FULTON — The Morrison Mustangs let a lead slip and then took it back late in the game to beat the Fulton Steamers 41-35 in a rivalry matchup in Fulton on Tuesday night.
“A victory on the road is a victory on the road,” Morrison Head Coach Jason Banks. “We played well enough to win, we kept our composure down the stretch and won so I’m proud of them.”
For the Steamers — who had only lost five games — the loss was a bit of a shock.
“We didn’t do our job tonight,” Fulton Head Coach RJ Coffey said. “We didn’t come out good. We had stretches where we played OK but we just didn’t have it tonight. We didn’t do our job.”
The Mustangs came out swinging, jumping to an 8-1 lead before Coffey had to call a timeout and recollect his team. Although the Steamers put some points on the board, Morrison had a response every time and the Mustangs went into the second quarter with the 16-10 lead.
Then, they started the second quarter with a 5-0 run to extend the gap to doubledigits.
“We clearly weren’t prepared,” Coffey said. “I don’t know what happened there. We apparently didn’t take them serious enough and you can’t do that. On any given night, anybody can get you. You have to come in and be ready and willing to handle business and we did not.”
That’s when Steamers started to step up. Cody Sanderson drove into traffic and drew the foul, draining both free-throws. He then drove down and put in a scoop layup to cut the lead to 21-14.
Keegan Kloepping found himself open and drained the 3-point field goal to cut the lead again. Then Tyler Bruggenwirth--who had been out a large portion of the second quarter after picking up his second foul early in the game--drew another foul and put both his free-throws in as well.
Morrison’s Ben Brackemyer put in a free-throw on the other end to put the Mustangs up by three, but Sanderson went coast-to-coast to put in another layup to end the half. The Steamers went into the locker room down 22-21.
“We got out to the big lead and the kids were amped and we got into a big hurry,” Banks said. “We started coming down and just doing one pass and shooting. That’s not what we’re trying to do and we let it get away from us.”
A lot of the first half woes came from foul trouble. Bruggenwirth — the Steamers’ consistent leading scorer — grabbed a second foul early in the first. The Mustangs were shooting bonus free-throws before the middle of the second quarter.
“Tyler is a super talented kid and very fundamentally strong,” Banks said. “We knew if we could make things difficult on him that it would help us out down the road.”
Coming out to the second half, the Steamers had steered out of the foul trouble.
They tied everything up at 24-24 and the rest of the third quarter belonged to the Steamers. Sanderson drove and made a basket with the foul for the 3-point play, and then found Bruggenwirth in the lane on the next possession to take the 29-24 lead. The Steamer defense forced a turnover and Nate Wierema found the rim for the seven points lead.
The Mustangs didn’t score again until there was under two minutes to go in the quarter, but put in a basket and a three to chip at the lead. The Mustangs pulled within one point as soon as their second possession in the fourth quarter.
“For some reason late in the game we stopped being aggressive,” Coffey said. “We got back into the game by running and attacking and getting them tired but then we put the brakes on. We weren’t being aggressive and we were playing timid and a little panicked. I don’t understand that because we’ve handled ourselves better in the fourth quarter.”
With Fulton still ahead 33-32, Sanderson drew a foul and drained both free throws to up the lead to three. Morrison’s Grant Slater grabbed a long pass down the floor for an easy bucket, and then Britt Ottens scored to give the Mustangs their first lead of the half, 36-35 with 4:26 left to play.
“We had a couple looks and guys just didn’t hit shots,” Coffey said. “We settled for shots instead of attacking the rim and that’s what happens when you get away from what’s working.
“We didn’t do a good job all night of taking advantage of stuff. We had spurts of positive but that was it. It was 2-3 minutes of good play but not enough good consistent basketball on either end.”
Ottens would score again, as would Brackemyer on a tip in and Slater on a free-throw. Fulton — despite looks — wouldn’t find the basket again.
“It really was a team effort,” Banks said. “Brackemyer, ironically enough, only scored two points in the second half. For us to win with that low points for him, that shows how much of a team effort it was and how we buckled down on the defensive end.”
“I hope we learn from this,” Coffey said. “We need to look at this and remember that any given night somebody can come out and get you no matter how well you’ve been playing or how many wins you’ve got. Hopefully that sinks in and the guys understand that and we don’t let it happen again.”