Defensive switch pays off for Bunnies

Defensive switch pays off for Bunnies

GIBSON CITY — There were questions. Mounting questions.

There are always questions when a basketball team is struggling to find the win column.

Can the game plan still be effective? Do changes need to be made? What’s next to keep the season from spiraling out of control?

After 13 games, and 13 losses, Fisher boys’ coach Ron Ragle opted for a different approach. At Monday’s practice, he announced the team would abandon his favored zone defense for man-to-man.

“We work on it every day,” Ragle said, “but we’d played it maybe five minutes all season.”

Turned out to be a good move.

The Bunnies led or were tied for all but 19 seconds Tuesday and posted a 50-42 win on the road against a Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley team they had lost to during the losing streak.

“It was almost like we’d forgotten how to win,” senior Tate Estes said.

Ragle acknowledged the season’s start had taken a toll.

“All of us were wondering,” he said.

Estes was one of the catalysts. He was two rebounds shy of a double-double at halftime and achieved that mark within the first 40 seconds of the third quarter.

He finished with game-high totals of 19 points and 14 rebounds, the latter accounting for all but 10 of Fisher’s total.

The Bunnies doubled the score after one period (18-9), expanded their lead to 11 at halftime (30-19) and increased the margin to 13 points entering the final eight minutes (37-24) when sophomore Grant Pointer knocked down two free throws less than a second before the third-period buzzer sounded.

“In the first half, we played about as well as we have,” Ragle said.

He expected the Falcons to come back strong and not just because they were in front of a boisterous home crowd.

“They’d gotten in foul trouble (the first half), and I knew they’d be well-rested,” Ragle said.

GCMS (3-6) stormed back in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, hitting 8 of 10 shots (matching its entire field goal output from the first three periods) and drew within 41-40 on junior Wiley Hasty’s steal and layup with 4:26 left.

“It got nerve-racking,” Estes said, “and we started forcing shots we didn’t need to force.”

The defense kicked back in, holding GCMS to a pair of free throws the rest of the game.

“So many times before we gotten down and couldn’t get back up,” Ragle said. “This time, we got over the hump and pulled through. We did enough to win.”

Junior Kyle Williams added 13 points for the Bunnies, and senior Hans Carmien scored seven.

The GCMS leaders were senior Nick Retherford and junior Ross Royal, with 10 points apiece. A three-pointer by Royal — the only one the Falcons made — lifted GCMS into a 9-7 first-quarter lead.

Williams drove the lane and scored on the ensuing Fisher possession and then Estes buried a three-pointer, sparking Fisher on a 15-0 run that extended into the first two minutes of the second quarter.

When it was all said and done, except the celebrating, Estes said, “I got goosebumps.”

The credit, he said, belonged outside of the team.

“Our AD (Ben Derges) gave us a good speech before the game, and Coach (Ragle) gave us a motivational speech at halftime,” Estes said.

Fisher will try to continue its winning ways Friday in the seventh-place game of St. Joseph-Ogden’s Leader Classic, against Armstrong-Potomac.

“We came in determined tonight,” Ragle said, “and were much more positive as a team.”