FULTON, Ill. – Nothing seemed to click for the Fulton girls on Saturday afternoon.
They were missing a handful of players, including starter Liz Fish and Macy Puckett. Still, head coach Mike Menchaca wanted to see a cleaner game than the 52-26 loss to Byron at home.
“We’re banged up, tired,” Menchaca said. “We’re missing kids that play a lot of minutes and we pulled up some sophomores who played good minutes, the pace of the game is just different. When you’re depth is already short and then we come into a game with an opponent like Byron, it takes us out of rhythm.”
The Tigers came out fast and hard, matching up with the Steamers height wise and offering a ton of athleticism. They went on a 7-0 run to start the first quarter before Fulton’s Kylee Sweenie put in a pair of freethrows at 4:30.
They made a little bit of leeway and were pulling down offensive rebounds, but couldn’t seem to find the rim. Overall, the Steamers had 13 missed layups in the contest. They trailed 10-4 by the time the first quarter ended.
With the tall and athletic Tigers as their opponent, Fulton gave up a lot of points in the paint.
Not only that, but their zone pressure in the backcourt was giving the Steamers fits. Time after time, the Steamers went for cross court passes or lobs and saw the ball tipped and landing in the hands of the Tigers. That translated into easy buckets on the other end.
That left the Steamers putting up very few shots. By the time the teams broke for half, it was 30-8.
“They’re very athletic and their 1-2-2, they want you to feel like something is open,” Menchaca said. “That’s one thing we need to get better at. We’ve had a pretty good year but our passing angles have been bad.”
Foul trouble also was creeping up on the Steamers. Emily Schipper had early fouls, ending up fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Kylee Sweenie also struggled with fouls, picking up a few in the backcourt.
Defense was passive, allowing plenty of attacks off the dribble.
“We only attempted nine free throws and we weren’t aggressive at all,” Menchaca said. “Our 1-3-1 was in really good shape early on, but today we didn’t hardly get any tips or kicks. Weak side rebounding was awful. It was very lackadaisical.”
The Steamers have a short turnaround. Liz Fish will be back, but overall they’re still missing a couple to injuries.
They play in the Erie Warkins Memorial tournament, starting right away with two games on Monday. They then take a few days off for the holiday, and Menchaca wants the girls to focus on getting back to health to fill out the roster.
After that, it’s fixing the defense that allowed 52 points on their home court on Saturday.
“It’s one of those games we’re not going to pry too much into, we’re just going to refocus and move on,” Menchaca said. “Our focus is get some rest and get healthy. We have to really tear into our defense and build that back up.”