NAPPANEE — Snapping a losing streak always feels pretty good. Doing it on the road at No. 7 Northern Lakes Conference rival NorthWood makes it even sweeter.
The Lady Pilgrims used an 8-0 second quarter-opening run to jump out to a 17-9 lead on the host Lady Panthers after a nip-tuck first period, and the visitors never surrendered the lead again in an eventual 42-34 NLC win that snapped a three-game skid in Nappanee Saturday night.
“We talked about a good start. We have not had good starts the last three games,” said Plymouth girls basketball coach Dave Duncan. “I’m not going to make excuses, but we’ve had the flu bug and a lot of other things going around and I think we’re getting a little bit healthy again. Wow, what a great game. NorthWood’s a great team, they’re well-coached. We have so much respect for Mr. (Steve) Neff and his program and what he’s done for basketball in northern Indiana so our kids are very happy to come in here and get the win.”
After three lackluster starts by Plymouth, the Lady Pilgrims got off to a solid start Saturday, playing even with NorthWood during a back-and-forth first quarter that featured three ties and saw the NLC rivals knotted at 9-all at the quarter break.
A pull-up jumper from the lane by forward Hunter Stevens at the 7:04 mark of the second quarter sparked an 8-0 run by the Pilgrims, and the hosts never pulled closer than two the rest of the way.
“I just think the opening of that quarter Plymouth played more disciplined than us,” said NorthWood assistant coach Adam Yoder. “They out-rebounded us on the offensive boards tonight, and that was part of that little run there. The bottom line was, in that quarter and a lot of phases of the game, they just played a lot better than we did.”
Senior forward Amber Redinger led the Pilgrims with a game co-leading 16 points to go with six rebounds, while fellow upperclassman Lauren Tanner put up nine points — including six off a pair of 3s during the decisive second quarter — and Stevens finished with eight points and a team-leading nine rebounds in her return to the floor after being sidelined at John Glenn Tuesday.
Haley Harrell served up four assists as the Panthers held the sophomore point guard to three points, and Andria Shook chipped in a pair of putbacks as the Lady Pilgrims recorded nine offensive rebounds and enjoyed a 30-21 carom advantage in the battle of the boards.
“The biggest thing is the kids made plays. Hunter came in and made big plays; I thought Amber was big tonight, and we did some things we haven’t done down the stretch hitting free throws,” said Duncan.
“Haley did a great job running the team. She just understands when she needs to shoot and when she needs to run the team, and I don’t think she really had a good look tonight. We preached all week about shot selection, and I don’t think we took many bad shots tonight. We’re going to continue to build on that.”
While the Pilgrims finished at 14-of-35 from the field, they held NorthWood to its lowest points production of the season on 12-of-39 shooting.
“I guess in any game it’s about taking care of the ball, and maybe the tempo of the game was kind of where we wanted it,” said Duncan. “I think NorthWood was averaging 57 coming in, and maybe we controlled the tempo.”
Junior forward Morgan Olson finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Black Swish, sophomore guard Jordyn Frantz finished with eight points, and Taylor Fielstra chipped in five points.
Olson also finished with a pair of assists and would have had more if not for several missed lay-ups by the Panthers, who struggled at 30 percent from the field in the loss.
“Morgan’s finding her way into being a scorer and more of a distributer. I think that’s something that she’s had to learn during her career, and I think we’re definitely seeing some really big strides from her overall game,” Yoder said.
The Panthers were hurt by an injury to senior forward/ center Savannah Bley, who left the game during the second frame with an aggravated groin injury and never returned to the floor as her team fell short of putting together its first back-to-back wins since a 3-0 start to the season.
“There’s no question we’re a high-low team. Not having her in there definitely changes things a little bit,” said Yoder. “But I thought Ashley Yoder came in and gave us some good minutes kind of splitting time between JV and varsity. I thought we had shots in the game; we just didn’t make them and we didn’t get stops when we needed to.”
NorthWood cut its deficit to two points on three different occasions in the second half Saturday but never got over the hump as Plymouth held off the home team with 8-of-11 free throw shooting in the fourth period to break into the NLC win column.
NorthWood slips to 5-3 with an 0-2 conference start and will look to bounce back at Fairfield Tuesday.
Plymouth moves to 1-1 in NLC play and 7-3 overall with its first win in four games. Following a long holiday layover, the Pilgrims will look to build at the Norwell Shootout Dec. 29.
“It was a nice win going into Christmas break,” said Duncan. “We’re going to give the kids Monday night off. We have two weeks before we play at Norwell. Norwell and Brebeuf over there, two good teams, so we want to go back to the gym and just keep working and getting better.”
• PLYMOUTH 42,
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 9 23 32 42
NorthWood: 9 16 27 34
PLYMOUTH (42): Lauren Tanner 9, Andria Shook 4, Hunter Stevens 8, Kayden Fosler 2, Allie Wright 0, Haley Harrell 3, Amber Redinger 16; Totals: 14 12-20 42.
NORTHWOOD (34): Haley Roe 0, Maddie Schwartz 2, Jordyn Frantz 8, Savannah Bley 0, Inger Yoder 2, Ashley Yoder 0, Taylor Fielstra 5, Taylor Stutzman 1, Morgan Olson 16; Totals: 12 9-18 34.
3-pointers: Plymouth 2 (Tanner 2), NorthWood 1 (Frantz); Rebounds: Plymouth 30 (Stevens 9), NorthWood 21 (Olson 10); Turnovers: Plymouth 14, NorthWood 8; Steals: Plymouth 4 (Harrell 2), NorthWood 6 (Frantz 3); Assists: Plymouth 7 (Harrell 4), NorthWood 5 (Olson 2); Fouls (fouled out): NorthWood 18 (Olson), Plymouth 13 (Wright, Redinger).
Records: NorthWood 5-3 (0-2 NLC), Plymouth 7-3 (1-1 NLC)
JV score: NorthWood 49, Plymouth 24.