Boys basketball: Winless Bunnies show what they're capable of

FISHER — They had a chance.

That’s all you can really ask for in the final minute after trailing by nearly 20 early in the second half.

But the Fisher boys basketball team could not cap off a furious comeback against Blue Ridge on Friday night, falling to the visiting Knights 64-59.

The evasive first win for the Bunnies — who went into Friday night after a 70-64 loss at LeRoy on Dec. 4 — didn’t transpire on Saturday night, either. Fisher lost another narrow one, 57-55, at Urbana University High.

The Bunnies took an 0-9 record, including 0-4 mark in Heart of Illinois Conference play, into Tuesday night’s home game against Tri-Valley.

Results of Tuesday’s game were unavailable at press time before Fisher starts the Leader Classic at 6 p.m. on Thursday in St. Joseph against Paxton-Buckley-Loda, but six of the nine losses Fisher has suffered to start the season have been by six points or less.

“Hopefully we can turn something around,” Fisher senior forward Hans Carmien said. “(Friday night) was definitely a good step.”

This past weekend might have also signaled the emergence of sophomore Grant Pointer.

The left-handed guard scored a career-high 18 points in Friday night’s loss to Blue Ridge, only to establish a new career-high of 30 points in Saturday’s loss to Uni High.

“It’s a confidence issue,” Fisher head coach Ron Ragle said. “I kind of just let him play and let him go. The point guard position has been hurting us. I’ve been pretty hard on the kids trying to teach them the point guard position when we’re making mistakes.”

Mistakes did happen against Blue Ridge (6-2, 2-1), but the Bunnies nearly overcame them.

Trailing 60-51 with 44.3 seconds left and Blue Ridge junior guard Michael Plunk at the free throw line, Plunk missed both of his free throws to set up a scintillating 30-second stretch. Fisher junior guard Brody Farrar (eight points) used a ball screen on the right wing to drill a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left that cut Blue Ridge’s lead to 60-54.

“I was going to have Brody come off a double screen to curl around, and I was looking for (senior guard) Luke (Harvey) off the inbounds play,” Ragle said. “They took Luke away, and Brody never even looked at him. Brody was the one who decided he was going to take the shot, and I’m glad he did.”

Fisher went straight into its fullcourt press, which worked.

The Bunnies were able to manufacture a steal underneath Blue Ridge’s basket that Pointer picked up. With a Blue Ridge defender hanging on him, Pointer put up a two-handed scoop shot that banked in with 26.6 seconds left.

He made the free throw to cut Fisher’s deficit to 60-57.

“I jumped the pass quick,” Pointer said. “I got the ball, and he was holding onto my arms, so I just used all my strength to try and get it up there.”

Plunk (game-high 24 points, seven rebounds) made two free throws with 25.1 seconds left to extend Blue Ridge’s lead to 62-57, but Pointer converted a layup with 20 seconds left that made it 62-59.

Fisher tried to foul right away after Pointer’s layup, but could not.

When the Bunnies did, the foul proved costly.

Fisher senior forward Tate Estes (eight points, eight rebounds) was whistled for an intentional foul on Plunk with 12.7 seconds left. Plunk made 2-of-4 at the free throw line in the waning seconds to close out the win for Blue Ridge.

That Fisher was even in a position to possibly tie the game in the final 20 seconds says something.

The Bunnies trailed 42-24 with 6:58 left in the third quarter. Carmien played a strong role in the comeback, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half and finishing with nine rebounds. He scored six of Fisher’s points during a 9-1 spurt that cut Blue Ridge’s lead to 47-40 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.

“The second quarter was rough,” Carmien said. “At halftime, I just got (ticked) off and it made me want to go out there and take it to them in the third quarter. I wanted to win. I don’t like losing.”

Carmien missed most of the first half after he picked up his second foul with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

“We wanted to get Hans in foul trouble early just because he’s so big,” Blue Ridge head coach Kyle Watson said. “We can’t guard Hans. He’s just too big and strong for us.”

A layup by Fisher junior guard Kyle Williams (nine points) in the closing seconds of the first quarter tied the game at 13, but Blue Ridge opened the second quarter on an 11-2 run.

The Knights took a 26-15 lead with 4:15 left before halftime after Michael Plunk scored inside and upped it to 38-23 by halftime.

The Knights finished 11-of-19 at the foul line in the fourth quarter, and 18-of-28 (64 percent) for the game.

Blue Ridge shot 21-of-48 (44 percent) from the field, including 4-of-13 (31 percent) from 3-point range, and committed 21 turnovers.

The Bunnies were 3-of-17 (18 percent) from beyond the arc and finished 24-of-64 (38 percent) from the field.

Fisher committed 15 turnovers and was an efficient 8-of-10 (80 percent) from the foul line. But the most important number, the Bunnies’ first victory, did not find itself in the final statistics.

“I’m so pleased with our boys and happy that they grew up,” Ragle said. “They made plays. It wasn’t quite enough, but it’s a hell of a lot more than what we’ve had.”

Notes: Fisher trailed Uni High 15-9 at the end of the first quarter on Saturday before going into halftime tied at 30 and into the fourth quarter tied at 41. Williams added 21 points.

— In the loss at LeRoy, Fisher trailed 18-12 at the end of the first quarter and 33-30 at hafltime. The Bunnies faced a 57-48 deficit to start the fourth quarter. Estes led the Bunnies with 17 points while Carmien and Williams added 14 points.
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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