Bunnies surrender lead behind missed shots, rebounding disadvantage

FLANAGAN — Ice. Cold.

When the Fisher boys basketball team is firing on all cylinders and hitting its jump shots, it can beat anybody in the Heart of Illinois Conference.

But when those jumpers aren’t falling, the Bunnies can lose to anybody in the conference, and that’s a big reason why they sit at 12-12 as the postseason draws near.

Last Tuesday, on a road trip to Flanagan-Cornell, Fisher jumped out to a 21-11 lead in the first quarter buoyed by a 7-of-12 shooting performance from the field and five consecutive free throws by Jaden Jones-Watkins plus a feed from the senior point guard to Kade Thomas for a layup toward the end of the period.

The Bunnies cooled off a little bit in the second period (4-for-11) but still held a 33-26 advantage over the Falcons at the break.

That’s when things turned south in a heartbeat.

In the third quarter, a firm lid was on the bucket, as the Bunnies shot 3-for-13 and did not have an answer for the Falcons’ inside game on the other end of the court. F-C went on a 21-6 run in the quarter to grab a 47-39 advantage.

And despite committing 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter (20 overall), the Falcons were able to fend Fisher off in a 55-54 thriller that came down to a pair of Bunnies field goal attempts that went awry.

Trailing 55-46 with 2:40 left, the Bunnies got a bucket from Jones-Watkins, two free throws by Thomas, another bucket from Jones-Watkins on a fast-break layup and a Thomas conversion off a dribbling slice into the lane.

Jones-Watkins then converted another bucket with 51.4 seconds remaining to trim Fisher’s deficit to 55-54, and the Falcons left the door open by missing the front end of a one-and-one attempt.

Following a Fisher timeout with 18.9 seconds to go, Jones-Watkins drove to the lane, rose up for a shot, but while making contact with a Flanagan defender, the shot was short.

The Falcons, though, missed another front end of a one-and-one, and Thomas flew down the court, attempting to hoist one final jumper from the elbow, but the shot was blocked at the buzzer.

“We stopped making shots, and our defense wasn’t good,” Fisher coach Cody Diskin said. “We’ve got to give credit to them. They were knocking down shots and getting by us. We just didn’t play well or shoot good in the second half.

“Any night any team can win. Doesn’t matter how much you’re up. We’ve had some games we were up a bunch, and (the opponent) fought back, and we’ve had some games we were down big time and fought back. I knew it was going to be a battle. They’re a good team, a young team, and it’s hard to go into somebody else’s place and beat a team twice.”

Fisher went through a drought during the 3:50 mark of the third quarter to the 5:28 mark of the fourth without making a shot — both were floaters by Thomas, who finished with 23 points, while Jones-Watkins scored 19.

“I thought we still got good looks,” Diskin said. “We were taking it hard to the hole, attacking the zone and getting open looks. I didn’t feel like we were forcing anything. We just couldn’t knock anything down, and we got outrebounded big time. Giving them second and third opportunities hurt us. We play a zone. We’re small. We’ve just got to do a better job boxing out.”

On Friday, the Bunnies lost to Eureka for the second consecutive time this season in a 65-53 setback. The Bunnies got 25 points from Meents and 14 from Thomas.

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

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