By Zach James Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — LANARK, Ill. — Shooting from beyond the 3-point ark has been a key staple for the Fulton Steamers boys basketball team. Monday night, they rang 2013 out with making 10 3-pointers in a 64-40 win over Prophetstown.
The win sealed third place for the Steamers in the Eastland Holiday Tournament after they fell to highly-touted Eastland on Saturday. Polo defeated host Eastland 67-65 in the championship game.
Despite the loss Saturday, Fulton coach RJ Coffey believes his team keeps making longer strides.
“We had everyone contribute tonight, and we have some guys who are playing really well right now,” Coffey said. “I thought guys who don’t normally get recognition — Jason Osborn, Kody Crosthwaite and Cody Wiersema — all did a heck of a job tonight.”
Fulton usually has a player who shoots like he’s on fire on a nightly basis. Some nights it’s Zach Barber, but this time around, Matt Dail scored five 3-pointers en route to his game-high 19 points.
“It was his night tonight,” Coffey said. “We started out a little bit slow, but Matt’s shooting picked us up and got us rolling.”
Dail was quick to point out, however, that the credit shouldn’t go to him.
“My teammates get me open,” Dail says. “Without them creating opportunities for me, I can’t score. They’re the ones who get me open.”
Dail said he felt his hot hand getting warmer as the game progressed.
“Once I hit one shot, my confidence just goes from there,” the senior guard says. “That first shot felt really good.”
One of the first 3-pointers, however, came from Kyle Huebner. He later added one more in the second quarter and a field goal inside the arc in the third quarter to come out with eight points.
Dail said the difference-maker was the second-quarter run that the Steamers scraped together, outscoring the Prophets 17-9 in that period. The score at the half was 33-20.
“It gave us the adrenaline rush and the momentum we needed to go into halftime, catch our breath and shut it down in the third quarter,” Dail said.
In that first half, Prophetstown tried to mix things up by playing a little zone defense, but as good shooters do, Fulton took advantage of the missed adjustment.
“We love that teams who play man-to-man because of what we can do against it,” Dail said. “Personally, Kyle (Huebner) and I love seeing zone defenses because of our ability to shoot, too.”
Prophetstown coach Cordell Juhola said his team had to go back to man-to-man for what Fulton did against it.
“Usually we play zone, but we went back to man defense because we didn’t have the intensity to get out to their shooters,” Juhola said.
Overall, Juhola said the Prophets started on a good note, but the injury bug was starting to bite the Prophets pretty hard.
“We played the first two games well, and even the Eastland game (Friday) well, but we’ve been battling the injury bug leading to 40 percent of our starters being out, which is tough for us right now,” Juhola said. “On the bright side, we’ve had kids off the bench step up and (they) are doing the best they can.”
Meanwhile, the Steamers said they played some of their best basketball against tough competition, which Coffey says is a good sign.
“We played tough ball against Eastland and Polo, and beat a Prophetstown team who we’ll see down the road,” he said. “I didn’t think the (Dec. 26) game against Pearl City was our best because of an 8:30 in the morning start, but overall, this was a good tournament for us.”
Fulton returns home Friday against Riverdale.
FULTON 64, PROPHETSTOWN 40
FULTON (11-3) — Jason Osborn 6 0-3 12, Seth Sanderson 0 0-0 0, Zach Barber 4 2-4 11, Kyle Huebner 3 0-0 8, Jake Willging 2 0-1 4, Matt Dail 6 2-2 19, Devin Kuehl 0 2-2 2, Kody Crosthwaite 1 0-0 3, Cody Huff 0 0-1 0, Cody Wiersema 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 8-15 64.
PROPHETSTOWN — Austin Meadows 2 0-0 6, Ethan Howard 5 2-3 15, Seth Cady 2 0-0 5, Chris Bauer 3 5-5 12, Josh Paul 1 0-1 2. Totals 13 7-9 40.
Fulton 16 17 18 13 — 64
P’town 11 9 10 10 — 40
3-point goals — Fulton 10 (Dail 5, Barber 2, Huebner 2, Crosthwaite); Prophetstown 7 (Howard 3, Meadows 2, Cady, Bauer). Total fouls — Fulton 14, Prophetstown 16. Fouled out — None.