The Raiders came into the game red hot having won three of their last four over quality opponents like NorthWood and Elkhart Memorial and found themselves tied for first place in the NLC. After Friday night, the Pilgrims are making a bid for a share of that lead themselves.
“I’m kind of scared to draw them first round of sectional. We just played a great game,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales. “That’s our kids going out and playing basketball the right way. We got some great minutes from our bench in the first half, it allowed us to let our starters go a little longer than we have normally in the second half.”
The Pilgrim lead in the first half got as high as seven and Brayson Leazenby, Bryce Carmichael, Payton Skirvin, Jake Reichard and Evan Zeigler off the bench gave Bales quality minutes once again early in the game to let his starters take a breather in a game that featured a furious defensive effort by both teams. At the end of the half the Pilgrims still held a six point lead thanks to the bench.
The third quarter was crucial.
“We just came down and made some plays,” said Bales. “We got a little sloppy there in the third quarter. They got loose for a couple of buckets a couple of offensive boards and you see there how good they are, how explosive they are. It gets a little scary.”
Scary enough that a nine point lead dwindled quickly to three but then the Pilgrims righted the ship and it was easier sailing the rest of the way.
“Huge play – Benji (Nixon) had a huge drive to the basket settled us down,” said Bales. “We were able to get a time out. We started pressing a little bit just to bring some aggressiveness.”
“You could tell to start the third they had an emphasis to get the ball inside,” he said. “No matter what defense we were in we wanted to be aggressive and still play smart. We made a few adjustments through the week and our kids just went out and executed.”
The key sequence of the night happened with under 10 seconds to play in the third. Kadin McCrammer drove to the basket and drew what was called an intentional foul on Connor Utley. McCrammer hit both free throws and with the ball back after the shots, Clay Hilliard buried a buzzer beating three to turn a 10 point lead to 15 in less than 10 seconds.
The Pilgrims sealed the deal on defense holding Northridge to just four points in the final quarter.
“I thought we showed great patience through the night (on offense),” said Bales. “I don’t know that we were as aggressive as I wanted us to be. The good thing is we still showed patience throughout the night. Sometimes with motion it’s a matter of picking and choosing when to go. It was just a great team effort.”
In that team effort Clay Hilliard was red hot, burying eight of 11 shots – five of seven behind the arc – and added four rebounds, ending the night with 23 points. McCrammer had 12 points with three assists.
Plymouth is now 10-6 on the year and 3-2 in the NLC. Northridge is 7-7 and also 3-2. Plymouth will be in action again tonight against Mishawaka at Plymouth High School.
•PLYMOUTH 53, NORTHRIDGE 29
Northridge 8 15 25 29
Plymouth 12 22 40 53
Northridge (29) – Utley 4 0-2 8, Tadeo 2 1-1 5, Yoder 1 0-0 2, Erekson 4 0-0 8, Yoder 0 2-2 2, Stauffer 2 0-0 4. Totals 13 3-5 29.
Plymouth (53) – Nixon 3 0-0 6, Hilliard 8 2-2 23, Filson 1 2-2 4, Zeigler 1 2-2 4, McCrammer 4 2-2 12, Tharp 2 0-1 4. Totals 19 8-9 53.
3 Pt. FG – Northridge 0-8, Plymouth 7-10 (Hilliard 5).
Rebounds – Northridge 16 (Stauffer 3), Plymouth 18 (Filson 5).
Steals – Northridge 9 (Erekson 3), Plymouth 6 (Nixon, McCrammer 2).
Turnovers – Northridge 9, Plymouth 6.
Fouls (Fouled out) – Northridge 12, Plymouth 10.