PLYMOUTH — The regular season came to an end for Plymouth on the short end of a 55-29 score to Penn.
The Pilgrims could manage just nine points in the second half after keeping pace in the first and it was a common story behind the lack of offense — turnovers.
“They (Penn) turned up the heat and that’s what they do,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Bales. “Their guards are extremely quick and athletic. We know what we need to do it’s a matter of going out there and doing it and a lot of that is that the opposition goes out there and does a great job of executing their game plan.”
Penn guard Joe Smith had a big night with 21 points and backcourt mate Markus Burton had the defensive pressure as the Kingsman forced 21 turnovers in the game 14 of those in the decisive second half.
The Pilgrims went to the locker room at halftime after a solid 16 minutes had them within striking distance at 29-20.
“In the first half we saw some bright moments,” said Bales. “Our energy level was nowhere near last night in a positive way. We did a much better job from that standpoint and it’s amazing what happens when that’s the case. It has to start with that. The execution piece is that you stay more engaged and more focused when you play this game a certain way.”
Out of the locker room, the game changed in the second half with Penn taking advantage of turnovers on the first three Plymouth possessions to turn the momentum in a totally different direction.
“Frustrating second half and they deserve a lot of the credit for that,” said Bales. “For us it continues to be pass and catch and just the little things, setting up cuts a little better, setting up screens a lot better.”
“Defensively we are focusing a lot on being in gaps and making teams beat us from the outside and there are times we do that really well,” he said. “There are times that we don’t do it very well. Just having that consistency we need. We obviously aren’t there yet.”
The turnovers continue to be the main issue in the Pilgrims game.
“It’s a situation where you are giving them free points,” said Bales. “When you are the underdog going into most games right now you can’t give teams free baskets.”
“We’ve struggled with it all year. There are key possessions in a game when you have to have a great shot at least a great look,” he said. “Those are times that we’ve ended up turning it over and those are killers for our team. It puts a lot more pressure on that next possession.”
Nolan Bales hit for 14 but all nine of those were in the first half as Penn found a way to hold him to just a handful of shots in the second half.
“He did a good job being aggressive and we ran some more sets for him tonight which is something that we will have to look at going forward if he continues to shoot the ball the way that he is,” said coach Bales. “We are going to need somebody to do that, but that requires everybody to do that. To screen for him and get him the ball. He did give us a spark on the offensive end.”
Plymouth ends the year at 2-19 and will face South Bend Adams in the first round of sectional action at Michigan City on March 3.
•PENN 55, PLYMOUTH 29
Plymouth 9 20 23 29
Penn 15 29 44 55
Plymouth (29) — Caden Weidner 0 1-2 1, Cam Weidner 0 0-0 0, Bales 4 2-2 14, Yoder 2 1-2 6, Wray 0 0-0 0, Feece 1 0-0 2, Aker 0 0-0 0, Mills 1 0-0 2, Sheely 1 0-0 2, Hall 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 4-5 29.
Penn (55) — Burton 3 3-4 9, Smith 7 4-4 21, Penney 0 1-2 1, Doster 1 1-1 3, Haywood 1 0-0 2, Applegate 1 0-0 2, Gatete 1 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0-2 0, Schultz 4 0-2 8, Wojciechowski 2 1-2 5, Jankowski 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 10-17 55.