Pilgrims line up a win

PLYMOUTH — With Peru’s 2-3 zone not giving up much from the floor, Plymouth needed to get to the line.
The Pilgrims did just that 16 times, knocking down 20 of 30 freebies as they topped a tenacious Tigers team 50-40 at home at The Rock Friday night.
Plymouth (4-0) knocked down 13 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter alone, including six straight by David Lee, Ryan McNeil and Kyle Kaser during a 36-second span late in the frame to create some breathing room for the first time in a back and forth contest that featured eight lead changes and three ties. Kaser’s charity tosses effectively put the game out of reach, giving the Pilgrims a 49-39 cushion with just a shade over 30 seconds to go, and Plymouth remained undefeated with a decision that was closer than the final score indicated.
“We talked about at halftime trying to get to the free-throw line a little bit more and attacking against that zone. Peru packed it in,” said Plymouth Head Boys Basketball Coach Ryan Bales.
“Ultimately we’ve got to get to the free-throw line and get some points, and I thought a lot of that was created off our offensive rebounding. We had some second shots, some second-chance opportunities, and that’s frustrating to another team when you get offensive rebounds like that. We felt good about our ability down the stretch to get to the boards, and I think that helped our free throw total.”
Plymouth outrebounded Peru (1-2) by a 34-29 margin, and the Pilgrims tallied 15 offensive caroms at the game. Mack Mercer finished with four offensive boards, while McNeil, Lee and John Ruff each came down with two, and the home team capitalized with a total of 19 second-chance points.
“We tried to play physical, and Peru battled us right back,” said Bales. “They have some kids that are undersized, maybe that are younger, but I’ll tell you what, they battled extremely hard. They crashed in, and they got a lot of rebounds as well. We felt fortunate to win the boards only by five, but we need to continue to get better on the boards.”
While Peru was led by a game-high 25 points from senior guard Travis Smith — who singlehandedly scored all of Peru’s points in the first quarter as Plymouth jumped out to a 14-11 lead at the quarter break — the Pilgrims were led by 19 points from McNeil.
The senior bounced back from a tough, scoreless outing against South Bend St. Joseph’s Tuesday with a perfect 5-for-5 performance from the line and four 3s, including a big triple at the 6:19 mark of the final frame off a Lee inbound pass that put Plymouth up 35-31.
“I thought Ryan McNeil came out and hit a few shots. That’s good to see; that’s good for his confidence,” said Bales.
“He stepped in there in some key times, even in the first half, and kind of got us going with some shooting. But I also thought he was attacking a little bit more, he got in there and didn’t really turn the ball over. That’s a key for him; I think when he’s throwing weak passes that’s when he gets into trouble. I thought he had a pretty good stance tonight, I thought he cut with more of a purpose, and obviously our guys did a great job finding him when he was open, especially during those key times… I think as a senior he stepped up in some key times for us.”
Also for Plymouth, Mercer finished with 12 points as he tallied his fourth double-digit offensive tally in as many games, while Lee finished with three steals and a pair of assists.
Plymouth will now have a week to prepare for its Northern Lakes Conference opener at NorthWood next Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
“They’re going to battle us and play physical as well. They have some great young kids, a few older kids that have been around, but their young kids really stepped up, and I thought they played with a lot of composure in a tough atmosphere at Westview,” Bales said. “So we’re going to have our work cut out. They’re going to be playing at home. We haven’t been on the road in awhile so I look forward to seeing how we’re going to respond. We’re off to a pretty good start record-wise, but we’ve got to stay hungry. The conference is always a goal, and obviously you can’t win conference if you don’t take care of game number one. Hopefully we have a great effort and a great crowd out there next Friday night.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
Peru: 11 16 29 40
Plymouth: 14 19 28 50
PERU (40): Travis Smith 8 7-10 25, Ian Sullivan 1 2-2 5, Logan Primerano 1 0-2 2, Eddie Childers 0 0-0 0, Sam Arnold 0 0-0 0, Kyle Marburger 1 0-0 2, Connor MacDonald 1 0-0 3, Seth Adelsperger 0 0-0 0, Joe Comerford 1 1-2 3; Totals: 13 10-16 40.
PLYMOUTH (50): Ryan McNeil 5 5-5 19, Gabe Vervynckt 0 0-0 0, David Lee 1 6-10 8, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 5 2-4 12, Kyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 1 0-1 2, Kyle Kaser 0 4-6 4, Tom Felke 0 1-2 1, Hayden Skirvin 0 0-0 0; Totals: 13 20-30 50.
3-pointers: Peru 4 (Smith 2, Sullivan, MacDonald), Plymouth 4 (McNeil 4); Turnovers: Peru 19, Plymouth 16; Rebounds: Peru 29 (Comerford 4), Plymouth 34 (Mercer 7); Assists: Peru 4 (Smith, Sullican, Marburger, MacDonald), Plymouth 6 (Lee 2, Ruff 2); Steals: Peru 12 (Smith 6), Plymouth 6 (Lee 3); Fouls (fouled out): Peru 26 (Smith, Marburger, MacDonald), Plymouth 17 (none).
Records: Plymouth 4-0, Peru 1-2
JV score: Plymouth 41 (Zach Stone 15), Peru 36 (Cooper Blankenship 11)