Plymouth takes 1st loss at Penn

MISHAWAKA — Two wins in two nights proved too much for Plymouth at Penn Thursday.
Coming off a lopsided home win over Whitko Wednesday, the Class 3A No. 8 Pilgrims suffered their first defeat of the season as the Kingsmen outlasted them in overtime, 52-42.
“No excuses. We knew they had gotten to rest the night before, but we were coming over here to compete. That’s all there was to it. It wasn’t an option to not show up and not compete,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Bales.
The Kingsmen (3-3) outscored Plymouth 10-3 in the extra period, knocking down six of 10 from the free throw line after struggling with a 6-of-14 clip from the stripe in regulation to hold off the Pilgrims (6-1), who were forced to foul to stop the clock after a big 3-pointer from Penn freshman Nathan Miller snapped a 41-all tie at the 1:56 mark and a pair of freebies in the double bonus by junior forward Leo Svete gave the home team a 46-41 advantage with under a minute to go.
The Pilgrims had some open looks but couldn’t get the shots to fall as they finished at 1-of-6 from the field in the fifth frame of their second game in two days.
The young Miller had a career night for the Kingsmen with a game-high 15 points as he poured in 4 of 5 shots from beyond the arc. His triple in overtime broke the final tie of the night — the nip-tuck contest featured seven total — and his three-quarter court buzzer-beater found nothing but net and would have negated the overtime had Penn not already called a time-out following John Ruff’s game-tying lay-in with a little over two seconds left in regulation.
“We saw him the other night against Munster, and I thought against Munster’s defense he kept his composure extremely well. I was impressed watching him in that game,” said Bales of Miller.
“We lost him a couple times. He was coming off a ball screen one time, the other time we didn’t communicate, but the ball’s still got to go in the hole, he’s got to make the shot, and he stepped up and did it.”
Penn needed all the help Miller could give as the Pilgrims held leading Kingsmen scorer Svete more than 10 points below his average at nine points, and Jeff Laidig another eight points below his season mean with five Thursday.
But Miller stepped up big, while Aaron Brady and Austin Torres chipped in 11 and 10 respectively as Penn earned its third win in four outings.
Plymouth was led offensively by sophomore forward Mack Mercer, who finished with 14 despite being limited to less than 20 minutes on the floor in foul trouble before fouling out a second straight game. Ryan McNeil finished with 13 points, meanwhile, and John Ruff put up 12 — including a slashing lay-up through a pair of defenders to force overtime reminiscent of his game-winner against NorthWood Dec. 16 — but the Pilgrims struggled to find deeper production as David Lee finished with two and Kyle Kaser had one less than 24 hours after nine players scored and six Pilgrims dished out a total of 18 assists in the win against Whitko.
“It’s been a different guy every night. Typically, Mercer and McNeil have been our consistent scorers, but you’ve got Ruff out there competing, Kyle Kaser’s out there competing, and we’ve had other guys step up,” said Bales. “Usually that third scorer is key. You look at their lineup tonight, between Svete and Laidig I think a huge key for their offense tonight is they had that third scorer. Obviously, they got that tonight and they got a big look from the freshman, and that’s why they were able to win.”
While Penn improves to an even 3-3, Plymouth slips to 6-1 with its first loss of the season. The Pilgrims enter a 14-day layover before returning to Northern Lakes Conference play at Elkhart Memorial Jan. 6. Tip-off is slated for 1:30 p.m.
“It’s been a good run, but we expected to come up here and win and we came up a little bit short,” said Bales. “I know the guys in the locker room are hurting. It’s not going to get any easier. We have two-week break and then we have Memorial waiting for us and they’re obviously a load.”
At Mishawaka
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 7 14 29 39 42
Penn: 6 18 28 39 52
PLYMOUTH (42): Ryan McNeil 4 2-5 13, David Lee 1 0-1 2, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 7 0-3 14, Ike Kastner 0 0-0 0, Kyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 4 3-5 12, Kyle Kaser 0 1-2 1, Tom Felke 0 0-0 0; Totals: 16 7-16 42.
PENN (52): Nathan Miller 4 3-7 15, Jeffrey Laidig 2 1-5 5, William Doslak 0 0-0 0, Conner Sowders 0 0-0 0, Christian Wittendorf 1 0-0 2, Leo Svete 2 5-6 9, Aaron Brady 5 1-4 11, Austin Torres 4 2-2 10, Mikey Szrom 4 2-2 10; Totals: 18 12-24 52.
3-point goals: Plymouth 3 (McNeil 2, Ruff), Penn 4 (Miller 4); Turnovers: Plymouth 12, Penn 13; Rebounds: Plymouth 32 (Mercer 9), Penn 38 (Brady 9); Assists: Plymouth 8 (McNeil 2, McCrammer 2, Kaser 2), Penn 16 (Laidig 4); Steals: Plymouth 5 (McCrammer 2), Penn 6 (Laidig 2, Torres 2); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 22 (Mercer, Ruff), Penn 16 (none).
Records: Plymouth 6-1, Penn 3-3
JV score: Penn 48 (Jordan Geist 10), Plymouth 19 (Tom Felke 9)