By Zach James Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — Fulton head coach Mike Menchaca wishes he had more time to polish some of the cracks and rust off of his Steamers girls basketball team.
He saw his Steamers go down 45-31 on Thursday to Amboy in just its third home game of the season. One of the traits that Fulton has been guilty of is sluggish starts. This game was no different.
The Steamers had just seven points at halftime. Two in the first quarter, thanks to a basket from Kerrigan Enloe five and a half minutes into the game, and five second quarter points. The five points came from a made basket by Autumn Hutton, and three made free throws from Enloe.
“We weren’t ready offensively, not ready to shoot, “ Menchaca said. “It took us a whole quarter to figure out that we have to go to threaten it, and it really hurt us coming out and scoring two points.”
Amboy began in a zone set defensively, and really stayed in it throughout most of the game.
“We’ve been pretty confident facing zone all season,” Menchaca said. “For some reason, we just chose not to drive the gaps and move the ball. Amboy did a good job creating issues, and their top two in the zone worked their butts off tonight.”
Despite such a slow start, the Steamers have found ways to make games interesting, and the fourth quarter was when Fulton tried to steam its way back.
Freshman Jordan Price tried to lead the drive for the Steamers scoring six points in the fourth quarter for Fulton. Rachael Beiermann also scored six points, all from the free throw line, and center Betsy Leonard had four points in the paint in the attempted comeback.
“These girls have fought all year long like this, we come out flat, then we fight,” Menchaca said. “We make every game a game, and I’m proud of them for that.
“We have to stop picking and choosing when we want to come out,” Menchaca then said. “I wish we could come out like we did in the fourth quarter earlier. but we’re young and have room to learn and grow.”
Youth is a big factor that Fulton is trying to adapt to, but another one is confidence, which Menchaca believes comes in spurts as well.
“We’re trying to build confidence here,” he said. “We’ve got to do it every quarter, and when we don’t make those extra passes or not ready to shoot, defenses can close out on us and the good defenses will take away our best option every time.
“We have times where there’s a couple who want to shoot, and then there are times where no one wants to shoot, and that is a concern.”
It depends on the coach’s style of philosophy whether he or she prefers game experience or practice time. Menchaca prefers the latter.
“What’s killing us is this long stretch of games, and not being able to practice as often as I’d like,” he said.
Fulton is just coming off playing in the five-day Warkins Tournament in Erie, and before Christmas rolled around, they competed in the Pearl City Tournament.
“We really need to be in the gym,” he said. “We’ve been on the floor just a few times in the last couple weeks, and that’s going to hurt us in the long run.”
Fulton has one practice this afternoon before playing in another game on Saturday at Prince of Peace.
AMBOY 45, FULTON 31
AMBOY — Sydney Wilhelm 2 2-3 6. Micaela McCoy 2 0-0 4, Kennedy Dinges 1 0-0 2, Kaitlyn Liebing 7 1-1 15, Elizabeth Ortgiesen 1 2-6 4, Joanna Fredericks 1 0-0 2, Jennifer Boyle 0 0-0 0, Delaney Wilhelm 2 7-8 11, Hallie Nauman 0 0-0 0, Karlee Doege 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 13-20 45.
FULTON (3-14) — Averi Leitzen 0 0-0 0, Cam Huizenga 0 0-0 0, Betsy Leonard 2 0-0 4, Kerrigan Enloe 2 3-4 7, Autumn Hutton 1 0-2 4, Rachael Beiermann 0 7-8 7, Jordan Price 5 1-2 11, Faith Kennedy 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 10-12 31.
Amboy 9 7 12 17 — 45
Fulton 2 5 7 17 — 31
3-point goals — None. Total fouls — Amboy 17, Fulton 19. Fouled out — S. Wilhelm.