PLYMOUTH — It was a game that fit the timeless nature of the rivalry of Plymouth and Warsaw and added it’s own question to the legacy: “Was it a blocked shot or was it goaltending?”
History will record the argument; the decision by the officials on this particular night was “blocked shot,” and the result was a Plymouth win, 57-56.
In a wildly chaotic final :50 of play, the Pilgrims had taken a lead on a Mack Mercer toss to David Lee in the paint that ended in a basket. With only a little over :07 on the clock, Warsaw inbounded, ran the floor and got the ball in the hands of John Swanson for what looked like the game winning lay-up.
Mercer had other plans.
Running the baseline, Mercer cut off the angle to the basket on Swanson and got his hand on the final shot, turning it away and taking it down for a rebound. A great play to end an amazing game. Or was it?
Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle echoed the sentiments of many in attendance at the game, especially Warsaw fans.
“(Mack) Mercer... (pause) Mercer is a handful,” he said. “I’d like to see the replay on that last play. If it wasn’t goaltending it was a heckuva a block and a heckuva play.”
And that will be the debate for all time, adding this game to the long line of storied games in this rivalry. The bottom line is that Plymouth staged a huge fourth quarter comeback to even be in position to take the win — disputed or not.
The Pilgrims did it with chaos.
“That last quarter we had to cause chaos; we had to make plays,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales. “The group we had out there was tired. We didn’t quit until the final buzzer. To put ourselves in that position it was our guys scrapping and fighting. We found a way to get to the basket and get to the free throw line. I don’t know what happened, but we got the win, that’s all I know.”
Trailing for much of the game the Tigers seemed to have the match in hand with a masterful third quarter that left them up 47-33 at the break. It was a fourth quarter commitment to chaos on defense that once again turned the tide for Plymouth.
“When you are in that situation — Warsaw was hitting 3s, they were on fire — we told them you can’t worry about getting beat,” said Bales. “You have to deny hard. Our kids trapped at the right time, we made some deflections and they (Warsaw) started to get on their heels, holding the ball as opposed to the third quarter when they were swinging it side to side playing confident.”
“We played pretty well for most of the game, Plymouth scored too much — scoring in transition on us in the fourth quarter — off stealing the ball in different ways,” said Ogle. “They could have quit, but they didn’t and I give them credit for that. We played well enough to win in a lot of ways. They didn’t score on us very much in the half court, but you know we have to move on.
“We can build a lead; we just need to work on keeping it. We did the same thing the other night — built a 14-point lead at (Elkhart) Memorial. Tonight we get up and can’t hold the lead. Plymouth’s good, and their pressure finally broke us there at the end.”
Plymouth claimed the NLC JV title with a win over Warsaw 35-30. The win put the JV Pilgrims at 6-1 in the NLC and gave them the regular season title.
Plymouth (15-3) is at Culver Academy on Tuesday. Warsaw (9-8) is at South Bend Clay.
• PLYMOUTH 57, WARSAW 56
Score by Quarters
Plymouth: 10 28 33 57
Warsaw: 16 26 47 56
PLYMOUTH (57): Matt Flynn 0, Gabe Vervynckt 0, Joe Knapp 13, David Lee 15, Mack Mercer 25, Ike Kastner 0, Kyser McCrammer 2, Trent Briles 0, Josh Anders 0, Tom Felke 4; Totals 23 7-13 57.
WARSAW (56): Jared Bloom 11, Darren Walcott 0, John Swanson 14, Quim Romans 0, Trae Furnival 0, Nate Pearl 0, Jason Ferguson 4, Taylor Cone 10, Jordan Stookey 0, Rashaan Jackson 9; Totals 22 5-7 56.
3-pointers: Plymoth 4-15 (Knapp, Mercer 2), Warsaw 7-10 (Stookey 3, Bloom, Jackson 2); Rebounds: Plymouth 16 (Mercer 7), Warsaw 17 (Bloom 5); Assists: Plymouth 8 (Knapp 4), Warsaw 5; Steals: Plymouth 8 (Lee, Felke 3), Warsaw 6 (Cone 3); Turnovers: Plymouth 9, Warsaw 10; Fouls (Fouled out): Plymouth 10, Warsaw 18 (Stookey).
Records: Plymouth 15-3 (4-3 NLC) , Warsaw 9-8 (3-4 NLC)