By Tom Schultz
For the Herald
FULTON, Ill. —
It was a battle on Stan Borgman Court on Friday night between the Fulton Steamers and visiting Erie Cardinals that went into overtime. Emotions and intensity on the court were high.
Only the Steamers were left standing when the clock hit zero with the 49-46 win. Fulton won its first conference game of the season and improved to 4-16 overall in what was a whole team effort on the floor.
“It was our first conference win in a great environment we had here tonight with the fans,” Fulton coach Rick Norman said.
The gym was packed with Fulton and Erie fans alike, making for a loud game that only pumped up the intensity, something that didn’t bother the Steamers.
“Got it (win) at home, in front of our own crowd; hopefully we keep getting them coming to our games and keep us intense,” Fulton senior TJ Huizenga said. “Because when it gets loud in here, I think we play a lot better when it’s loud.”
The intensity gradually built as the game progressed. The Steamers led 9-6 after the first quarter, then went through some ups and downs in the second, third and fourth before stepping up and taking over in overtime.
“We were persistent most of the night,” Huizenga said. “We had a few downs, but we got right back up. Coach told us at halftime we hit our peaks, we hit some valleys. But it all depends on how deep you go.”
Huizenga worked off what Norman said to the team in the locker room, adding his own thoughts: “If you go down as far as we have been lately, it’s going be hard to come back, but you know what, we went down a little bit, we came back up and we stayed high. It was an intense game.”
The Steamers were able to handle the intensity a bit better than the Cardinals, who committed two technical fouls. One, late in the fourth quarter, put Matt Dail at the free-throw line. In quick succession he sank both free throws without flinching.
“That was a big morale booster, especially when we hit the free throws because that was just burying them. They knew, ‘Oh, we made a mistake; we got that technical and they’re capitalizing on it with the free throws.’ ” Fulton senior John Widener said.
The free throws kept coming for the Steamers as they were a perfect 4-for-4 in overtime, burying each shot from the line with cold, steely confidence. Those free throws turned out to be the difference in the game for Fulton.
“Our free throws were pretty good tonight; they kept us in this tight game,” Norman said.
Ecstatic from the win, the Steamers celebrated on the court with each other and their fans, jumping into each other’s arms in giant bear hugs with big smiles on their faces.
“It was a great win,” Norman exclaimed.
“This is an awesome win for us tonight.” Widener added.
FULTON 49, ERIE 46
ERIE – Johnston 7 5-6 19, Saad 2 0-0 4, Chandler 1 1-2 3, Coleman 1 0-0 2, Stover 3 0-0 6, Cole 2 0-0 4, McConnell 4 0-1 8.
FULTON (4-16) – Matt Dail 2 2-2 7, Kody Crosthwaite 0 0-0 0, Nick Fish 3 6-8 12, TJ Huizenga 5 1-2 12, John Widener 2 0-0 4, Cody Huff 0 0-0 0, Jake Willging 2 1-1 5, Devin Kuehl 2 5-7 9
Erie 6 15 15 6 4 – 46
Fulton 9 12 10 11 7 – 49
3-point goals — Fulton 2 (Dail, Huizenga). Total Fouls – Fulton 14, Erie 14. Fouled Out – None. Technicals – Erie 2 (Saad, Erie bench)