By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
ERIE, Ill. —
Fulton went to Morgan Wierema early and often Wednesday afternoon against Mercer County at the Warkins Cardinal Classic girls basketball tournament.
Wierema, a 6-foot senior, scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter as the Steamers grabbed a 10-point lead after the opening quarter on their way to a 51-27 lead.
"We always want to try to start inside-out," Fulton coach Jesse Abbott said. "Morgan is a strong basketball player. Not only is she tall, but she's strong. She was able to get good position. She really worked hard this afternoon to get good position. Then she converted early."
Wierema scored the first five points of the game. After a bucket by Mercer County's Kimi Nelson, Katherine Wayne and Morgan Sanquist scored back-to-back baskets to stretch Fulton's lead to 9-2 early.
"We were patient offensively and we got after it a bit better defensively," Abbott said. "We really worked the ball and got some good shots to start. Those shots went in. When we built the lead, we got a little more comfortable defensively and took some chances. That led to some confidence for us."
Fulton maintained its 10-point advantage for most of the second quarter and stretched the advantage to as many as 17.
The third quarter was a bit of a slower affair as Mercer County outscored the Steamers 6-4 and cut the gap to 15. Fulton rebounded in the fourth quarter.
"We slowed down a little in the third quarter," Abbott said. "In the fourth quarter, we really passed the ball well. We were making three, four, five passes before we took a shot. Our movement got better and got more open looks that way."
Wierema scored the opening points of the quarter on a putback after an offensive rebound, and Wayne drilled a jumper to push the lead to 19.
Mercer County went on a 6-0 run, but then Wayne hit a runner after driving to the lane. That basket gave Wayne 12 points and started Fulton on a game-ending 12-1 run.
"She's learned that her game is attacking the basket," Abbott said of Wayne, his senior point guard. "She did a great job running the offense, getting everybody where they were supposed to be. She also looked to get her own shot, and most of those came attacking the basket."
Abbott said the Steamers would need to continue to build on the things they did well as they continued during the tournament. Fulton takes the court at 6 tonight against Kewanee Wethersfield.
FULTON 51, MERCER COUNTY 27
FULTON — Rachael Beiermann 2 0-0 4, Samantha Raab 2 0-0 4, Katherine Wayne 6 0-0 12, Morgan Sanquist 5 0-2 10, Kelsey Leffler 1 0-0 2, Rachel McDonnell 1 0-0 2, Morgan Wierema 7 3-3 17. Totals 24 3-5 51.
MERCER COUNTY — Bailey Swanson 3 1-2 7, Bridget Anderson 2 0-2 4, Emily Lower 0 0-0 0, Emily Weeks 0 0-0 0, Kimi Nelson 4 2-4 10, Katie Weeks 0 0-0 0, Michaela Baker 2 2-2 6. Totals 11 5-10 27.
Fulton 19 12 4 16 — 51
Mercer County 9 5 6 7 — 27
3-point goals — none. Total fouls — Fulton 11; Mercer County 5. Fouled out — none.