Little love for winless Eagles in Valentine’s Day loss at Plymouth

PLYMOUTH — The coaches had glowing things to say about one another and about each other’s squads after the game, but the Pilgrims showed the Eagles no love at the outset on Valentine’s Day.
Plymouth used an 18-4 second quarter to jump out to a 31-11 halftime lead then held off Culver Military in the second half for a 53-36 win in a coaching showdown between Bethel products Ryan Bales and Mark Galloway Tuesday at The Rock.
“I thought our starters didn’t do a bad job, but I thought our second group that came in, noticeably I thought McCrammer on (Dante Scott) changed the complexion of the game, and I thought we had great help side defense,” said Plymouth head coach Bales. “There was a stretch there where I thought we started to get tired, but I thought we wore them down too. Both teams got a little fatigued, but I was proud of our guys because I thought we forced them to get a little bit tired.”
Plymouth flustered CMA into 10 of their 24 total turnovers in the second quarter, and Eagles starting forward Will Strong sat out much of the frame after being whistled for his third foul at the 3:11 mark as the Pilgrims stretched a 13-7 lead at the quarter break into a 20-point halftime cushion.
“That second quarter was definitely tough on us,” said Galloway. “We’re averaging 21 turnovers a game, so that’s been the Achilles Heel all season. Yeah, in that second quarter, you just can’t turn it over like that. You’re not even getting shots up, and when you’re not getting shots up, that limits your ability to be able to score and that’s exactly what happened.”
CMA scored at an 11-for-20 (55 percent) clip from the field after the intermission following its 4-for-16 showing in the first half. The visitors outscored Plymouth 25-22 in the third and fourth quarters and cut Plymouth’s lead to as few as 11 at 45-34 with a Scott 3 from the top of the key at the 4:48 stop of the fourth, but it was too little, too late, and the Eagles remained winless at 0-19 on the season.
“I’m proud of the kids the way they battled in that second half and actually beat them in the third quarter and fourth quarter,” said Galloway. “That’s something to build on, especially a team that’s struggling like we are. That’s kind of the way it’s been the last couple weeks — we’ve gotten down 10, battled back, gotten down 10, battled back. It’s actually come down to the last possession of the fourth quarter in a lot of games and overtime Saturday. Plymouth is going to take care of the ball enough that they’re able to milk the clock and do the right things.”
“Both teams were competing hard, and that showed in the second half as well,” Bales said. “CMA had a lot of fight, and if they were going to go down they were going to go down fighting and play physical, so give Galloway and his kids a lot of credit.”
Plymouth was led by junior guard Joe Knapp’s 17 points, who converted at a 7-for-12 clip from the floor for his fourth straight game in double figures.
“I knew I had it in me,” said Knapp. “I’m just finally starting to get confident.”
“I think his confidence has really carried over to the rest of the team,” said Bales. “I think the other guys are believing in him. They’re giving him great touches. I’ve noticed he’s been a little bit more vocal in our huddles; he’s one of them that’s calling guys together, and he’s bringing great energy to the team. He’s just playing within himself. I don’t really think he’s forcing anything. Everything he’s scoring right now is within the course of the offense. A lot of that’s due to his teammates also finding him.”
Sophomore center Mack Mercer finished with 14 points in Plymouth’s third straight win.
CMA was led by freshman guard Scott’s game co-high of 17 points to go with three steals and four assists.
“Dante, who’s fairly new to our team, he had eight turnovers. But he had 17 points, and a lot of those were freshman-type mistakes,” Galloway said. “He’s tired; he’s coming off of a tough ankle injury; Saturday he rolled his ankle so that slowed him down a little bit.”
Plymouth moved to 13-5 on the season and hosts Wawasee in a Northern Lakes Conference make-up game Thursday, while CMA slid to 0-19 following a heartbreaking overtime loss to Fall Creek Saturday and will travel to South Bend Riley Friday.
It’s been a frustrating span for the Eagles after last year’s historic run to the Class 3A state finals.
“I’m one of those coaches that doesn’t like to use the word rebuilding because you hope you can reload,” said Galloway. “As we got into the season you start to become somewhat realistic in what you can do, but you never give in to not challenging them and trying to strive for excellence everyday in practice. That’s something our kids continue to do. There’s not a lot of change in where we were at last year in February: I think our kids come in and work hard, they’re positive, are good teammates. It’s frustrating when you’re not seeing the results, but I compare this to a rebuilding hopefully like Indiana. We’re a couple years away.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
CMA: 7 11 27 36
Plymouth: 13 31 45 53
CMA (36): Dante Scott 17, Hayes Barnes 5, David Dilts 4, Eljay Murray 2, Aramonti Phillips 2, Nick Zalduendo 0, Alex Dodane 2, Will Strong 4; Totals: 15 2-5 36.
PLYMOUTH (53): Ryan McNeil 5, Gabe Vervynckt 0, Joe Knapp 17, David Lee 0, Connor Flynn 0, Mack Mercer 14, Ike Kastner 3, Kyser McCrammer 2, John Ruff 4, Kyle Kaser 7, Tom Felke 0, Hayden Skirvin 1; Totals: 21 6-10 53.
3-pointers: CMA 4 (Scott 3, Barnes), Plymouth 5 (Knapp 2, McNeil, Kastner, Kaser); Turnovers: CMA 24, Plymouth 11; Rebounds: CMA 24 (Strong 11), Plymouth 23 (Knapp 4, Mercer 4, Kaser 4); Steals: CMA 10 (Scott 3, Strong 3), Plymouth 16 (McNeil 2, Vervynckt 2, Knapp 2, Lee 2, Kaser 2, Felke 2, Skirvin 2); Assists: CMA 8 (Scott 4), Plymouth 13 (Knapp 2, Lee 2, Ruff 2, Kaser 2, Felke 2); Fouls (fouled out): CMA 12 (Strong), Plymouth 6 (none).
Records: Plymouth 13-5, CMA 0-19
JV score: Plymouth 42 (Trenton Briles 10), CMA 32 (Eljay Murray 9).