The Fulton Lady Hornets had a specific idea of how they wanted to play the visiting Kirksville Lady Tigers, and that was low.
In fact, the lower the score, the better her team's chances were, according to first-year head coach TJ Quick.
"If we can keep a team in a low-scoring game, I think we have a shot," Quick said. "But when teams score 58 or 60 points, it's going to be tough for us to compete."
Kirksville - averaging 59 points - chose the scenario that wouldn't benefit Fulton. And the Lady Tigers ended up getting the best of the Lady Hornets.
Kirksville had three players reach double figures and rode a double-digit lead from the second quarter on to easily overpower Fulton 61-36 on Friday night in North Central Missouri Conference play at Roger D. Davis Gymnasium.
Fulton was blitzed early, falling behind 9-0 in the game's first 1 minute, 40 seconds. Kirksville knocked down shots on its first four trips down the floor, forcing a Lady Hornets timeout at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter.
"They played Kirksville basketball, which isn't our pace of basketball," Fulton senior guard Rachel Washington said. "So, the first three minutes or so, we were kind of rushed."
When the Lady Hornets were finally able to slow down Kirksville's hot shooting, they took to the task of breaking the Lady Tigers' fullcourt pressure defense. Quick prepared her players for it over the course of last week's practices.
"Early, we got scared and got spooked," Quick said. "We practiced it all (Thursday) and knew they were going to do it, and after the first two minutes we settled down with it, but what got us was after we crossed halfcourt, we still felt the need to push.
"They like to push the ball, but that's not our game. So it turned into turnover after turnover after turnover. Once we crossed halfcourt, we didn't play our game at all."
Whether it came from careless ballhandling or Kirksville's suffocating defense, Fulton had to contend with a barrage of Lady Tiger baskets coming off turnovers.
"We had to keep our composure," said Washington, who accounted for six of the Lady Hornets' 27 turnovers. "We had a lot of people saying, "Slow it down and run the play,' so we just had to gather ourselves and take a minute."
Fulton (3-4, 1-2 NCMC) trailed 30-15 at the half and gradually trimmed the Kirksville lead down to between 10 and 15 points, but could never quite get closer than that. A Washington basket brought the Lady Hornets within 36-24 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
However, Kirksville (4-0, 4-0 NCMC) closed out the period on a 7-0 run, one of many scoring spurts it used to bat down apparent Fulton uprisings.
"That seems to be our motto," Quick said. "When we have to claw back, we fight really, really hard and then one little thing, like a spurt, ends our run."
The 12-point deficit was as close as Fulton would get. The Lady Tigers led 45-24 to start the fourth quarter and stretched their lead to as many as 27 points in the final 8 minutes.
"When you've clawed back the last three quarters, you sort of lose steam," Quick said. "I think in the third quarter we lost some of our composure."
Kirksville junior forward McKenzie Russell led all scorers with 22 points, while junior guard Kendyl Blanke and senior center Natalie Garlock both had 12.
Senior forward Corri Hamilton was the only Lady Hornets player in double figures with 12 points, while Washington added nine.
"Since it's early in the season, we can learn from it and move on," Washington said. "Because it'll be closer next time."
Fulton travels to Eldon at 6 p.m. Tuesday.