PLYMOUTH — Plymouth coach Dave Duncan wanted to see his players to hit a couple points in the second half: Extend the defensive pressure to the 3-point line, get better ball movement against the Knox zone.
Once the Lady Pilgrims checked off those boxes, a 10-point game quickly developed into a rout.
Plymouth held the visiting Redskins to four points after the break while scoring at an efficient 10-of-21 clip from the field, and the Pilgrims stayed unbeaten with a lopsided 57-22 win at home at The Rock Wednesday.
“We were too passive on the defensive end,” said Duncan of his team’s first half effort. “The second half we talked about coming out and tightening our man up a little bit. We picked them up around the 3-point line, and I think that made a big difference.”
Plymouth’s revamped man-to-man pressure yielded 15 Knox turnovers after the intermission, giving the Redskins little opportunity to get their offense rolling. All total the Redskins went 1 of 13 from the floor in the final two frames — a transition layup by Kaitlin Zachary off a Nikki Frasure steal near midcourt at the 5:20 stop of the fourth — while Plymouth showed balance from the outside in with nearly 50 percent scoring efficiency.
“I thought in the second half our kids really did a good job turning the ball from one side to the other, and we got rewarded for doing that,” said Duncan.
“We talked to our kids about moving the ball a little bit quicker from side to side, and what it really did was open up the gaps. Our kids were able to skip out to a kid open in the gap and hit some jumpers, we got the ball inside a little bit more often, and I was really proud of our ball movement the second half.”
A 9-0 Plymouth run spanning from the last minute of the first quarter to the 7:18 mark of the second gave the Pilgrims their first double-digit lead of the night, 18-7.
But the Redskins battled back to cut the lead to three at 21-18 with a 7-0 spurt sparked by a Frasure triple at the four-minute stop and capped off by Zachary’s putback with 2:46 remaining in the half.
Lauren Tanner knocked down a corner 3 — her third of the half as the senior guard finished 3-for-4 from deep before halftime — then assisted fellow upperclassman Amber Redinger on a pair of buckets in the paint, and the home team gapped the visitors 28-18 at the intermission.
“Gosh, you’ve got a kid like Tanner come in, and she had five 3s, just a remarkable game out of her, and it really opened up the inside when she started hitting,” Duncan said. “We’re going to need that. We’re going to need those kids to hit some jumpers for us. It’ll make Amber and Andria (Shook) a little bit more potent inside.”
Tanner finished with a game-high 17 points on the strength of five 3s while dishing out another game-high seven assists to complement three steals in a standout all-around performance. Haley Harrell hit a pair of 3s of her own on her way to double-digit production for the second straight game with 14 points as the Pilgrims finished 7-of-13 from beyond the arch.
With Knox’s 1-3-1 zone stretching to defend the perimeter, the Pilgrims fed Redinger inside as she flirted with her second straight double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds, and Hunter Stevens attacked the gaps off the dribble for eight points.
“In the first half I thought defensively in the halfcourt we were pretty good. Our 1-3-1, normally we don’t play it that flat, but we were able to do some things,” said Knox head coach Dan Huizenga. “Tanner hit some shots. We’d rather see her shoot it than Harrell or the ball down on the block to Redinger. We took away the two that we wanted on that, and she stepped up and hit them. That got them going a little bit, and in the second half when they got a little separation we had to extend a little bit. If you make mistakes after extending too far, they’re going to expose them. They’re good. That’s why we put them on the schedule.”
Knox had few bright spots on the offensive end led by Zachary’s six points and Frasure’s five. Rachel Lenig finished with a game-best four steals, while Frasure recorded a pair of assists and Zachary came down with a team-leading seven rebounds.
“I loved Kaitlin’s effort. Her first half effort was probably the best we’ve seen out of her since probably early her sophomore year,” said Huizenga. “She wasn’t that effective on the offensive end, but defensively she played hard, she rebounded hard. She played her butt off, and if we can get that effort out of her every night, our guards are going to get more experienced and they’re going to get more comfortable with physical ball pressure.”
It was that physical ball pressure that proved to be Knox’s Achilles heel Wednesday, a fact made all the more disappointing for Huizenga given a pair of similar losses to Northridge and Noblesville the past two weeks.
“We didn’t match their physicality. We knew they were going to play physical, and we couldn’t match it. Once we got down our heads dropped a little bit, they started letting other things bother them that shouldn’t have bothered them,” said the Redskins boss. “We told them, this is the third team in four games that has played us almost identical with Northridge and Noblesville and these guys. These teams are going to get up on you, they’re going to get physical… and we’d hoped after the first two we’d have adapted and learned a little bit more, but it’s a work in progress.”
Plymouth moves to 5-0 and will begin a stretch of four road trips in its next five games starting at Tippecanoe Valley tonight at 7:45 p.m.
Knox slides to a 1-4 start and will open Northern State Conference play at Triton — which took Plymouth into overtime back on Nov. 15 — Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST.
“They’re going to give us the exact opposite challenge as Plymouth,” Huizenga said. “We knew going in their size was going to be a problem. They’re big, they’re physical; they want to make it a knock-down, drag-out, physical war, and Triton wants to make it a track meet… It’s a completely different battle for us on Saturday. We’ll see. All you’ve got to do is roll out the ball and play, and we’ll see what happens.”
• PLYMOUTH 57, KNOX 22
Score by quarters
Knox: 15 28 44 57
Plymouth: 7 18 20 22
KNOX (22): Sarah Coad 3, Chelsea Collins 0, Torie Elliott 4, Amber Fletcher 0, Nikki Frasure 5, Rachel Lenig 4, Miranda Shepherd 0, Kaitlin Zachary 6; Totals: 7 6-6 22.
PLYMOUTH (57): Lauren Tanner 17, Andria Shook 4, Hunter Stevens 8, Bailey Brown 0, Kirstin Riise 0, Kaydon Fosler 0, Haley Harrell 14, Allie Wright 0, Dylan Holiday 2, Amber Redinger 12, Shannon Stephenson 0; Totals: 22 6-8 57.
3-pointers: Knox 2 (Coad, Frasure), Plymouth 7 (Tanner 5, Harrell 2); Turnovers: Knox 29, Plymouth 20; Rebounds: Knox 21 (Zachary 7), Plymouth 33 (Redinger 9); Assists: Knox 5 (Frasure 2), Plymouth 13 (Tanner 7); Steals: Knox 9 (Lenig 4), Plymouth 11 (Tanner 3, Wright 3); Fouls (fouled out): Knox 11 (none), Plymouth 11 (none).
Records: Plymouth 5-0, Knox 1-4.
JV score: Plymouth 31 (Shannon Stephenson 9), Knox 7 (Lexi McClellan 4)