By Tom Schultz
For the Herald
FULTON, Ill. —
Friday night at Stan Borgman Court, the Fulton Steamers took control of the game early and never let go against the visiting Amboy Clippers in their 63-38 blowout win.
Amboy had the inbound with 28 second left before half trailing Fulton 24-22. The Clippers were going for the quick score to tie the game but missed their opportunity on a shot in the paint. TJ Huizenga of the Steamers grabbed the rebound and quickly passed up the floor to an open Nick Fish for the layup to give Fulton the four-point lead.
“We played probably the best team basketball we’ve ever played this season tonight,” senior John Widener said.
With 13 seconds left before the half, Fulton maintained its focus and control by forcing the Clippers’ Damon Quest to miss the contested shot as time ran out. A weakness all season for Fulton, it was finally able to shut down its opponent in the final seconds of the half.
Another problem Fulton had battled all season was coming out in the third quarter sluggish against teams, falling into big holes and ultimately losing games. The Steamers turned that around against the Clippers, going on a 14-4 run to open up the third.
“We came out at half (and) we just blew them away,” Fulton senior TJ Huizenga said.
At halftime, coach Rick Norman talked to the Steamers about what they had to do against Amboy in the second half.
“We had to come out strong like we did in the first quarter in the third quarter, and if we could sustain their push that they were going to put on us in the third, then we’d come out of here a winner,” Norman said.
The offense started out aggressive for Fulton as post players John Widener and Jake Willging put the Steamers on the board early in the first quarter with long-range jump shots, setting the tone for the game. The jump shots kept falling from everywhere on the floor and helped open up the post later in the game for the Steamers, who didn’t miss an opportunity all night.
A lot of the opportunities the Steamers got came from rebounds, an area of their game that has hurt them this season.
“We controlled the boards tonight, both offensively and defensively all four quarters,” Norman said. “We spoke about that before we went on the floor that if we control the boards, good things will happen for us and they did tonight.”
Nearly every offensive rebound turned into points for the Steamers, the biggest coming in the last two minutes of the second quarter. Widener grabbed the rebound off a missed shot from Matt Dail and gave it right back to Dail, who nailed the followup 3 and took the lead away from Amboy for the final time, 22-20.
“It was a total team effort. Good contributions from everyone both offensively and defensively,” Norman said.
Widener noted that after two previous meetings with Amboy, the third ended in Fulton’s favor.
“Third time’s a charm,” he exclaimed. “They beat us twice already, and we didn’t play our best basketball back then. That was kind of our driving force the last week, week-and-a-half coming into this game.”
FULTON 63, AMBOY 38
FULTON (3-13) — Matt Dail 5 2-2 14, Kody Crosthwaite 0 0-0 0, Nick Fish 7 0-0 15, TJ Huizenga 2 3-5 8, John Widener 4 2-4 10, Cody Huff 1 0-0 2, Jake Willging 5 0-0 10, Devin Kuehl 1 2-2 4. Totals 25 9-13 63.
AMBOY — Damon Quest 2 1-4 6, Jordan Ernst 4 0-0 8, Drew Fordham 1 0-0 2, Tyson Powers 5 5-6 16, Tanner Behrands 1 0-0 2, Zach Piper 0 0-0 0, Louie Ohlendorf 1 0-0 2, Max Andrew 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 6-10 38.
Amboy 12 10 8 8 — 38
Fulton 14 12 21 16 — 63
3-point goals — Amboy 2 (Quest, Powers); Fulton 4 (Dail 2, Fish, Huizenga). Total fouls — Amboy 8, Fulton 10. Fouled out — None. Technical foul — Ernst.