By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

HUDSONVILLE – Muskegon Catholic had high hopes of a long run in the girls Class D basketball tournament.

salisz vs. fulton

Muskegon Catholic senior Katherine Salisz dribbles through the defensive pressure of the Fulton Pirates. Photo/Tim Reilly

But along came a determined and battle tested Fulton Pirates team to bring that journey to a halt in the regional semifinals on Tuesday night.

In a game played a Hudsonville Freedom Christian, the Pirates defeated the Crusaders 51-42.  Fulton (13-9)  advances to Thursday’s regional title game against Grandville Calvin Christian, a 37=35 winner of Carson City-Crystal in the other semifinal game.

“We weren’t our best today,” said MCC coach Erich Adams, whose team came into the contest with a 13-game winning streak. “Almost everything that could have gone against us, did today. I thought we had a good chance to advance and it was just one of those things that happens.”

What happened was the Pirates withstood much of the Crusaders’ full-court pressure, made some huge shots at some key moments (inside and outside) and made their free throws. For the night, Fulton made 17-of-23 of its free throws. Muskegon Catholic was afforded just four free throws in the game and made all of them.

“Today we gave up a lot of paint points and a lot of points from the foul line,” said Adams, whose team finished 20-3.

Fulton led 8-7 at the first stop and increased the lead to 24-19 at the half. Included in that 24 points, was an 11-for-12 shooting performance from the line. Gabriella Sieda led the way in the opening half with 10 of her 12 points. Tootie Thompson led MCC in the opening half with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter. Thompson was one of three Crusaders to finish with 12 points, along with Haleigh Locke and Katherine Salisz.

In the third quarter, MCC fell behind by 12 points, but then a run – sparked by Locke – pulled the Crusaders back into contention. Locke hit a 3-pointer and another bucket to make it 33-26. But the Fulton scored the next four points.

Muskegon Catholic was able to cut the lead to six points midway through the final quarter, but the Pirates hit more free throws to keep the lead to the final buzzer.

Muskegon Catholic’s  full-court pressure did cause some turnovers, but for the most part, Pirate coach Chad Walden was pleased with the way his team kept its composure.

“With Pewamo-Westphalia and Fowler, who we saw in the first round of districts, and St. Pats (Portland St. Patrick), we see intense pressure a lot in our league,” Walden said. “Some nights we struggle and some nights were more composed, but our seniors, in the postseason have really settled us down and taken care of the ball.”

Ashlee Davis led the Pirates with 14 points.

In all, Muskegon Catholic was whistled for 22 fouls to Fulton’s eight.

Fulton 51, Muskegon Catholic 42

Ashlee Davis 4 5-9 14, Amanda Madden 2 2-2 8, Monica Tabor 0 1-2 1, Gabriella Sieda 3 6-6 12, Alyse Schneider 4 3-4 11, Connor Proctor 2 0-0 5. Totals 15 17-23 51.

Zee Harris 2 0-0 4, Momo Neal 0 2-2 2, Tootie Thompson 5 0-0 12, Katherine Salisz 5 0-0 12, Haleigh Locke 4 2-2 12. Totals 16 4-4 42.

Fulton 8 – 16 – 16 – 11 – 51
MCC  7 – 12 – 12 – 11 – 42

3-pointers: Davis, Madden (2), Proctor, Thompson (2), Salisz (2), Locke (2). Total fouls: Fulton 8, Muskegon Catholic 22. Fouled out: Neal, Locke. Technicals: none.