pulaski continued to answer with Ethan Schmidt connecting on another step back three to pull within 9-8, only to have Bolchen hit from distance again as the Red Raiders were down 14-8.

That was the largest deficit they would face in the game as they got away from the 3-point game and started to work the ball inside and closed out the first half on an 18-8 run.

Polkowski was impressed with how the defense, in particular the press, took over as that changed the course of the first half.

“Our press was effective early on in the game,” he said. “It was great to see the players make the adjustments in practice this week and see them transfer it to the game.”

Colin Schultz and Dylan Dorn played a huge role in that as Schultz led the Red Raiders with 18 points while Dorn added 12. Dorn especially played a big role in the first half, scoring six of 10 for Pulaski at one point to give the Red Raiders a 23-22 lead before Pulaski extended their lead to 26-22 at the half.

Looking to build off their strong finish to the first half, it was the Red Raiders who came out strong again as Schmidt connected for a corner three to finish with 10 points and gave the Red Raiders three double-digit scorers in the game.

That three was mixed with a corner three by Nathan Jossie to push the lead to 37-30, but it was the Schultz show early on in the second half as the junior guard took over. At one point, Schultz scored seven consecutive points for the Red Raiders and had 10 of 13 overall during the second half as he was on a mission and helped give the Raiders their biggest lead of the game, 43-35.

“Colin let the game come to him, and he helped give us an edge that ultimately held Manitowoc,” Polkowski said. “Collectively, everyone responded this evening with getting a win going into winter break.”

On the verge of falling behind by double digits, Bolchen took over the game down the stretch and put the Ships on his back to lead the comeback. Whether from the free throw line or from distance, Bolchen wouldn’t let the Red Raiders pull away as he had Manitowoc within 51-47 late. Following a pair of Schmidt free throws, all the focus went to Bolchen who found Brayden Steinbecker inside for the 3-point play to make things 53-50.

The biggest play of the game came five minutes later and it was after the Red Raiders took a 55-50 lead on a pair of free throws. Needing points in a hurry, Bolchen was left alone on the wing and connected for another fade away three to pull within 55-53. To make matters worse, he was fouled on the play and proceeded to hit the free throw as Pulaski’s lead was cut to 55-54.

With less than 10 seconds to go and the ball in their hands, Pulaski had a chance to go up by three, but a pair of missed free throws from Holewinski gave the Ships one last chance to steal the victory. Fortunately, the Red Raiders defense put enough pressure on the Ships to force a tough shot as the Bolchen buzzer beater came up short and the Red Raiders held on for the win.