POLO – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
After committing five turnovers and scoring only six points in the first quarter, the Steamers (19-11, 7-1) quickly got their heads in the right place.
“I’d say that we started off not in the right mind, or right place mentally,” Fulton senior forward Baylen Damhoff said. “We beat them bad last time [77-43 on Feb. 7], so we just came in and thought it was going to be another game [like that]. But after the first quarter, we got a reality check, and we had to pick it up in the second quarter.”
Polo (14-12, 6-4) dictated the game early, following a putback by Damhoff with an 8-0 run over a 2:59 stretch. Junior forward Noah Dewey sparked the surge with a putback less than a minute after Damhoff’s, and junior guard Gus Mumford followed with back-to-back 3s from the right corner and right wing for an 8-2 lead with 2:49 remaining.
After two free throws from Damhoff and a putback by senior guard Trevor Tiesman made it a two-point game, Mumford drilled another 3 to make it 11-6 Polo at the end of the first quarter.
“Just our energy from the start,” Polo senior forward Brock Soltow said about why Polo played Fulton so much closer in the rematch. “We knew this was going to be a battle between each other because the last time we played each other it was 29-24, and then right when we came out of halftime of the first game, they just blew us out, so we knew we had to get our energy back up, and our bench helped a lot.”
The lead didn’t hold for long, however.
Damhoff opened the second quarter with a left-wing 3, then followed another 3 by junior guard Braeden Brennan with a layup to tie the game at 16 with 3:18 left in the second quarter.
Fulton senior Brady Read hit a left-wing 3 for a 19-16 lead with just more than two minutes left, and Soltow answered with one of his own to tie the game at 19 heading into halftime.
Polo took a 21-19 lead on a Dewey layup with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter, then stretched it to 27-22 a little over five minutes later after Soltow slithered between a pair of defenders and finished a layup.
In the last 44 seconds, Fulton senior Jimmy Crimmins made a putback to draw within one point, then Brennan hit two free throws to capture a 30-29 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“I think it has to do a lot with communication and how we talked and worked out together on the court,” Fulton junior forward Dom Kramer said about how the Steamers adjusted after the first quarter. “It’s definitely teamwork. We worked together there at the end, everyone contributed to the game, and it was a really good game.”
Kramer came alive in the last 11 minutes, scoring all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime and grabbing several rebounds during that stretch to help the Steamers fend off the Marcos.
Kramer made a putback and two layups around Dewey and Damhoff layups for a 38-34 lead with 4:29 to play in the fourth.
“Just get to the rack and cause as many fouls as I can, because I knew anything could count in a close game,” Kramer said.
Crimmins hit a mid-range jumper to push the lead to 40-34, but Soltow scored six straight points over the last 2:27 to force overtime.
Kramer gave Fulton a 44-41 lead with a free throw followed by a three-point play at the 2:11 mark, then answered a Soltow layup with two free throws to restore the three-point lead at 46-43. Brennan hit the first of two free throws to make it a four-point game, then Read hit two more and Tiesman hit the second of two free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
Seven different players scored a basket for the Steamers and had at least two rebounds or assists.
“I’d say it was a good team effort. We always want to play as a team, get as many people involved, just work as a team and win,” Damhoff said. “We showed that we never give up and always work hard until the finish.”
Damhoff totaled 15 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks; Kramer supplied 12 points and 11 rebounds; Read scored seven points; Brennan scored six points; and Tiesman added five points, three rebounds and three assists for the Steamers.
Soltow finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and four steals; Mumford scored 12 points on four 3-pointers to go with three rebounds and three steals; and Dewey added six points and four rebounds for the Marcos.