Fulton girls basketball’s third-quarter run leads to a Courtwarming victory

Fulton's Alison Skinner drives to the hoop against Macon Friday at Fulton High School in Fulton. Skinner drained a 3 to give the Hornets the lead for good at 27-26 in the middle of the third quarter. (Shawley Photography/Courtesy)
Fulton's Alison Skinner drives to the hoop against Macon Friday at Fulton High School in Fulton. Skinner drained a 3 to give the Hornets the lead for good at 27-26 in the middle of the third quarter. (Shawley Photography/Courtesy)

FULTON -- Trailing by as much as six points, Fulton went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter, and a 3 by freshman Alison Skinner off the bench gave the Hornets the lead for good Friday at Fulton High School.

"This is why you have great assistants working with you," Fulton girls basketball coach Clayton Stewart said. "I did not recognize that they went to a 2-3 because I'm looking for other mismatches around. Eric Emerson, my No. 1, he says, 'Hey, coach, they went to a 2-3, Ali's good at that. So, I'm like, 'You're right. Let's go, Ali, go in. Sure enough, they left her open when that little girl can shoot the 3."

In front of a large Candyland Courtwarming crowd, Fulton finished off a 3-0 week, beating the Macon Tigerettes 47-40.

Not only has Fulton (8-11) been playing its best basketball at the right time, but it also earned its most wins in a season since 2015-16 when the Hornets went 17-10 and were the Class 4 District 8 runner-up. And Fulton's three-game winning streak matches its longest this season, with its first happening between Dec. 15-Jan. 5 against Kirksville in Fulton, at Mexico and at Bowling Green.

"I'm not one of those cliche coaches and worry about the past is and what the future is and what kind of trends and runs were on," Stewart said. "Next game, that's what we focus on. We focus on the next game and how important that one is. This game, the Tolton game, that was huge because that's a much better team -- one of the best teams we've faced. Moberly is probably still the best one. ...We just do keep making strides better and better."

Throughout the campaign, Fulton's defense, allowing 43.8 points per game heading into Friday, has kept it in games. To go 3-o this week, the Hornets needed to make shots consistently and spread their offense out, and they did that.

During Fulton's three-game week, the Hornets had at least two players notch at least nine points. To end the week, three Fulton players put up at least nine points after two did in their first two games against Tolton Tuesday and South Callaway Monday.

Audrey Arnold, who's been the only Hornet reaching double figures scoring most games, tallied a game-high 18 points (seven 2s and a 3).

However, it wasn't just Arnold getting baskets, as Kier Henderson notched 10 points (6-8 at the free-throw line) and Aubrey Fleetwood nine points (three 3s).

"Kier is the silent, unsung hero," Stewart said. "Does a lot of the dirty work, gets a lot of steals, a lot of deflections. A lot of assists, a lot of rebounds. She's No. 2 on the team in rebounds, believe it or not -- last I've checked."

Fulton couldn't get its offense going early on while Macon was firing on all cylinders. After both teams turned it over on their first possession, Ella Barnett, who posted a team-high 17 points, made two free throws to put the Tigerettes in front 2-0.

Answering their ensuing possession, Fleetwood took an Arnold pass and drained a left corner 3 to put the Hornets ahead.

Like Macon's last drive, it went to the charity stripe and hit both its free throws, coming from Payton Weimer this time to put it at 4-3 Tigerrettes.

Remaining back and forth, Fulton went back on top when Henderson went up for a layup on its ensuing possession.

Ella Barnett knocked down the first of her four 3s, including three in the first half, swishing it in from the right corner to give Macon a 7-5 advantage two drives later. Tying it at 7 for the Hornets, Arnold got a transition layup to fall off a Henderson steal.

Ella Barnett continued her hot start, finishing her eight-point first quarter with a 3 to hand the Tigerettes a 10-7 lead. Arnold responded instantly with a floater in traffic to make it a one-point game after one quarter.

Following a slow start to the second, the Hornets finally scored on their fifth drive of the quarter, with Arnold running to the hoop for a layup to bring it back to a one-point contest at 12-11 Macon.

That's the closest Fulton got to taking the lead in the second quarter, though it remained tight, with the Tigerettes outscoring the Hornets 9-8 after Arnold's layup. Arnold also had a putback, accounting for half of Fulton's points in the second quarter.

As they did in the first, the Hornets scored on their final possession of the second quarter, with Fleetwood launching her second 3 from an Arnold assist to bring the halftime score to 21-19.

