Fulton basketball

In this Clinton Herald file photo, Fulton’s Connor Barnett shoots over defense during a regular season 2018-2019 game.

It’s never easy to bow out of the postseason, let alone when you’re on the wrong end of an upset.

Yet that’s how the Fulton boys went out to end their 2018-2019 campaign. After leading by double digits, they saw their lead disintegrate into a regional final loss to Orion last year.

It’s on their minds, that’s for sure. Especially with a number of crucial players back for another season.

“We have a lot of guys that have worked hard in the off season to get better and anytime you have a tough post season loss its a motivating factor,” head coach RJ Coffey said. “We have several guys that are coming back that played big minutes last year and we have talked about using that experience as something to build on and grow from.”

Coffey and his staff do have some holes to fill. They lost a handful of seniors to graduation, including key pieces in the lineup.

Keegan Kloepping offered an outside threat and ball handling, while Kyle Schipper and Jamison Osborne put in work in the lane for boards and putbacks.

Still, they aren’t looking at a complete overall, either.

Coffey had two starting sophomores last year with Connor Barnett and Kyler Pessman. Both ended up being huge pieces, with Barnett running point and Pessman making a dual-threat shooting guard.

“I was really proud of our young guys last season,” Coffey said. “Both Connor and Kyler were asked to play a major role for us last season as sophomores and both of them exceeded expectations.”

Not only do they have a year of varsity experience under their belt in basketball, but they have football as well. The Steamers made the playoffs just at the beginning of November, and Barnett served as starting quarterback and Pessman as a talented runningback.

“They both are coming in with a lot of varsity experience and success in multiple sports and were looking for that to carry over and continue this season,” Coffey said. “Were lucky to have both of those guys back.”

A key for the Steamers will be around the net, but even there they have options. Senior Bradlee Damhoff comes back into the lineup. The 6’5 forward had plenty of minutes and showed moments of brilliance last year and will be back to make an impact with his length and his quick feet.

“For me Bradlee is our X-factor,” Coffey said. “I am expecting a lot from him this year and when he gets going he makes us a much better team. When Bradlee is focused and working hard he has the ability to dominate and really be a difference maker for us.”

A 12-15 record last year certainly isn’t one to be ashamed of, especially with the youth.

Now, high expectations continue.

“I really like our group this year and I think the guys understand the opportunity we have to be successful,” Coffey said. “We talk all the time about competing at a high level every time you step on the court.

“We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go. Its all about staying focused on getting better everyday.”