WARSAW — It was nothing less than everything you would expect when Plymouth and Warsaw get together on the hardcourt, and when the dust had settled the Tigers claimed a share of the NLC title with a 53-43 win.
Anyone who missed the game could throw in a recording of nearly any Plymouth-Warsaw contest and see the basics – hard-nosed physical play, each possession of great value, and lots of defense. In the end, it was the Tigers who would make enough plays down the stretch to pull out the win.
In a game with numerous lead changes in the second half, the Pilgrims held their final lead at 42-41 with just under two minutes to play. Several tough possessions later the Pilgrims found themselves behind by five and forced to foul in the game’s final seconds trying to regain possession.
“Timely possessions in a low-possession game and I think they out toughed us to be honest,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales. “For whatever reason they had more energy in their step tonight and (Zach) Riley just killed us. You have to give him credit, he stepped up. You could tell he wanted it and he made the shots and played fearless and came up with big plays for them.
Riley ended the night with a double/double of 12 rebounds and 19 points for the Tigers — and also got 13 from Tyler Metzinger who was perfect shooting on the night with five of five from the floor and three of three from the line.
Plymouth struggled through adversity almost from the open with big man Garrett Tharp getting two first quarter fouls and having to spend a big part of the first half on the bench.
“Garrett (Tharp) is huge to what we do,” said Bales. “Him being in foul trouble – he’s a big part of what we do that’s all I can say. (Payton) Skirvin came in and gave us big minutes. We had some guys come off the bench give us good minutes but we really need number 50 on the floor in the right frame of mind, bringing the leadership he does and we have to get that part figured out.”
With Tharp sitting out, the Pilgrims couldn’t take advantage of an uncharacteristically poor first half shooting from Warsaw, but did manage to take a 21-18 lead to the locker room at half with a rock-solid defensive performance.
While the Tigers manhandled Pilgrims sharp shooter Clay Hilliard for most of the night. he was able to take advantage of the opportunities he had hitting several clutch shots and ending the night with 17 points. Still the constant physical play of Nolan Groninger in particular took its toll.
“We are going to see that the rest of the way,” said Bales. “Teams will play very physical and teams will get ahold of this film and see that too. Bottom line is that we have to have more balance.”
Kadin McCrammer was able to get 10 points and lead the Pilgrims in rebounding with seven.
The Pilgrims’ win streak ends at seven as they now move to 12-7 on the year 4-3 in the NLC with Warsaw at 11-9 and a share of the NLC title at 5-2.
•WARSAW 53, PLYMOUTH 43
Plymouth 9 21 34 43
Warsaw 7 18 35 53
Plymouth (43) – Nixon 0 5-6 5, Hilliard 6 1-1 17, Filson 2 1-2 5, McCrammer 3 2-2 10, Reichard 2 0-0 5, Tharp 0 1-3 1. Totals 13 10-14 43.
Warsaw (53) – Groninger 2 5-5 9, Marsh 2 0-0 4, Elliottt 2 0-3 6, Riley 5 9-12 19, Metzinger 5 3-3 13, Reese 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 17-24 53.
3 Pt. FG – Plymouth 7-23 (Hilliard 4), Warsaw 2-6 (Elliott).
Rebounds – Plymouth 24 (McCrammer 7), Warsaw 30 (Riley 12).
Assists – Plymouth 6 (Nixon, McCrammer 2), Warsaw 6 Groninger, Elliott 2).
Steals – Plymouth 3 (Nixon 3), Warsaw 4 (Marsh, Adkins, Riley Reese).
Turnovers – Plymouth 10, Warsaw 4.
Fouls (Fouled out) – Plymouth 20, Warsaw 16.