The Warriors made the assignment that much harder with a deliberate slow down offense and a zone defense that made every possession crucial. It was the zone a week ago that gave the Pilgrims no end of trouble at Concord.
“They are a tough team to play against, we knew that coming in,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Bales. “I thought our kids played disciplined on the defensive end. I thought we had some very good baseline rotations, we won the rebounding battle in the first half. There are some little things you have to do well against a team that likes to hold the ball. If you don’t rebound the ball you have to play defense longer and that can be very deflating.”
With the Warriors deflating the ball, they were able to stay close enough in the first half to trail by just five at the half.
“(Against a zone) we’ve got to catch and look opposite We’ve got to get touches in the high post,” said Bales. “They are very aggressive and they have very good hands and they got a couple of steals early on and our guys got a little hesitant, got on their heels a little bit. It was nice to return the favor in the fourth when we were able to spread the floor and run the clock a little bit.”
Hot shooting from Nick Felke and Cam Dennie from the perimeter sparked the Pilgrims in a dog fight of a first half. With several players weakened by bouts with the flu and Clay Hilliard not even able to make the trip due to illness, the Pilgrims got some quality minutes from a dog of their own.
“Benji (Nixon) played fantastic here tonight,” said Bales. “He’s been practicing really well. He brought some toughness to the court tonight. The successful Plymouth team’s in the past have that ‘junkyard dog’. (Benji’s) a guy that I trust and I know he’s going to get a loose ball. Part of our identity is toughness and doing things like that and that’s why we threw him in there tonight.”
Nixon was part of two big quarter ending plays in his minutes on the floor – diving for a loose ball and hitting Nick Felke for a first half ending three, and driving the lane for an acrobatic lay in as he hit the floor to end the third quarter.
While Felke and Dennie spurred the first half it was Kadin McCrammer that carried the second. He led the Pilgrims with nine rebounds and added eight points with solid floor play when the Warriors tried to take away Felke.
“He’s a versatile kid for us. They were pressuring so many guys out around the three point line,” said Bales. “He put his shoulder in a couple times and drove to the basket. He hit a great pull up jumper. If we don’t get a post touch it’s nice when we get a drive like that.
“He really came through on the defensive end. His grab strong’s on the boards were big tonight. He has a fantasic basketball IQ and he came through in those situations for us tonight.”
Plymouth takes their first NLC win of the season and moves to 9-6. Wawasee falls to 4-8.
Score by Quarters
Plymouth 5 17 27 38
Wawasee 7 12 17 29
Plymouth (38) – Benji Nixon 1 0-0 2, Cam Dennie 2 4-4 10, Ryan Carmichael 0 1-2 1, Nick Felke 4 4-5 15, Nathan Patterson 0 0-0 0, Travis Owen 0 0-0 0, Kadin McCrammer 3 2-3 8, Dyllon Pavey 0 0-0 0, Cole Filson 1 0-0 2, Payton Skirvin 0 0-0 0, Tyler Games 0 0-0 0, Garrett Tharp 0 0-1 0. Totals 11 11-15
Wawasee (29) – Cayden Wegener 1 4-5 7, Cameron Slabaugh 2 0-0 5, Tyler Smith 2 0-4 5, Jairus Boyer 2 0-0 6, Jacob Hand 0 2-4 2, Ben Hoffert 0 1-3 1, Ryan Eddington 1 0-0 3, Aaron Evans 0 0-0 0, Tim Conley 0 0-0 0, Dalton Pearish 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 7-16 29.
3 Pt. FG – Plymouth 5-12 (Felke 3), Wawasee 6-15 (Boyer 2).
Rebounds – Plymouth 21 (McCrammer 9), Wawasee 13 (Boyer 3).
Assists – Plymouth 5 (Felke 2), Wawasee 0
Steals – Plymouth 1 (Felke), Wawasee 2 (Slabaugh, Hand).
Turnovers – Plymouth 9, Wawasee 7.
Fouls (Fouled Out) – Plymouth 13, Wawasee 17.