With Prophetstown leading Fulton by only two points at halftime, Prophets junior Cassie Reiley knew she needed to spark her team.
Reiley’s spark lit a fire under her team.
She drilled a 3-pointer on the Prophets’ first possession of the second half, scored 12 points in the third quarter and led her team to a 45-26 Three Rivers Conference girls basketball victory Thursday at Stan Borgman Court.
“I wasn’t making much in the first half,” Reiley said. “So I knew in the second half, it was really kind of on my shoulders ... as one of the team leaders. When I do something good or I can make something good happen, it pumps the team up. That makes everyone play better and faster and harder. It just gets everyone going.”
While the first half wasn’t ideal for Prophetstown (14-7), the Prophets rebounded to remain perfect in conference play at 7-0. Fulton (7-14), which dropped to 2-5 in conference play, was, however, pleased with its first-half performance.
“Our defensive effort was really, really nice in the first half,” Fulton coach Jesse Abbott said. “The girls understood the offense Prophetstown was trying to run. They helped when they needed to help. Honestly, I think the biggest thing was they were willing to put forth the effort on defense. I think that is a downfall, though; sometimes we don’t quite put forward the effort needed. Tonight, we sold out. We went for it on defense.”
But Reiley — who didn’t make a field goal in the first half — took over in the third quarter, starting with that 3-pointer just 10 seconds into play.
“I told the girls that first possession on defense would tell a lot,” Abbott said. “They came out and hit a 3 right on us. That was partly our own fault. It kind of snowballed from there.”
Reiley then scored on two layups — one on a fast break, one on a drive — with a putback from Fulton’s Morgan Wierema in between. Morgan Sanquist hit two free throws to pull Fulton back to within five points. Prophetstown’s Jenna Forward and Sanquist traded 3-pointers, and the Steamers kept their deficit to seven points with a minute to play in the quarter.
But Reiley had the answer again for the Prophets.
She scored on a fast-break layup, got a steal and scored on another fast-break layup all within 17 seconds. She was fouled on the second layin and made the free throw to put Prophetstown ahead 35-23. Reiley scored 12 of her game-high 16 points in the quarter.
“The pace of the game got faster. I think that really helped,” Reiley said. “We know that teams are usually bigger than us, so we have to try to jumble them up and try to get them a little frustrated, so they make silly passes and we can get some steals. Then we can play full-court basketball and hopefully get some easy breaks.”
Prophetstown scored 19 points in the quarter after managing only 16 in the first half. Then to make matters worse for Fulton, the Prophets tightened their defense even more in the fourth quarter. The Steamers committed six turnovers and scored three points in the final frame.
“That’s one of our key things that coach (Don Robinson) emphasizes — playing good, hard, shutdown defense,” Reiley said. “We try to play our best without fouling. If we would have fouled, they would have gotten free throws. We didn’t want to let the game get close that way. Coach always emphasizes good defense. I was really happy with how our defense was. ... We didn’t let them get anything easy. We did a good job defensively this game.”
In the fourth quarter, Reiley dished out two assists — one each to Riley Walters and Catherine Medrano, who scored four points apiece in the quarter.
“I think the biggest change after halftime was our execution,” Abbott said. “I thought we played hard and maybe played as hard (as we did in the first half). I was a little worried that they would come out and play harder than they had been playing and we wouldn't quite match it. … I think our execution protecting the basketball once we got into our offensive sets was kind of the difference there. They executed. We didn't.”
For the Steamers the takeaway is what they accomplished in the first half.
“I think it’s something that we can focus on,” Abbott said. “It’s something we can say, ‘Look, if you play like that, you can contain them. You can keep in the game.’ That’s something we’ve got to understand, we’ve got to keep it close. We can’t let them get on some runs. We’re not quite capable yet to match that.
“What we did in that first half, if we can do it for all four quarters, we can keep it close. Then have a chance at the end.”
Fulton’s defense propelled the Steamers on a big run over a seven-minute stretch early.
With 30 seconds to play in the first quarter, Sanquist drained a jumper to cut Prophetstown’s lead to 11-7. Then for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second quarter, the Prophets’ only point came on a Walters’ free throw.
“We didn’t follow through on some of our shots,” Reiley said. “We just couldn’t connect. I know I missed a few. We missed a few easy, bunny shots. If we make even five of those shots, it could have really opened the game up.”
The Prophets couldn’t get any shots, to drop and Fulton was there to pull down the rebounds.
For the Steamers offensively during that stretch, Wierema grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the putback and made a foul shot to cut the deficit to two.
Chelsea Lesniewski made a short jumper off an assist from Katherine Wayne to tie the score with 2:32 before the half and Samantha Raab scored to put Fulton ahead.
Prophetstown closed the half on a 4-0 run to retake the lead on a putback by Clare Kramer and two free throws by Reiley with 42 seconds left — her first points of the game.
“After the game, I tried to be as positive as I could,” Abbott said. “Overall, our effort was good. That was something that lacked in the previous game. I don’t think we played quite as hard as we were capable of. We played hard the whole game (Thursday). If we can do that, then we can take steps to better executing. But the first thing is to play hard. I told them that a number of times. They played hard the whole game. They were physically tired at the end of the game and they should be. Now it just becomes, ‘Can you continue to do that and now execute.’ I challenged them to do that and keep getting better.”
Both teams were looking ahead to postseason play after the game.
“It was really important (to win),” Reiley said. “This was a big game. It will help determine our regional seeding, so hopefully this will help get us a No. 1 seed in the tournament. That’s really important.”
The Steamers don’t have much chance of wresting the No. 1 seed in the Erie Region away from the Prophets, but Fulton still has plenty of season left.
“Our goal right now, we’re 2-5 in conference, so we’re probably not going to win conference,” Abbott said. “That’s just the way it’s going to be. Our goal right now is to get better every day until that first day of regionals. Prophetstown, I can’t imagine they won’t be the No. 1 seed in our regional. They’re the only one with a winning record right now. That’s the team that we’ve got to be able to compete with if we want a chance to be competitive at the regional.”
PROPHETSTOWN 45, FULTON 26
PROPHETSTOWN (14-7) — Cassie Reiley 5 5-5 16, Corrie Reiley 0 0-0 0, Danielle Cooney 1 0-0 2, Molly Corbin 0 1-2 1, Karlie Stafford 1 0-0 2, Catherine Medrano 1 2-2 4, Jenna Forward 1 0-0 3, Riley Walters 4 1-2 9, Clare Kramer 4 0-0 8, Darion Scanlan 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 9-11 45.
FULTON (7-14) — Katherine Wayne 0 3-4 3, Rachael Beiermann 0 0-0 0, Samantha Raab 3 0-0 6, Morgan Sanquist 2 2-4 7, Rachel McDonnell 0 0-0 0, Chelsea Lesniewski 1 0-1 2, Morgan Wierema 3 2-6 8. Totals 9 7-16 26.
Prophetstown 11 5 19 10 — 45
Fulton 7 7 9 3 — 26
3-point goals — Prophetstown 2 (Ca. Reiley, Forward); Fulton 1 (Sanquist). Total fouls — Prophetstown 15; Fulton 11. Fouled out — None.