“Our players laid it on the line tonight,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales. “I’ve been proud of a lot of teams before but we showed a lot of heart tonight. They (Mishawaka) had a great start. They’re scrappy, they’re hard nosed, they play the game the right way and we weathered the storm.”
That storm started from the opening tip with Mishawaka jumping out to a big lead early and ending the first quarter with a six point spread. Coming off a big win the night before over Penn, it appeared the Cavemen might ride that emotion to another, but the Pilgrims fought back in the second frame outscoring Mishawaka 17-8 and heading to the locker room with a 31-28 lead.
Outstanding play from the Plymouth bench in the first half, this night in particular the defensive work of Payton Skirvin on Mishawaka big man John Binion, was a big key for a second game.
“It helped to hit some shots early,” said Bales. “Great team effort tonight. Garrett got a couple fouls early and we go to (Skirvin) and don’t miss a beat. It’s great to have confidence in guys you can go to when you need to. He and Brayson had some great minutes inside. Very proud of those guys.”
Both teams turned up the defensive heat in the third quarter and headed to the final eight with the score tied. The Pilgrims got back in front and then were able to hold on through a furious final 10 seconds that saw plenty of physical contact and three shots by Mishawaka.
“We put it all on the line and made some gutty plays all the way through,” said Bales. “We fought through fatigue. Clay (Hilliard) probably ran ten miles tonight coming off screens and tonight for him it was his defense in the second half that was big. Kadin (McCrammer) with a big three, and hits some free throws there at the end. You could go down the line. We made some gutty plays and it took all of them to win.”
Hilliard ended the night with 18 to lead all scorers for a second straight night. McCrammer had a double/double with 14 points and 11 rebounds also adding five assists.
For a second straight night is was the Plymouth starting five on the floor for nearly the entire fourth quarter to seal the win.
“Those five guys – we ran them a lot last night too but I think we can do that because of our bench,” said Bales. “If we had to play them a lot of minutes in that first half I don’t know that we could have had them out there that long. I know that they didn’t have a lot left in that fourth quarter but you build confidence through these type of games.”
“When we get to a sectional we hope we’re playing on a Friday, Saturday and you know how intense those are,” said Bales. “We hope we’re in that position and if we are this could be a weekend that we point back to that says if you dig down deep, if you want it bad enough you can find a way.”
Plymouth is now 11-6 on the year with a big NLC game at Goshen on Thursday night.
•PLYMOUTH 49, MISHAWAKA 48
Mishawaka 20 28 36 48
Plymouth 14 31 36 49
Mishawaka (48) – Johnson 1 0-0 3, Shively 6 3-5 17, Jefferies 6 1-1 16, Rosebush 1 0-0 2, Hall 1 2-5 4, Binion 3 0-0 6. Totals 18 6-11 48.
Plymouth (49) – Nixon 3 2-4 8, Hilliard 6 2-4 18, Filson 2 1-3 5, McCrammer 3 5-6 14, Reichard 0 2-2 2, Tharp 1 0-1 2. Totals 15 12-20 49.
3 Pt. FG – Mishawaka 6-19 (Jefferies 3), Plymouth 7-17 (Hilliard 4).
Rebounds – Mishawaka 18 (Binion 8), Plymouth 29 (McCrammer 11).
Assists – Mishawaka 9 (Hall 3), Plymouth 10 (McCrammer 5).
Steals – Mishawaka 10 (Hall 3), Plymouth 2 (McCrammer, Reichard).
Turnovers – Mishawaka 11, Plymouth 17
Fouls (Fouled out) – Mishawaka 18, Plymouth 12.