The Fulton varsity boys basketball team remained undefeated in the Eastland Basketball Holiday Tournament after claiming their third game with a 58-24 win over Warren on Thursday night in Lanark.
In fact, the Steamers haven’t been in the loss column since losing to Stockton in pool play in the Route 84 Holiday Tournament earlier this month.
“We had talked about that game being a let down and not doing things well,” Fulton Coach RJ Coffey said about the Stockton game. “Thus far, the guys have responded well and we’ve come out and played the type of basketball we want to play.”
Jump to the Eastland tournament and the Steamers were coming off of a rout of the Eastland junior varsity team and a large victory over Stillman Valley on Wednesday. Tyler Bruggenwirth had a big day with a total of 44 points between the two games, including 31 in the Steamers’ victory over Stillman Valley.
“I think we’re playing better as a team which is helping me score a little more, too,” Bruggenwirth said. “I’ve felt better out there, but it’s because the team is playing better.”
Fulton ended the first quarter leading Warren by just one with the 9-8 advantage. Coach Coffey says that’s not exactly where he wants to see his teams’ defense.
“In the few practices we’ve fit in over the holidays we’ve worked a lot of defense,” Coffey said. “Even when you’re offense isn’t going you can lock down and still get the job done. We started out a little rough in the first quarter, we gave up nine but after that our guys really locked down. We did a really good job of rotating. We tried to do a little bit more trapping tonight and did some different things. The guys were working their butts off and working together, which is good.”
Their defense paid off with a high turnover rate. The Steamers came out in the second and went on a 9-0 run and ended up leading 26-12 by the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the second.
“We try to open up faster, but it didn’t really happen first quarter,” Bruggenwirth said. “We got it going by the half.”
Bruggenwirth led the first half with 10 points, the only player from either team to reach double digits. Cody Sanderson had 7 in the first 16 minutes.
“When those guys get going we can be really good,” Coffey said about Bruggenwirth and Sanderson. “They’re both real good basketball players and when they’re rolling at the same time that takes us to another level. I talked to them both about having big second half and they did the job.”
Bruggenwirth was also the first to put points on the board in the second half as well, giving Fulton the 28-12 lead. Sanderson followed that up with a drive, a basket and a free-throw for a three point play. The Steamers continued to extend their lead into the fourth, when Coffey pulled the starters and got some of his other athletes playing time. Even then, the bench held the lead.
Bruggenwirth ended the game with 21 points, while Keegan Kloepping followed with 12. Sanderson was the third Steamer to score in double digits against Warren, putting up 10 points.
Seven different athletes put points up for Fulton. In the previous two tournament games, 11 Steamers scored.
“Not only are we 3-0, but we’re getting lots of guys minutes — our younger guys are getting minutes,” Coffey said. “We’re getting to mix and match and seeing what groups we like.
“Cody and Bruggs [Bruggenwirth] are doing their things for us but Nate Wierema is really defending hard for us, Schipper, Keegan Kloepping, Max [Lemke] have all played big time roles for us off the bench. I’m excited and we just have to do that night in and night out.”
The Steamers continue pool play Friday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Aquin in Lanark, Ill.
“Aquin’s a good team,” Coffey said. “They’re well-coached, fundamental and they work hard. Tomorrow’s going to be a good test.”
Pending the outcome, the Steamers will play again on Saturday to determine their final standings in the tournament.
“We played better tonight,” Bruggenwirth said. “Our goal is to win this tournament — we said that at the beginning of the year and we’re just going to take it step by step every night and play hard.”