By Tom Schultz For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — The Fulton Steamers could not stop Sydney Mericle of the Riverdale Rams during their first matchup of the girls basketball season. Mericle lit up the Steamers for 31 points Thursday night, leading all scorers as the Rams defeated the Steamers 62-38 in Fulton’s home opener.
Fulton was hampered by inconsistencies all over the court that hurt it in the long run. On offense, the Steamers put up a lot more shots, but they were streaky at best, making a couple of shots in a row before falling into a drought. Their rebounding followed suit. They would miss a shot and grab the rebound but more times than not, put up a weak shot, especially early. As the game progressed, the Steamers went to the free-throw line more often but were inconsistent going 8-for-15 as a team.
The players didn’t lack confidence on the court, even though they were battling their own inconsistencies.
“We were in more control and more confident too, I think, out there. We just played a lot smarter than we did earlier (in the week) at Erie,” Fulton senior Rachael Beiermann said.
The Steamers were not afraid to take the shot if it was open, or go up to the basket from the post, they just couldn’t finish off the shots.
“I knew once the ball got low corner and it was either Averi (Leitzen) or Camerin (Huizenga) that had the ball, as long as I sealed the player, I knew I had it because she was a shorter player than I was and as long as I had that bank shot I was fine.” Fulton junior Kerrigan Enloe said about her confidence level posting up against Riverdale.
In the first half, Riverdale slowly got out to a comfortable lead as Mericle began to heat up. The Steamers were unable to find a way to stop her and the rest of the Rams, committing too many fouls (24) that hampered their fourth-quarter effort.
A lackluster and sloppy, but aggressive, fourth quarter for the Steamers followed a solid third quarter as Fulton went on a few short runs, highlighted by its post play, cutting what was a 17-point deficit down to 8 and giving hope going into the final quarter.
“We’ve got a good group of post players. They’re a little raw with the talent. They work their butt off, they’re moldable, they’re hard workers,” Fulton coach Mike Menchaca said. “It’s gonna come; it’s gonna be gradually, game by game.”
Going down to the post is going to be the main goal on offense this season for the Steamers, as it will be a strength for them with taller and stronger players like Enloe and Betsy Leonard. Fulton saw flashes of their potential in the post in the second half as Enloe flexed her muscles and got to the line three times in the fourth quarter, drawing the fouls close to the basket.
“Overall, I think offensively we want to get the ball on the block. That was working for the most part; just some shots weren’t going in, and we’ve got to be stronger with the ball. We’ve got to be a little bit more assertive offensively,” Menchaca said.
Fulton has the weekend to prepare for its next opponent, Bureau Valley, and work on moving the ball on offense into the post and being more assertive to the basket.
RIVERDALE 62, FULTON 38
RIVERDALE – Groves 3 9-12 15, Maydew 0 1-4 1, Claus 4 5-7 15, Mericle 10 10-13 31. Totals 17 25-36 62.
FULTON (1-5) – Beiermann 3 1-2 7, Leitzen 1 2-2 4, Huizenga 0 2-2 2, Leonard 1 0-0 2, Enloe 5 3-7 13, Holland 2 0-2 4, Baldwin 3 0-0 6. Totals 15 8-15 38.
Riverdale 15 15 12 20 – 62
Fulton 9 10 11 7 – 38
3-point goals — Riverdale 3 (Claus 2, Mericle). Total fouls – Fulton 24, Riverdale 15. Fouled out – Baldwin