One of the marquee games in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout turned out to be a showcase for only one of the teams involved: Kaukauna.
The defending WIAA Division 2 state champion bolted to a large lead early and then just kept adding to it en route to an 84-57 romp over Whitnall in a matchup of two preseason top-10 squads at Concordia University of Wisconsin on Dec. 29.
Spurred by 8 points from Bailey McDaniel, the Galloping Ghosts burst in front 17-2. All-state player Jordan McCabe then took over the game, scoring 15 points in the rest of the first half to help Kaukauna build a 47-17 halftime margin.
The lead grew to as many as 42 points early in the second half before the Falcons finally came to life with a late scoring burst, but they never came close to getting back into the game.
"We didn't do what we needed to do," Whitnall coach Steve Kujawa said. "We had three days scouting them, running all the different sets, and we refused to do what we needed to do. They (the Ghosts) got onto a run, and we were hanging our heads. They got on a roll, and that's what running teams do. They shoot the (3-point shot); they got some easy buckets in transition."
The Falcons, by contrast, could not hit shots in the early going.
"We missed a lot of shots," Kujawa continued, "and I think that took the wind out of our sails. We had some good looks, didn't get some calls; what are you supposed to do?"
To Whitnall's credit, the team kept playing hard and was rewarded with a 20-5 spurt midway through the second half.
Joey Tilley tallied 6 points in that run, Jacob Wilson netted back-to-back 3-point shots and Dan Alexopoulos and Mitchell Knapp also scored in the sequence, which only served to trim Whitnall's deficit to 74-47.
Tilley led the Falcons with 16 points, all in the second half, and Will Kegel and Wilson each put in 8 points. Whitnall's two top players were shut down, with Tyler Herro scoring only 9 points (none in the second half) and Kevion Taylor 4 for the game.
For Kaukauna, McCabe finished with 26 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists. Eric Carl added 13 points, Brad Vosters 12 with excellent defense on Herro and McDaniel 10 points In addition, Dylan Kurey pulled down 19 rebounds, some of them leading to putbacks.
"The best thing about this is that we get to move on," Kujawa said. "We've got a long ways to go. This was a learning experience for us."
Whitnall (6-2 overall) next takes on surprising Greenfield (6-1) at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at home. The game is the beginning of a boys-girls doubleheader that evening.