PLYMOUTH — Logic tells you that a first basketball game out of a long break will probably be a little sloppy.
And logic would be right in the case of the Plymouth Pilgrims’ Northern Lakes Conference win over Elkhart Memorial, 68-51.
While neither team struggled with execution, both struggled with being sharp in that execution as Memorial turned the ball over 18 times on the night — 11 of those in the first half — and Plymouth responded with 15 turnovers of its own.
The difference in the game, quite simply was the Pilgrims’ Mack Mercer, who didn’t seem to have taken a break at all.
Plymouth’s junior Division I prospect played the way a DI prospect should with a double-double of 31 points and 11 rebounds and maybe more importantly filling in the blanks when his teammates seemed to struggle and adding the exclamation point when they didn’t.
Even at that, Memorial coach Mark Barnhizer wasn’t terribly disappointed since he knew it would be a long night for his team battling Mercer.
“We had a freshman (Michael O’Toole) play the center spot for us for the whole game, and I’m sure Mack (Mercer) looked like Shaquille O’Neal to him all night,” said Barnhizer. “But I thought he did well for his first varsity game. He’s got to learn you can’t block a guy like (Mercer’s) shot. You have to take a charge. That kind of stuff you can live with with a young kid, but we had some older kids make mistakes that shouldn’t be making them.”
Plymouth boss Ryan Bales was pleased with his team’s perseverance while kicking off the rust of the break.
“(Markese) McGuire came out and hit some shots early and got them going, and I knew they were going to compete,” said Bales. “In the course of the game we started to pull away a little, made some good plays, made some unselfish passes, some guys hit some shots and it led to a good win for us. We knew an NLC game, it was going to be a battle. Coach Barnhizer does a great job with them.
“In the second half we did a better job of communicating. Joe Knapp in the last couple weeks has really stepped up in that area. We need David Lee to be an emotional leader. Kyser (McCrammer), Ike (Kastner) and Mack, and all those guys who have been around need to communicate. We did a better job of identifying who was getting through screens, who was in help side and who was getting the ball, and that’s a big part of any team is communication.”
While Memorial got outstanding play from several of their players — especially McGuire with his 21 points — Bales was still happy with his team’s effort on the Charger star.
“Kyser is our defensive stopper when it comes to a player like that. Our goal coming in was to hold him to a lower percentage,” said Bales. “The key for them tonight was they had some other people step up. They got some open layups from some break downs on our part, but McCrammer did a great job tonight when he was on him (McGuire).”
For Barnhizer it was the little things that changed the game.
“You can’t turn the ball over against a team like Plymouth and expect to win — and go 3 for 11 from the line, that doesn’t help either,” he said. “We did some good things other than that. But you can’t do those two things. We lost some guys on the back side of our zone, and they threw skip passes for baskets. You can’t have mistakes like that in a game with a team like this.”
Plymouth at 8-1 will take on Tippecanoe Valley at home tonight. Elkhart Memorial is now 4-5 on the year.
Plymouth won the JV game by a final of 41-26.
• PLYMOUTH 68,
ELKHART MEMORIAL 51
Score by quarters:
Elkhart Memorial 9 19 37 51
Plymouth 11 29 42 68
ELKHART MEMORIAL (51): Freddie Rhodes 0 0-0 0, Dimitri Giger 4 0-0 8, Cameron Maxwell 2 0-0 6, Austin Miller 0 0-0 0, James Hershberger 3 1-8 8, Darrius Baker 0 0-0 0, Jaylin Rhodes 0 0-0 0, Spenser Gilbert 0 0-0 0, Jon Bailey 0 0-0 0, Michael O’Toole 3 0-1 6, Markese McGuire 8 0-0 21, Darien Williams 1 0-0 2, Evan Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 3-11 51.
PLYMOUTH (68): Reid Yoder 0 0-0 0, Jack Barron 0 0-0 0, Joe Knapp 4 3-3 13, David Lee 2 3-4 7, Nick Bayley, 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 9 10-11 31, Ike Kastner 2 0-0 5, Kyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, Trenton Briles 1 0-0 3, Josh Anders 0 0-0 0, Tom Felke 2 1-2 7, Michael Kaser 0 0-0 0, Tyler England 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 17-20 68.
3 Pt. FG - Plymouth 9-12 (Mercer 3, Knapp, Felke 2), Elk. Mem. 5-12 (McGuire 3, Maxwell 2); Rebounds - Plymouth 23 (Mercer 11), Elk. Mem. 12 (Hershberger, McGuire 3); Assists - Plymouth 6 (Lee 3), Elk. Mem. 3; Steals - Plymouth 8 (Lee 4), Elk. Mem. 7 (Giger, McGuire 3); Turnovers - Plymouth 15, Elk. Mem. 18; Fouls (Fouled out) - Plymouth 10, Elk. Mem. 17 (Giger).