By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
FULTON, Ill. —
They may meet again a week from today in the semifinals of the Illinois Class 2A Morrison Regional, but neither team was holding anything back Tuesday night.
Led by the floor play of Joey Brackemyer, Morrison rallied from a seven-point deficit over the final 8 minutes and 10 seconds and defeated Three Rivers Conference rival Fulton 44-41 in boys basketball on Stan Borgman Court.
“They’ve always been just a big, huge rival with us since back before I was born, and it’s always been a great game against them,” Brackemyer said. “To get them and beat them here on Senior Night is a big thing.
Fulton (19-8, 8-5 conference) crumbled in the fourth quarter after leading 35-28 with a half-minute left in the third quarter.
“Obviously we didn’t shoot very well tonight, but tonight didn’t come down to not shooting the ball well,” Fulton coach R.J. Coffey said. “We were up late and not shooting the basketball well. What we need to do is get stops defensively, we need to jump on loose balls, we need to not turn the basketball over. If we did those things, we could have continued to shoot poorly and still won.”
Brackemyer made sure that didn’t happen.
He had a hand in nine consecutive points as the Mustangs (13-15, 9-5) turned a 38-34 deficit into a 43-38 lead during the key 3:10 stretch in the fourth quarter.
“He’s only a sophomore, (but) he looks like a senior, he’s so well built,” Peugh said. “He missed the first 17 games of the season with us, so we were without him the first half of the season, and he’s just starting to come into his own. His shot’s starting to come around a bit, and he’s our floor general. He’s a big-time player when he plays hard.”
For that three-minute stretch, Peugh couldn’t have asked for Brackemyer to play any better.
Brackemyer made a pair of free throws with 4:07 remaining to cut the gap to 38-36, then he found Hunter Hamstra for a tying basket with 3:08 remaining.
“They gave me a perfect lane to drive in, and whenever you drive in, those defenders always crash on you,” Brackemyer said. “My players are always cutting next to me. I know where they are at all times, and it’s just easy to get them the ball and get the assists.”
He did it again moments later. A Fulton double team had the ball trapped in the corner, but Brackemyer got open for a pass and penetrated on the right side.
“That was the way the fourth quarter went for us,” Coffey said.
“We got trapped in the corner and it was scary,” Brackemyer said. “We thought we were going to turn the ball over there, but we ended up getting it out and I saw Kaleb (Church) out of the corner of my eye and dumped it down real quick and he was able to finish the bucket.”
Not only did Church score the go-ahead basket, he was fouled and converted the three-point play for a 41-38 lead.
“I was just running the play,” said Church, who finished with 11 points. “I was open and I shot it. I knew we needed a three-point lead because they like to shoot a lot of threes.”
Fulton made nine shots from behind the arc, but it couldn’t make enough of them.
I thought (Matt) Dail and (Zach) Barber didn’t get off as many threes as they probably wanted to,” Peugh said. “I thought that might have made a little difference. I thought our guys stepped it up a notch and played with a little heart and a little guts, and good things happen when you do that.”
Fulton led most of the way after Kyle Huebner drilled a 3-point basket from the left side with 4:10 left in the first quarter. The lead rose to as much as eight, 18-10, when Jake Willging made a pair of free throws midway through the second quarter.
Morrison got as close as 25-24 when Brackemyer assisted on a Bill Lee Greul basket in the third quarter, but another 3-pointer by Huebner with :41 left in the period gave the Steamers a seemingly comfortable 35-28 lead.
That feeling didn’t last long as Morrison asserted itself on the glass.
Mason Sitzmore scored on Morrison’s third chance following a steal with 7 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Mustangs got within 35-32 when Church cleaned up after a Sitzmore miss and scored on a putback with 7:21 left in the game.
Fulton’s Dail answered with his third 3-pointer of the night eight seconds later, but the Steamers didn’t score again until Jason Osborn hit a 3 from the left corner with 8 seconds remaining. By then, Brackemyer had done his damage in the 9-0 run.
Trailing 43-41, Fulton had one last chance after Church missed a free throw with 6.7 seconds left, but the Steamers turned over the ball, and Hamstra put in a free throw for his 15th point and the final margin with half a second remaining.
The win gave Morrison some revenge for a loss on its home court a month ago, and it evened the season series at 1-1.
“It gives us a lot (of confidence for the regional matchup),” Church said. “It gives us the edge coming into the game.”
Fulton senior Jake Willging said it was an edge the Steamers could erase.
“They know what we can do; we beat them at their house earlier,” he said. “We have to worry about us, not them. We’ve just got to work hard. That’s how we got 19 wins, and that’s how we’ll get more.”
MORRISON 44, FULTON 41
MORRISON (13-15, 9-5) — Joey Brackemyer 2 5-6 9, Mason Sitzmore 3 1-2 7, Scott Ferry 0 0-0 0, Hunter Hamstra 7 1-3 15, Kaleb Church 4 3-5 11, Bill Lee Greul 1 0-0 2, Triston Houzenga 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-16 44.
FULTON (19-8, 8-5) — Matt Dail 3 0-0 9, Kody Crosthwaite 0 0-0 0, Seth Sanderson 0 1-2 1, Jason Osborn 2 0-0 5, Zach Barber 2 3-4 9, Cody Huff 0 0-0 0, Bryce Holesinger 0 0-0 0, Kyle Huebner 4 1-1 12, Paul Velasco 0 0-2 0, Jake Willging 1 3-4 5. Totals 12 8-13 41.
Morrison 8 7 15 14 — 44
Fulton 12 9 14 6 — 41
3-point goals — Fulton 9 (Dail 3, Huebner 3, Barber 2, Osborn). Total fouls — Morrison 13, Fulton 14. Fouled out — None.