FULTON – Even members of the Fulton High School girls basketball team believed the outcome of a Three Rivers Athletic Conference matchup with Riverdale was settled at halftime.
The Steamers mustered just five points in the opening 16 minutes of play and trailed 24-5 heading into the locker room Thursday night at Stan Borgman Court in Fulton.
"They have to believe in themselves," Fulton coach Mike Menchaca said. "I asked them [at halftime] if they thought it was over and the majority did think it was, so we just have to change our mindset first before we get to that next level."
But if Fulton was uncertain of their ability to execute an improbable comeback, it certainly did not show on the court, as the Steamers chiseled a 19-point deficit into an opportunity to tie the contest with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation.
With nearly five seconds remaining, Riverdale missed a free throw attempt, sending Fulton's Kylie Collachia streaking down the court with the ball, which she unsuccessfully heaved towards the hoop from half court as the Rams held on to beat the Steamers 37-34.
Fulton's leading trio of Emily Schipper, Liz Fish and Rylee Leitzen hoisted the Steamers back into contention in the fourth quarter after entering the period trailing 35-16.
In the fourth quarter alone, Fish sunk a pair of crucial shots from long-distance, Leitzen had five points and Schipper, who missed nearly four minutes of the period with an ankle injury, added four of her team-high 10 points.
What was the key to Fulton's comeback?
"A big difference was looking to shoot and score the ball coming off of screens," Menchaca said.
Fulton handedly outscored Riverdale 29-13 in the second half – a performance that typically incites a victory. Especially considering the Rams only netted two points in the entire fourth quarter.
But Menchaca said the team's energy needs to improve before falling in a sizable hole.
"We have came out flat in just about every game this year except for one," Menchaca said. "If we can somehow find a way to come out with that intensity in the beginning, I think we win a lot more ballgames."
While Menchaca noted that the players need to find a sense of urgency after the opening whistle, he said it falls on his shoulders to find the solution.
"I'm not sure if it is something we need to do in practice or before games but we have to find a fire because we play 32 games a year, but we are really only playing 16 because we are missing two quarters every game," he said.
Fulton (4-6) will head to Ashton for tournament play Saturday.