Opening night Tuesday against Warrenton at home felt like a big game to Fulton in more ways than one.
The Hornets defeated the Warriors 68-36, led by the efforts of sophomore Javar Galbreath and junior Colby Lancaster as the two combined to score 39 points to outscore the Warrenton Warriors.
Galbreath all scorers with 22 points and Lancaster added 17 as the Hornets gained significant breathing room with their 44-14 margin in the second half.
"I think our energy in the second half was so much better in the first half, especially defensively," Fulton coach Justin Gilmore said. "They just started playing harder and together, they communicated a little bit more and we started rebounding the ball and running."
The Warriors (0-1) ended the first quarter with a 12-11 lead. Fulton allowed some baskets in transition by Joseph Evans, who had five points in the frame. The Hornets (1-0) had some inside presence with their "two towers," as Gilmore likes to call Galbreath and Lancaster, the size differential didn't loom as larger until the second quarter.
Fulton began the second with a 6-0 run to take a 17-11 lead at 5:48 as Galbreath had some field goals inside. Later in the quarter is when the Hornets started looking like the Hornets, Gilmore said, as Fulton was able to answer Warrenton in transition and Isaiah Jones' three 3-pointers in the first half with a couple of thunderous slams by Galbreath in transition. The first one made some noise but his second off a steal to end the half with a 24-22 Fulton lead caused the Hornets on the bench to leap out of their chairs and flex their muscles.
"That's really our game," Gilmore said. "The transition game is a big part of who we are. You have to get stops and rebounds to do that, and we weren't doing that in the first half."
Fulton wasn't in the mood to share the rebounds in the second half as Warrenton wasn't knocking the shots down that it was in the first half. The Warriors were charged with a technical foul after repeatedly being beaten to the ball as junior Walker Gohring drained two more of four straight free throws to finish with nine points.
The Hornets finished an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer by junior Josh Reams for a 37-25 lead halfway through the third quarter. Fulton took a 45-33 advantage into the fourth quarter after three straight field goals by Galbreath to give him 18 after three.
"They really dominated the paint, especially in the second half," Gilmore said. "We talked at halftime because we were 1-of-1o from deep and it just wasn't falling for us. So we stopped settling in the second half and Javar was really big down low and got us some easy buckets when we needed them the most."
Warrenton's shooting and rebounding woes worsened in the fourth quarter as the Warriors didn't make their first field goal until the 2:14 mark on a transition layup from Troy Anderson, who finished with 14 points to lead the team. Prior to that, Fulton scored 19 straight points and took its first 30-point lead four minutes through the fourth at 63-33 after a Lancaster 3-pointer.
Sophomore Rowdy Gohring added six points and two assists off the bench leading the reserves Fulton was able to play with the comfortable lead. Gohring hit his first 3-pointer to give Fulton a 52-33 lead and passed the ball inside to Fulton's towers.
"He's been coming along, and he's got all the talent in the world," Gilmore said. "He's just got to put it all together. He had a great JV game and then he comes out and lights it up from deep and was making great decisions. He's going to be a really big part of who we are this year, and tonight was a big step for him."
Gilmore said while the win was huge Tuesday, Fulton has things to iron out, including on defense, for them to have a great season.
This will start with a good second showing against Clopton (1-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Montgomery County Tournament. The Hornets are the No. 2 seed, while the Hawks are the No. 7 seed.
"Our zone is pretty good, but our man-to-man needs a lot of work," Gilmore said. "We're going to keep working at it. It's what I think we need to be — a little bit of both."