Fulton junior guard Erik Renkes had the ball in his hands on the perimeter as time was winding down in a Class 1A regional semifinal Wednesday night.
The Steamers trailed Prophetstown by two points. Renkes drove down the center of the lane and went up for a shot. Renkes and three Prophets collided, but no foul was called.
“We had another play called, but defensively they collapsed so it wouldn’t have been possible,” Fulton coach Rick Norman said. “Erik throughout the year has done what he did — take it to the middle and try to create something. He had the opportunity, but we didn’t get the shot and we didn’t get a foul. We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position to need a last shot.”
The ball ended up in the hands of Prophetstown’s Sawyer Kuepker, who was fouled with one-tenth of a second remaining. He hit both free throws to give the Prophets a 50-46 victory.
Prophetstown defeated the Steamers three times this season by a combined 13 points.
The first half seemed like this third matchup in the postseason would be the easiest victory for Prophetstown. The Prophets took an 11-point lead into halftime, outscoring Fulton 21-6 over the final 12 minutes of the first half, including a 17-0 run.
Renkes scored six points in the first 3:48 of the game, while Fulton held the Prophets to two points. But the Steamers wouldn’t score for the next 9:46 of game time. The Prophets got six layups during the run. Kory Sommers and Scott Matthews each scored six points for Prophetstown during the run.
“In the first half, we didn’t play very solid basketball,” Norman said. “I felt in the first half, we could have played a lot better than we did.”
Ashton Hutton came to the rescue for Fulton, scoring six points in the final 2:26 of the half.
The second half was a different story for the Steamers.
Hutton scored on Fulton’s first two possessions of the third quarter to cut the deficit to seven points. Prophetstown’s lead bounced between five and seven points for most of the quarter. The Steamers were able to cut the lead to five at the end of the third quarter on an interesting play.
Prophetstown’s Matt Juhola scored with 4 seconds left to put his team ahead 33-26. Fulton inbounded to Renkes, who took a couple of dribbles and heaved a 3-pointer from beyond midcourt just before the buzzer. The heave didn’t go in, but Renkes was fouled as he shot and went to the free-throw line with no time left on the clock. He made two of his three free throws.
Fulton kept charging in the fourth quarter, led by Renkes and the senior duo of Hutton and Ryan Edfors.
Edfors scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Hutton had a double-double in the second half alone, with 10 points and 10 rebounds after intermission.
“In the second half, we had a great improvement to get us back into the game,” Norman said. “In the second half, we were a lot more aggressive offensively and got to the foul line. We closed the gap and had an opportunity to tie or win it.”
With 3:38 to go, Edfors hit two free throws to make the score 39-37. Prophetstown scored the next four points, but Fulton came right back with a Renkes layin. Sommers hit big shots to keep the Prophets ahead. He drilled a jumper to stretch the lead back to six with 1:45 to play.
Then Edfors went on a 4-0 run of his own, hitting a layup and two free throws. Sommers drove the lane and made a layup to keep the margin at four.
Then with 36 seconds to play Edfors found Hutton cutting to the basket and hit him with a pass. Hutton made the layup, was fouled and made the free throw to make it a one-point game.
Fulton fouled Matthews with 19 seconds left, and he made the first of two free throws. He missed the second and Hutton came up with the rebound after a mad scramble. Hutton finally gathered the ball, while on the ground, just inside in the 3-point line. Fulton called a timeout to set up the final play.
Both teams missed opportunities with double-digit turnovers and six missed free throws. The plays that may keep the Steamers up at night were two second-half baskets by Renkes that were waved off and instead called as charging fouls on the junior guard.
“We had multiple opportunities where they threw the ball away and then we turned around and created our own turnovers,” Norman said. “They had quite a few turnovers and we could not capitalize on them and we had quite a few turnovers.”
Prophetstown advances to the regional semifinals today and will take on Eastland at 8:10 p.m.
Eastland beat Milledgeville 67-30, led by 16 points from Collin Macomber.
PROPHETSTOWN 50, FULTON 46
FULTON — Erik Renkes 5-14 4-7 14, Trae Tiesman 1-4 0-0 2, Ashton Hutton 7-14 2-3 16, Ryan Edfors 2-5 6-7 10, Matt Carbaugh 2-6 0-1 4, Taylor Manon 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Hoogheem 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 17-44 12-18 46.
PROPHETSTOWN — Sawyer Kuepker 1-5 2-4 4, Matt Juhola 4-11 2-4 10, Kory Sommers 5-8 2-2 12, Zach Inskeep 0-0 0-0 0, Carter Ames 1-1 0-0 2, Scott Matthews 5-14 3-4 13, Brett Simmons 3-4 0-0 6, Devin Johnson 1-4 1-2 3, Totals 20-47 10-16 50.
Fulton 6 6 16 18 — 46
Prophetstown 8 15 10 17 — 50
3-point goals — Fulton 0-4 (Edfors 0-1, Renkes 0-3); Prophetstown 0-7 (Sommers 0-1, Juhola 0-3, Matthews 0-3). Total fouls — Fulton 19; Prophetstown 16. Fouled out — none. Rebounds — Fulton 29 (Hutton 11, Carbaugh 10); Prophetstown 24 (Juhola 8). Assists — Fulton 6 (Renkes 3); Prophetstown 3 (Matthews 3). Steals — Fulton 1 (Edfors); Prophetstown 7 (Johnson 4). Blocks — Fulton 1 (Edfors); Prophetstown 3 (Juhola 2). Turnovers — Fulton 19; Prophetstown 14.