Fulton's shot selection and fouling and Macon's 3-point and free throw shooting were the difference at halftime, and the Hornets knew they had to make more of their shots in the second half to win the game. Doing just that, Fulton outscored Macon 28-19 in the final 16 minutes.

"Well, if I had the magic wand, I wouldn't let our first quarter look like our third quarter," Stewart said. "That's our MO. We struggle with turnovers and running our offense; it's almost like we're running our offense based on what they're doing on defense. Instead of imposing our offense on them, it seems the other way around. And then we finally get warmed up, and we're doing it in the third quarter. We're getting settled and comfortable, whatever the case is, but we got to start doing that earlier in the game."

Flipping a switch, the Hornets started a 14-0 run, which lasted most of the third quarter.

Three of Fulton's first five points in its game-deciding run were scored by Arnold, who converted 1 of 2 free throws and landed a mid-range jumper.

On the possession after Arnold's jumper, Henderson doubled teamed by Macon, passed the ball out to Skinner, and hit an open right corner 3 to give the Hornets the lead for good at 27-26.

"She's got a lot to work on, but the thing she can do is shoot the 3," Stewart said of Skinner. "And so that is huge. Everybody knows that she's capable of being on the varsity; she's just got other intangibles that we've got to work on."

Continuing to take charge of Fulton's offense, Arnold posted five of the Hornets' final seven points in their 14-0 run, draining a top-of-the-arc 3 provided by Henderson and scoring a coast-to-coast layup off her rebound.

Ella Barnett ended Macon's offensive drought, hitting a 3 to make it 34-29 Fulton. Henderson followed that with a layup as the Hornets led 36-29 through three quarters.

It got nervy for Fulton early in the fourth quarter, with the Tigerettes tallying five unanswered points to cut it to a two-point game.

All five points were scored by Reece Barnett, who went 1-2 at the charity stripe, hit a fastbreak layup and made a putback. Reece Barnett totaled nine points, and the Barnett sistered scored 65 percent of Macon's points.

Keeping the Hornets in front at 38-34, Arnold went up for a transition layup after Dezteni Galbreath-Chambers pulled down a rebound and tossed the ball down the court.

Macon reduced its deficit to two one more time before Arianna Connor got a putback to fall to give Fulton a 40-36 advantage.

"Arianna, she's our stellar big inside-post defender," Stewart said. "Got some work to do scoring, but Dez has a lot of the scoring there. And then my other big Bre (Richmond), she's just the same way that Ali comes in and lights it up with the 3s. Bre comes in and just a breath of fresh air. Bre actually came to me, and we were having a little trouble, and she said, 'Put me in coach. I'll lock it down.' Oh my gosh, by golly, she did."

Staying in control, the Hornets led by as much as eight points for the second and final time when Fleetwood took a Henderson pass and swished a left corner 3 into the hoop to put it at 44-36 Fulton with two minutes left.

After Fulton called a timeout with :27.7 remaining, Henderson all but secured a Hornets victory by going 1-2 at the free-throw line to conclude the scoring.

A Hornets' comeback victory began an exciting night for Fulton, which held its Courtwarming presentation after the varsity girls basketball game.

Adding the icing to the cake for Fleetwood, she was nominated as Courtwarming Queen. The queen wasn't announced as nominees Carly Foster and Rilee Swaim competed in a wrestling tournament on Friday in Buffalo.

"The Courtwarming night was special for us because we have the queen playing for us," Stewart said. "I'm calling it right now; if she's (Fleetwood) not queen, it's rigged (laughs)."

Fulton (3-2 North Central Missouri Conference) will try to stay above .500 in the NCMC when it hosts Marshall (2-16, 1-4 NCMC) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Hornets lost 46-44 to the Owls on Dec. 8 in Marshall, and they're still seeking redemption after they ended their season in the Class 4 District 9 opening round last year.

"It's one that we need to get back," Stewart said. "It's one that we were down 16 in the first quarter. Again, I'm sure they've gotten better; we have, too. I think most people understand that we've gotten, more better is not the correct term, but we've gotten better quicker and taking bigger strides.

"...I really do think that we are that team that's right around .500 and hear, 'I don't want to play Fulton.' I think everybody recognizes that we're still beatable, but we are the one, don't underestimate us."

photo Fulton's Aubrey Fleetwood poses for a photo with her grandparents during the Courtwarming court ceremony Friday at Fulton High School in Fulton. (Shawley Photography/Courtesy)