"Helias has a lot of good shooters and I think if we can contest every shot and find those shooters, we'll have a chance to win."
That was the scouting report given this past week by Fulton Hornets head coach Marques Baldwin about the Hornets' opponent Friday night, the Helias Crusaders. Baldwin was right on with his prognosis. Too bad his team didn't come up with its end of the remedy.
The Hornets were competitive for all of the first 4 minutes of the opening quarter before the Crusaders pulled away and coasted to a 64-36 non-conference victory. Helias never trailed and the closest the contest ever came was a 2-2 tie after a floater from Hornets sophomore guard Deon Galbreath 53 seconds into the game.
From there, the Crusaders (8-5) went on a 14-3 run to close out the opening period. That included a 71-second sequence in which the Hornets (8-6) couldn't move the ball past Helias' half-court pressure defense, much less get a solid shot off.
"Whenever we got pressured, we got away from doing what we do consistently," Baldwin said. "And we got down quick, which caused me to call two quick timeouts, which I never like to do and didn't really help."
"We didn't execute anything tonight and when you don't execute against a good team, this is what happens."
While Fulton floundered, their rivals from Helias seemed to be clicking in every which way. The Crusaders made good use of the Hornets' inability to guard the perimeter and knocked down jump shot after jump shot, mostly from sophomore guard Dylan Gish.
Gish torched Fulton to the tune of a game-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers.
"We talked about how we had to maintain shooters and know where they were at all times and take them away, and we just didn't do that tonight," Baldwin said. "It wasn't so much what they did, it was just more of what we didn't do."
When the Hornets did manage to get past halfcourt, the shots weren't necessarily falling. Fulton went into halftime down 37-14, though it could have been better had a few chip shots fallen through the net.
"I think at times we got the ball where we wanted and got good-looking shots, but we were just rushed and scared," Baldwin said. "We played scared tonight, I think, and we rushed every shot and threw the ball at the rim rather than shoot it, and we missed easy layups, and when that happens, you'll get in a hole."
The most consistent offense for the Hornets came from Galbreath. The sophomore finished with 15 points, following up his career-high 18 points in Fulton's third-place victory at the California Tournament on Jan. 15.
"I think he's getting better every day, which is what you want to see from a sophomore guard," Baldwin said. "We need to work on his shot selection, but he's young and still learning, and he does a lot for us defensively when he wants to."
If Galbreath's shooting was suspect from time to time, then the rest of his teammates were downright shaky. The next highest scorers for the Hornets were senior guard Anthony Porter and junior forward Nick Seelinger with five points apiece.
Porter, Fulton's leading scorer, dropped 27 points in a 66-61 win over California in the third-place game at the California Tournament. That shooting touch left him against Helias.
"He wasn't taking good, quality shots and when he missed easier looks, he started pressing to make the rest of them and started aiming rather than shooting," Baldwin said.
But putting all of the onus on Porter's off night wasn't Baldwin's intention.
"He didn't play well, (senior forward) Nick Christensen didn't play well, (senior guard) Rob Pittman didn't play well," Baldwin said. "Just across the board, we didn't play well."
The Hornets and Crusaders could meet up again in district play, so Baldwin stressed that there wasn't much use in getting down about Friday night's setback.
"I think we're capable of beating Helias and other teams in our district, but I think we have to do it by playing our style of basketball," Baldwin said. "If we don't do it that way, we don't have a chance."
The junior varsity Hornets lost their first game of the season Friday night, bowing to Helias 43-37. Junior guard Austin Moore led Fulton with 12 points.
The Hornets return home for a North Central Missouri Conference matchup against Boonville at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28, at Roger D. Davis Gymnasium.