MORRISON, Ill. — Three-point baskets have been a key to Fulton’s successful season in boys basketball. Many times, 3-pointers have gotten the Steamers off to early leads.
That was the case again Tuesday night, but the last two 3s they made might have been the most important of the season.
Matt Dail’s fifth 3-pointer of the game pulled the Steamers within one point of Morrison, then Kyle Huebner delivered another on Fulton’s next possession in a 36-32 come-from-behind win in the Three Rivers Conference.
“I think Hubie’s was the one (that changed the momentum),” Dail said. “Those two threes were huge.”
Not only did the win push Fulton’s record to 14-5, it also served as a bounce back after a disappointing double-overtime loss last Friday at Prophetstown. Another loss would have dropped the Steamers to 3-3 in conference play.
“It’s big to get a win like this and get back on track,” Huebner said.
For a while, though, it appeared Fulton might be headed in that direction.
Morrison had overcome an early 9-3 deficit — Zach Barber opened the game with a 3-pointer for Fulton and Dail made two more — and crept within 16-13 by halftime. Then in the third quarter the Mustangs took the lead for the first time when Mason Sitzmore scored in the lane and followed up with a steal and pass to Triston Houzenga for a layup that made it 24-23 with 2:55 left.
Fulton pulled even on a free throw by Jake Willging, but Bill Lee Greul hit back-to-back baskets to end the quarter and give the Mustangs a 28-24 lead.
“We started out slow but started to get in it in the second quarter,” said Greul, who scored six of his team-high 14 points in each of the second and third quarters. “We came out in the third quarter nice and strong.”
Fulton stayed confident despite trailing.
“I wasn’t too concerned,” Dail said. “I knew we would come back. “After Friday at P-town, we didn’t want to be there again.”
Huebner wasn’t quite as confident.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” he said. “I didn’t want two (losses) in a row.”
Fulton coach RJ Coffey said: “We were in similar territory to Prophetstown. I said, ‘We’re going to win this basketball game, but we’ve got to bring it to them and knock shots down.’ “
It took awhile, but eventually his words rang true.
Morrison still led by four when Sitzmore scored underneath to make it 32-28 with 5:29 left in regulation. Barber (11 points) missed 3-pointers on Fulton’s next two possessions.
On their next possession, the Steamers worked the ball around before passing it to Dail, who was standing a few feet in front of Coffey, probably 25 feet from the basket.
“I was feeling it,” said Dail, who led Fulton with 15 points. “I felt we needed a spark, and Seth (Sanderson) threw a good pass. No one came out on me, so said I was going to shoot.”
He stuck in the long 3-pointer, and suddenly Fulton was down just 32-31 with 3:15 left.
“When Matt spikes a three like that, it not only pulls us close, but it gets the team up,” Coffey said.
Morrison missed at the other end, and once again, Fulton worked the ball around and found Dail again.
“The next play I was in the same spot, but the defense sucked to me, so I passed to Hubie,” Dail said.
This time, Huebner delivered, draining another 3 from the left side for a 34-32 lead with 2:23 remaining.
“The shot at the end came from ball movement,” Huebner said. “They got me open.”
Greul said: “We just got tired. Their postman screens low, and when we didn’t get around it, they made it.”
Huebner then made a key play on the defensive end, forcing a jump ball.
Fulton was unable to take advantage, but Morrison missed its chances, too. Neither team scored again until Barber sealed the win with two free throws with 13.9 seconds left.
FULTON 36, MORRISON 32
FULTON (14-5, 4-2) — Matt Dail 5 0-0 15, Kody Crosthwaite 0 0-0 0, Seth Sanderson 0 0-1 0, Jason Osborn 1 0-2 2, Zach Barber 3 3-3 11, Kyle Huebner 1 3-4 6, Paul Velasco 0 0-0 0, Jake Willging 0 2-6 2. Totals 10 8-16 36.
MORRISON — Joey Brackemyer 0 0-0 0, Mason Sitzmore 2 0-0 4, Bill Lee Greul 6 2-2 14, Hunter Hamstra 2 0-2 4, Kaleb Church 3 2-3 8, Scott Ferry 0 0-0 0, Triston Houzenga 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 4-7 32.
Fulton 10 6 8 12 — 36
Morrison 5 8 15 4 — 32
3-point goals — Fulton 8 (Dail 5, Barber 2, Huebner). Total fouls — Fulton 12, Morrison 11. Fouled out — None.