Pilgrims oust Indians, 59-42

PLYMOUTH — Mack Mercer and David Lee continued to produce, while John Ruff and Kyle Kaser added some extra balance to the Plymouth offense, and the Pilgrims remained unbeaten with a 59-42 win over South Bend St. Joseph’s Tuesday.
“Give them a lot of credit. We knew they were going to fight all the way,” said Plymouth Head Coach Ryan Bales. “We kept telling the kids we’ve got to take it from them, they’re not going to give it to us.
“We’ve got to take the ball if you want it, you can’t make excuses, you’ve just got to find a way to make plays. In key stretches I thought we were able to do that. We weathered the storm a few times… We just did a better job I thought defensively. I thought we set the tempo, the kids made some plays, and obviously give them all of the credit.”
Lee and Kaser each put up 11, while Mercer and Ruff each finished with 14 in the win over the Sectional 19 foe Indians at The Rock.
The Pilgrims trailed St. Joe 22-19 at the 2:45 mark of the second before four points and a steal by Lee and a pair of free throws from Kaser keyed a 6-0 second-quarter ending run to give the home team a 25-22 advantage headed into the half.
Ruff helped spark a 6-0 mini run midway through the third with four points, a steal, an offensive rebound and an assist on a Mercer dunk to give Plymouth some breathing room at 35-26 at the 3:33 stop of the quarter.
Back-to-back triples from Lee and Mercer at the start of the third stretched the Pilgrims’ lead to double digits for the first time at 45-33 with 7:11 to go, and Plymouth went 8 for 15 from the line in the final period to pull out its third double-digit win and move to 3-0 on the season.
“I thought St. Joe, they doubled down hard on Mack, and it opened up things for other guys,” said Bales. “Tonight I thought a difference was we were finishing plays a little bit better. Kaser, at times he’s undersized but I’ll tell you what, he’s learned to finish. He had a good couple days here, and we worked on hitting him with the pads; they had to take it through him. I liked his aggressiveness; I thought he made some plays. John Ruff, the same way. They were getting to the basket the first couple games, but I thought a big difference was they finished. They did a good job. David and Mack have obviously been pretty solid for us. David continues to play well.”
While Ruff finished with a game co-leading 14 points along with Mercer and St. Joe shooter Connor Edmonds, his hustle helped spark Plymouth in all phases of the game as he finished with four rebounds, a pair of assists and four steals at the contest in addition to his season-high points total.
“John has one speed, and it’s full speed. Practice, game, he just goes at it hard,” said Bales. “Sometimes that speed gets him in trouble on offense at times, but I thought tonight he was giving it up. We had talked with him about picking and choosing when to go. I thought he did a much better job letting the game come to him. There were times he gave it up, he caught it on the wing and then looked to attack. He had a couple nice pop-off baskets, a couple nice driving kicks, and obviously he hit a few baskets as well. But again, I thought he was a lot more controlled tonight on the offensive end. You can’t say enough about his defense either. He was all over the place, he had deflections and caused some chaos on the defensive end as well.”
The 6-3 senior forward’s intensity helped set the tone for Plymouth early, and he recalled the Pilgrims’ 57-44 sectional loss to St. Joe last year when asked about his play at Tuesday’s game.
“They knocked us out of sectional last year, and I was just trying to get the team fired up,” he said.
“It’s always important to set the tone. That’s what makes the game.”
While Plymouth’s balanced offense helped the team remain unbeaten, the Pilgrims’ defense was a huge difference-maker once more.
Plymouth flustered the young visitors into 25 turnovers, and the Pilgrims converted those extra opportunities into 27 points off turnovers. Plymouth’s halfcourt D was especially effective in the second half as it held St. Joe to 29 percent (7 of 24) from the floor after the break.
“In the halfcourt I thought we did a great job of just keeping them in front,” said Bales. “We’ve still got to get better at making some rotations, but I thought we did a pretty good job. The frustrating thing about tonight was we were playing chaotic on defense and getting big stops, but then we’d give up an offensive rebound a lot in that first half there. That’s frustrating, that can deflate you a little bit, especially when you work that hard on the defensive end so we’ve got to do a better job of boxing out, getting into somebody and then ripping down the rebound.”
Plymouth was aided at the game by foul trouble for St. Joe leading scorer Tre Olive, who logged just 7:22 of playing time and never got into the offensive flow, finishing 0 for 2 from the floor with no points in the Indians’ season-opener.
“I think a lot of that was him sitting on the bench in foul trouble, to be honest with you,” Bales said. “I think we did a good job on him when he was in there. They’re going to improve. It’s their first game, they have a lot of football kids, they’re going to respond, they’re going to be a different team come March.”
While St. Joe opens at 0-1, Plymouth moves to 3-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season in Jack Edison’s last year at the helm of the program. The Pilgrims put that unbeaten record on the line with another home game Friday against Peru. Tip-off is slated for 7:45 p.m.
“Peru is going to be a tough team, similar to St. Joe,” said Bales. “They will come out and tag you right in the face. They’re going to bump you, and we can either take it or we can step up and make plays. Over the next couple days I think rebounding’s got to be a huge concern for me. We’re going to face a couple teams in a row starting with Peru that really go to the boards hard.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
St. Joe: 8 22 33 42
Plymouth: 12 25 39 59
SOUTH BEND ST. JOSEPH’S (42): Greenan Sullivan 3 0-0 6, Daniel O’Connor 0 0-0 0, Connor Edmonds 6 1-1 14, Nicholas Bubik 0 0-0 0, Denton Dillis 0 3-4 3, Collin Hickey 0 0-0 0, Mathew Monserez 1 2-2 4, Tre Olive 0 0-0 0, Ryan Wobbe 4 0-0 9, Ryan Brown 0 0-0 0, Conor Levey 2 2-2 6; Totals: 16 8-9 42.
PLYMOUTH (59): Ryan McNeil 0 0-0 0, Gabe Vervynckt 0 0-0 0, Joe Knapp 0 0-0 0, David Lee 4 3-4 12, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 6 1-4 14, Ike Kastner 1 0-0 2, Keyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 3 8-12 14, Kyle Kaser 4 3-3 11, Tom Felke 2 1-2 6, Hayden Skirvin 0 0-0 0; Totals: 20 16-27 59.
3-pointers: St. Joe 2 (Edmonds, Wobbe), Plymouth 3 (Lee, Mercer, Felke); Turnovers: St. Joe 25, Plymouth 12; Rebounds: St. Joe 32 (Levey 7), Plymouth 25 (Mercer 8); Assists: St. Joe 3 (Hickey 2), Plymouth 9 (Vervynckt 2, Mercer 2, Ruff 2); Steals: St. Joe 6 (Edmonds 2), Plymouth 11 (Ruff 4); Fouls (fouled out): St. Joe 22 (none), Plymouth 18 (none).
Records: Plymouth 3-0, St. Joe 0-1
JV score: St. Joseph’s 37 (Eric Mossey 14, Keaton Wieschhaus 10), Plymouth 24 (Matt Flynn 7).