Pilgrims can’t hold on to early lead in loss at LaPorte

LaPORTE — The Plymouth Pilgrims were able to build an early lead but couldn’t capitalize on opportunities to build on it, and the LaPorte Slicers pulled away in the end to get the victory on Saturday night in LaPorte, 59-45.
Plymouth used good offensive movement and defensive effort to break out to a 6-0 lead, holding the Slicers scoreless for the first four minutes of the game and getting the ball in the hands of 6’9” sophomore center Mack Mercer for three quick field goals. 
The Pilgrims extended the lead to eight on another Mercer score on an assist by David Lee with 2:30 left in the first quarter, but the early lead wouldn’t last long as the Plymouth offense sputtered, going scoreless for almost the next eight minutes and allowing the Slicers to take control of the game. 
“Early in the game it was a telling tale,” Plymouth coach Ryan Bales said of his team’s inability to continue to grow its lead in the first quarter. “We allowed them to stay in it. They have some playmakers, and those guys got a lot more aggressive and played with more sense of urgency.”
One of those playmakers for LaPorte was sophomore guard Josh Fleming. He carried his team on his back for most of the game, finishing with team highs in points (23), rebound (8), assists (5) and steals (5). 
His assist to teammate Zach Kiger started a 14-0 Slicer run through the end of the first and most of the second quarter. Plymouth was finally able to get back on the board with two free throws by Kyle Kaser with three minutes left in the half and would get the only field goal of the quarter, a 3-pointer by Joe Knapp with :50 left, to cut the Slicer lead to five, 20-15, at the half.
LaPorte came out in control the second half behind the play of Fleming. 
He scored the first six points of the third quarter, the last four coming off of steals and uncontested lay-ups. The Slicers were able to build a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
Plymouth had one last effort at a comeback in the fourth quarter. 
Gabe Vervynckt connected on a 3-point basket on an assist from Connor Flynn, and Ryan McNeil had a pair of 3s in the quarter to cut the lead down to six, 48-42, with 2:25 left in the game. The Slicers were able to seal the win with free throws, however, finishing 9 for 9 from the line in the final 1:20.
With the loss the Pilgrims drop to 7-4 on the season, all four loses coming on the road. Coach Bales is confident in his team’s ability to turn its road woes around.
“It’s a maturation process. We’ll find a way to respond,” he said, “There’s going to be other nights and other opportunities and hopefully we’ll go back to work and expect to have some good nights.”
at LaPorte
Score by quarters
Plymouth:  10  15  26  45
LaPorte:     9   20  39  59
PLYMOUTH (45): Ryan McNeil 3 0-0 9, Gabe Vervynckt 1 0-0 3, Joe Knapp 1 0-0 3, David Lee 0 1-3 1, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 7 0-5 15, Ike Kastner 0 0-0 0, Kyser McCrammer 1 0-0 2, John Ruff 1 3-4 5, Kyle Kaser 1 2-2 4, Tom Felke 1 0-0 3, Hayden Skirvin 0 0-0 0; Totals:  16 6-14 45.
LAPORTE (59): Carter Perry 1 7-8 10, Jack Nagy 1 0-0 2, Josh Fleming 7 8-8 23, Austin Alcorn 4 3-4 12, Jordan Gasaway 1 1-2 3, Zach Kiger 1 0-0 2, Jake Bowers 0 0-0 0, Gage Ott 3 1-1 7; Totals: 18 20-23 59.
3-point goals: Plymouth 7 (McNeil 3, Vervynckt, Knapp, Mercer, Felke) LaPorte 3 (Perry, Fleming, Alcorn); Turnovers: Plymouth 15, LaPorte 6; Rebounds: Plymouth 29 (Mercer 6), LaPorte 28 (Fleming 8); Assists: Plymouth 9 (Flynn 3), LaPorte 8 (Fleming 5); Steals: Plymouth 4, LaPorte 9 (Fleming 5); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 21 (Vervynckt, Ruff), LaPorte 16 (None).
Records: Plymouth 7-4, LaPorte 6-6.
JV score: Plymouth 24, LaPorte 34.