FREMONT - St. Joseph had Gumby in attendance Thursday night.
Old Fort did its best to emulate Pokey for most of the first half.
But come the second half, Pokey and the rest of the Stockaders picked up the pace and galloped past the Crimson Streaks, 72-60, in a pivotal Midland Athletic League contest.
"I knew coming in here was going to be tough," Old Fort coach Eric Hoover said. "(Our kids) know that to beat good teams like this, you have to play good defense. I think they're learning that now and I hope they realize that's how we won the game, on defense."
St. Joe led by as many as 12 in the first half and took a nine-point lead into halftime, 40-31. St. Joe coach Jonathan Will said his team likes playing in the "Thunderdome," the affectionate nickname of the team's gym.
"It's a cruel game sometimes. I thought we played as well as we could play in the first half," Will said. "I thought we shot the ball well. We did everything we needed to do in the first half. Our kids feed off our crowd. When our crowd get in it, our kids get excited and we have the motto 'There's no place like Dome.'"
Old Fort 72, St. Joe 60
Old Fort (4-0, 2-0 MAL): Dalton Perry 9-2-20; Hunter Perry 5-2-12; Cole Davidson 7-6-25; AJ Phillimore 3-9-15; Maison Steyer 0-0-0; Marc Salas 0-0-0; Matt Hill 0-0-0. Totals 24-19-72.
St. Joe (3-1, 1-1 MAL): Jordan Sessler 2-1-5; Marcus Kerr 0-0-0; Connor Dudley 7-1-17; Zack Yeckley 9-0-22; Matt Machielewicz 0-0-0; Jake Yeckley 0-0-0; Ryan Williams 6-0-12; Luke Stierwalt 1-0-2; Sam Picciuto 1-0-2; Hunter Harrison 0-0-0; Grant Mercer 0-0-0. Totals 26-2-60.
Field goals: Old Fort 24-48; St. Joseph 26-61.
3-point goals: Old Fort 5-14 (Davidson 5); St. Joseph (Z. Yeckley 4, Dudley 2).
Foul shots: Old Fort 19-20; St. Joseph 2-6.
Rebounds: Old Fort 34 (Phillimore 11, D. Perry 8); St. Joseph 28 (Williams 8, Z. Yeckley 6).
Turnovers: Old Fort 14; St. Joseph 12.
It was clear St. Joe (3-1, 1-1 MAL) fed off the Dome crowd's energy. The Crimson Streaks were 18 of 32 from the field, including 3 of 4 outside the arc. All three of those came from the smooth strokes of Zack Yeckley, who scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half.
"They shot really, really well in the first half," Hoover said. "I hated to say the words but I told the guys they're just not going to continue that. They're not going to continue shooting that well and the law of averages is going to kick in and we just have to rebound the ball and take advantage of it on the offensive end."
Not that Old Fort had anything to be ashamed of as the Stockaders (4-0, 2-0 MAL) went 9 of 18 from inside the arc and 3 of 8 from 3-point range. They were also perfect from the line (4 of 4) but had seven turnovers.
"Anytime you come here is tough, especially the way we like to play, with much more of a full court game. We lose 20 feet of what we're used to playing on. It's just so much different from our court to theirs. Yeah, we're playing on the same court as they are but they're used to it so it is a disadvantage," Hoover said. "Plus the crowd hurt. We played scared in the first half. I always say coming in here you're down 10 to 15 points coming in. I really wanted to get up early on them but it was other way around unfortunately."
Cole Davidson said he and his teammates had first-quarter jitters.
"Our energy just wasn't there. We weren't playing to our abilities and getting stops when we needed stops. We weren't aggressive enough on defense," he said. "It's crazy. It's loud. You can't hear. It's hard to communicate. You need to yell. I think we just came out a little nervous."
He showed no jitters when it came to shooting the 3-ball, making 5 of 9. Three of those came at pivotal points in the first half to keep Old Fort from getting blown out of the game in the first half.
"I thought we could do some things in our half-court offense that they would have trouble stopping, Cole Davidson being one of them," Hoover said. "I felt like, if we were patient, we could wear them down and get back in it."
Davidson credited his teammates for his shooting success.
"We got a lot of easy transitions and I was getting good looks," he said. "(Dalton) Perry and the other posts got me open with that top screen pick to get me open and shooting wide open threes are easier."
Will said the Old Fort gunner burned his defense a few times.
"We lost Davidson three times in the first half and all three times he knocked down a three. Those are big shots. It's a totally different game if those shots don't fall," Will said. "What was a nine-point lead at halftime might have been 20 if those shots don't fall."
In the second half, Old Fort tightened up defensively and put the clamps on St. Joe, holding the Crimson Streaks to 2 of 10 shooting in the third quarter. The effort kept St. Joe with just five points in the quarter while Dalton Perry scored a bucket in the paint with eight seconds left to give Old Fort a 47-45 lead going into the final quarter.
"In the third quarter, they cut into our lead. We missed shots we were knocking down in the first half," Will said. "I thought coach Hoover did a great job making an adjustment with his zone, making it tougher for us. There wasn't as much paint for us to get into and our guards couldn't get in there."
Davidson opened the fourth with another 3-pointer only to see Connor Dudley answer it with a trifecta of his own.
A steal from Dudley and subsequent bucket followed 20 seconds later by a Yeckley 3-pointer allowed St. Joe to tie it at 55 about three minutes later.
Buckets from the Perry brothers, Dalton (2) and Hunter (4), gave Old Fort a 61-57 lead only to see it cut to one again by Dudley with the last St. Joe points of the night with 1:27 to go. Davidson stuck the dagger in with his final 3-pointer 13 seconds later and then the Stockaders salted the game away at the line, making eight straight.
Old Fort was an incredible 19 of 20 from the line, something Will called pivotal.
"The difference in the game was the free throws. They (make) 19, we shoot five," he said. "You're not going to win many basketball games only going to the line five times."
Davidson said the team had been shooting a lot of free throws in practice this week.
"We haven't been doing too well in games and that's been a constant thing in practice," he said. "We've been shooting a lot of free throws and free throws was a big key to our victory."
Only four Stockaders scored: Davidson (25), Dalton Perry (20), AJ Phillimore (15) and Hunter Perry (12). Phillimore had a team-high 11 rebounds to complete the double-double. Dalton Perry snagged eight.
Dudley finished with 17 points for the Crimson Streaks and Ryan Williams added 12 points and eight rebounds.