FULTON – Steamers' guard Keegan Kloepping fired a desperation 3-point attempt as time expired at the end of the third quarter, and the ball floated 21 feet to find the bottom of the net.
The buzzer-beating shot was the only score of the Fulton High School boys basketball team's disappointing third period, which ultimately led to a 43-28 loss to Stockton at Stan Borgman Court Wednesday night.
Fulton coach R.J. Coffey attributed the slow shooting performance – the Steamers shot just 4 of 16 (25 percent) in the second half – to the lack of penetration into the Blackhawks' potent 3-2 zone defense.
"We have had stretches where we have struggled to score this season," Coffey said. "We did not get the ball inside and did not do a good job of attacking the zone... we just kept extending farther and farther from the action and settled [for jump shots]."
Steamers' senior Kyle Schipper buried his first two 3-point attempts and snuck in a layup to nab eight points in the opening quarter.
But Schipper didn't score for the rest of the game, as the Steamers never seemed to find a comfortable rhythm after the first period, which ended in a 10-10 tie. Schipper's backcourt mate, Connor Barnett, was held scoreless after a 20-point outing Saturday.
Steamers' forward Jamison Osborn scored seven of the team's nine points in the second quarter to help Fulton pull within four points at 21-17 with 1:40 left in the half.
But the Blackhawks responded with a 8-2 run, ignited by an errant Fulton inbound pass that allowed Robbie Reifsteck to score an and-one layup as the clock expired.
Fulton trailed 29-19 at halftime as Schipper and Osborn combined for 15 of the team's points.
The third quarter proved to be the dagger for Fulton, as it missed its first six shots of the period before Kloepping's shot at the buzzer. The Steamers were then limited to just four points in the fourth.
Coffey said the Steamers needed to find ways to manufacture points during difficult shooting stretches, including layups or free throws.
But Fulton was unable to consistently find success dumping the ball to 6-foot-2 Osborn, who was flanked by Stockton's 6-foot-5 junior Cody Schultz. The Steamers also attempted just four free throws to the Blackhawks' 11.
"We weren't hitting shots and if you don't find ways to get the ball inside to get some easy buckets against the zone, you are going to struggle," Coffey said. "We just wanted to get the ball in the paint and we didn't hardly do any of that."
Trailing 38-22 at the end of three quarters, Stockton evaporated any sense of a comeback effort with a methodical opening possession of the fourth, consuming over 2:30 of the game clock with a sequence of passing and keep-away tactics.
"They were doing their job and playing real slow waiting for good looks," Coffey said. "When you put yourself in a hole like that, sometimes you have to deal with that."
Alex Staver scored 13 points to lead Stockton, who improved to 1-3 with the win. Garrett Buske and Schultz both added eight points to pace the Blackhawks.
Fulton opened the tournament with an exciting 58-54 win over Galena on Saturday before defeating local foe Unity Christian 63-25 later in the afternoon.
The Steamers (3-5) will hit the road twice next week, traveling to Bureau Valley on Tuesday before taking on Easton Valley Friday.
Unity Christian crumbles in loss
FULTON – The Unity Christian High School boys basketball team struggled to navigate around Galena's full-court pressure, as the Knights fell to the Pirates, 59-22 to finish the Route 84 Holiday Tournament 0-3.
Unity Christian never scored more than seven points in a quarter, with a seven-point third period being the Knights' best offensive eight minutes of the contest.
Only four different Knights scored, led by Zach Wilbur's eight points. Tyler Appel had six while Joey Woods and Trevor Bickelhaupt both had four.
Galena scored a whopping 21 points in the second quarter to take a 31-9 advantage into the intermission.
The Knights finished the tournament 0-3 against stout competition but are 1-1 this season against conference foe Galesburg Christian.