Pilgrims start strong in win at Rochester

ROCHESTER — It was the same stuff on a different day for the Plymouth Pilgrim basketball team Friday night at Rochester. A smothering defense and a heavy dose of Mack Mercer and Joe Knapp led the Pilgrims to a 71-51 victory over the Zebras.
Plymouth opened the game with a hot shooting hand. 
The Pilgrims converted on four of their first five possessions — the first coming off a long tip by Mercer to Knapp on the tip-off — to break out on an 8-0 run.
“A lot of those were created off our defensive pressure,“ Plymouth coach Ryan Bales said of his team’s ability to transition quickly. “We were able to force them into some bad decisions and capitalized on the offensive end.“
The Zebras finally lit up the scoreboard with just over three minutes left in the first frame on a basket by leading scorer Jonathon O’Dell. O’Dell was one of the few bright spots on the night for Rochester. He finished the game with 21 points, 10 of them coming in the final quarter of the game.
Plymouth’s continued its steady play through the rest of the first half. 
A fullcourt pass off a defensive rebound by Mercer found Tom Felke for two and then a 3-pointer at the quarter horn by Gabe Vervynckt staked the Pilgrims to a 12-point lead.
Plymouth saw much of the same in the second and third quarters.  
After giving up a Zebra basket to start the second frame the Pilgrims ran up the next 10 points in a two-minute span to improve the lead to 21. It was another quick run to start the third, this time 15 points over the first 4:30 of the second half to jump up on the host Zebras 60-21. 
The run started on another long pass up the court from Mercer — this time to David Lee for the finish — and ended with the big man running the floor and benefiting from an assist by Knapp to put his team up 39 points.
The cushion allowed Bales to get his bench players some valuable varsity game experience that he hopes will prove valuable in the later parts of the season.
“We always want to see who we can play when it is game time,” Bales said. “It’s good to get our guys some experience. I don’t think the scoreboard really reflected the way that group played. They played hard and gave great effort. The good thing is that we will be able to get those guys in and watch film and help improve them in a game situation.“
Plymouth was led by a well-rounded game by Mercer. He put up team-highs in points (23), rebounds (7), assists (5), and blocked shots (5).  Knapp found himself in double-digit points at 17.
Plymouth’s next game is Tuesday at the new Saint Joseph High School in South Bend. The game is set to tip off at 7:30pm.
• PLYMOUTH 71,
ROCHESTER 52
At Rochester
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 19 45 64 71
Rochester: 7 21 32 52
PLYMOUTH (71): Matt Flynn 0 2-2 2, Gabe Vervynckt 1 0-0 3, Joe Knapp 7 3-4 17, David Lee 2 4-4 8, Zach Stone 1 0-4 2, Mack Mercer 8 6-6 23, Ike Kastner 1 0-0 2, Kyser McCrammer 1 0-1 2, Trenton Briles 1 3-4 6, Joshua Anders 2 0-4 4, Tom Felke 1 0-0 2, Evan Parkhurst 0 0-0 0; Totals: 25 18-29 71
ROCHESTER (52): Alec Holland 2 8-10 12, Taylor Medina 0 0-0 0, Carter Screeton 0 1-3 1, Jacob Howdeshell 0 0-2 0, Cyrus Holland 0 0-0 0, Alec Gehrich 04 1-3 10, Kevin Harrah 0 0-0 0, Matt Basham 0 0-0 0, Jonathon O’Dell 8 4-6 21, Luke Cannedy 0 2-4 2, Seth Corn 2 1-2 6; Totals: 16 17-30 52.
3-point goals: Plymouth 3 (Vervynckt, Briles, Mercer), Rochester 3 (Gehrich, O’Dell, Corn); Turnovers: Plymouth 19 (Anders 5), Rochester 21 (Howdeshell, Gehrich 4); Rebounds: Plymouth 29 (Mercer 7), Rochester 30 (Cannedy 9); Assists: Plymouth 19 (Mercer 5), Rochester 6 (Corn, Howdeshell 2); Steals: Plymouth 10 (Lee, Kastner 3), Rochester 10 (O’Dell 4); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 24 (None), Rochester 28 (Gehrich).
Records: Plymouth 3-0, Rochester 0-2
JV Score: Plymouth 32, Rochester 23.