Pilgrims defend new ranking with rout of Whitko

PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrims defended their brand-new Class 3A No. 8 ranking in convincing fashion against Whitko Wednesday.
Fresh from earning its first slot in the AP polls in three seasons, Plymouth used team basketball and a 24-9 second quarter to coast to a comfortable 69-44 win over the visiting Wildcats at The Rock. The Pilgrims finished with 18 assists compared to just two by Whitko, and four players scored in double figures to help Plymouth stay unbeaten while handing the Wildcats their third straight loss.
“I think it was a lot of unselfish play,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Bales. “Making the extra pass, we’ve worked a lot on that in practice. Moving without the ball. I think one of our struggles this year has been if someone drives, we kind of stare at the basketball. It’s just a matter of guys relocating, and I thought we had guys open tonight, and they were making each other better. That was great to see. That’s what it’s all about.”
Junior point guard David Lee dished out eight helpers, and sixth man Connor Flynn handed out four as six Pilgrims recorded assists in the win.
Sophomore forward Mack Mercer led the Pilgrims (6-0) with 18 points earned at a 7-for-10 floor clip and showcased some soft-touch shooting from the baseline and off the elbow, while Ryan McNeil knocked down three 3s en route to 13 points — 10 points of which came in the second half after Whitko (1-5) pulled out of its initial box-and-one defense — while John Ruff scored nine of his 12 total points during Plymouth’s second quarter run, and sophomore guard Tom Felke subbed in to finish with a varsity career-high 11 points earned at a 4-for-5 rate from the floor, including a 3-for-4 effort from beyond the arc.
“Tom, from the start of the summer, he’s put in a lot of time,” said Bales. “He’s a hard worker. I think he enjoys playing the game of basketball. He’s someone who’s not the fastest guy in the world, not the most athletic, but he finds ways to make plays, he’s not afraid to make plays, and that’s why he’s out there.”
Felke chipped in five straight points and Ruff also gave the Pilgrims a boost during their strong second frame with seven unanswered points, while Flynn also showed up big in the quarter. The senior dished out three straight assists and pilfered one of his game co-leading three steals during a 45-second span late in the period as Plymouth closed out the half 15-4 to double up the Wildcats 38-19 at halftime.
“I thought we had a great contribution from Connor Flynn again,” said Bales. “He came in and did a great job. He just plays within himself, he doesn’t go out there and do anything spectacular, but he gets loose balls, he gets deflections and makes hustle plays. I think it gets the other guys going.”
An 18-7 run by Whitko spanning 6:07 from midway through the third to the start of the fourth frame cut Plymouth’s lead to 13 at 50-37, but the Wildcats never got any closer.
Logan Irwin sparked the big run with a baseline jumper at the 5:30 stop of the third and capped it off with a triple from the wing at the 7:23 mark of the fourth. The senior guard finished with a game-high 20 points, but the mark fell more than eight points shy of his average and he was held to a 6-for-17 clip from the field at Plymouth.
“Probably from a coaching standpoint I probably over-coached a little bit putting too much emphasis on him,” Bales said. “We tried to chase him around on the defensive end and really hurt some of our rotations. I think our guys were staring at him more than staring at their man, and I think we lost the other guys at times and gave up a few lay-up opportunities. But he’s a great player; he obviously requires a lot of attention.”
Alex Stoddard also put up double figures for Whitko with 14 points — to complement three steals and four rebounds — as the Wildcats were held to 14-for-45 (31.1 percent) shooting.
Whitko slides to 1-5 with its third consecutive loss, while Plymouth moves to 6-0 on the year.
The Pilgrims face a short turnaround as they travel to Penn tonight for the WHME TV-46 Game of the Week, to be aired Friday at 11 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“The fact that we played tonight and they didn’t is no excuse for us not to go out and compete tomorrow. I hope that we’re ready to play. It was nice to see some other guys get some playing time, but I think it just comes back to our guys just need to be ready to play a quality opponent at Penn,” said Bales.
“We’re going to get challenged, it’s going to be a heck of a challenge up at their place, especially, but I think it’s something that we’re looking forward to and kind of seeing where we’re at, another statement game where we can kind of see how good we really are.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
Whitko: 10 19 34 44
Plymouth: 14 38 50 69
WHITKO (44): Logan Irwin 6 7-9 20, Keaton Irwin 2 0-0 4, Dylan Cumberland 1 0-0 3, Alex Stoddard 4 5-8 14, Jordan Sims 0 1-2 1, Colin Nicodemus 0 0-0 0, Gabe Powell 1 0-1 2, Stephen Bennett 0 0-0 0, Kolten Krull 0 0-0 0; Totals: 14 13-20 44.
PLYMOUTH (69): Ryan McNeil 5 0-0 13, Gabe Vervynckt 0 0-0 0, David Lee 1 0-1 3, Connor Flynn 2 0-0 4, Mack Mercer 7 4-4 18, Ike Kastner 0 0-0 0, Kyser McCrammer 1 0-0 2, John Ruff 2 8-11 12, Kyle Kaser 2 0-0 4, Tom Felke 4 0-0 11, Hayden Skirvin 1 0-0 2; Totals: 25 12-16 69.
3-pointers: Whitko 3 (L. Irwin, Cumberlan, Stoddard), Plymouth 7 (McNeil 3, Felke 3, Lee); Turnovers: Whitko 15, Plymouth 12; Rebounds: Whitko 25 (L. Irwin 4, Stoddard 4), Plymouth 37 (Ruff 7); Assists: Whitko 2 (L. Irwin, Nicodemus), Plymouth 18 (Lee 8); Steals: Whitko 7 (Stoddard 3), Plymouth 8 (Flynn 3); Fouls (fouled out): Whitko 17 (none), Plymouth 20 (Mercer).
Records: Whitko 1-5, Plymouth 6-0
JV score: Plymouth 39 (Ryan Mareska 10), Whitko 27 (Dylan Cumberland 17)