NEW CARLISLE — After Friday night’s semifinal thrillers, Saturday’s New Prairie Sectional championship seemed like a bit of an anticlimax.
It sure didn’t feel that way to the Lady Pilgrims though.
No. 10 Plymouth used its signature brand of swarming man-to-man to hold Mishawaka Marian to 1 of 6 shooting in the first half en route to an 18-7 halftime lead, and the Lady Pilgrims’ pressure never let up in an eventual 38-21 sectional championship victory over the Knights.
Plymouth advances opposite Griffith to the Rensselaer Central Regional next Saturday, tipping off against the Panthers in a 12 p.m. CT start following the tourney opener between No. 4 Benton Central and Rensselaer Central at 10 a.m. CT.
“I’m feeling really good. Wow, what a great experience,” said Plymouth head coach Dave Duncan. “Our kids just dug in. This was one of those games where we thought it was going to be an up-and-down game, and we managed to control the tempo, and I think by controlling the tempo we controlled it on the offensive end too.”
Team defense was the recipe that earned Plymouth its first sectional championship berth in two seasons, and the Pilgrims danced with the one that brought them Saturday.
Plymouth held Marian to ice cold 13 percent shooting as the Knights scuffled to a 3-of-23 mark from the floor for the night. The Pilgrims built up a double-digit halftime lead and used a 12-3 run stretching from the start of the third quarter to the 5:18 mark of the fourth to push the advantage out to 20 at 30-10, putting the outcome beyond doubt early and coasting to the title.
“I think we were more ready and wanted it more than Marian did, and I think that’s what really pushed us,” said Plymouth senior Amber Redinger.
In particular, Plymouth’s swarming D kept Marian’s Katie Barnard in the crosshairs. The senior forward got few catches in the middle and was unable to create off the dribble, instead putting up eight of her team-high 10 points at the foul line less than 24 hours after hitting the game-winner to cap off a 19-point night against Culver Girls Academy in the early semifinal Friday.
“Our kids did a good job finding out who could score for them, and we tried to find those players,” said Duncan.
“We wanted to control their penetration, and I thought our team did a good job of that.”
“I don’t think they’d ever seen a defense like ours — a switching man, kind of like a zone. They really struggled getting into the paint and finishing their shots. I think we were able to catch up to them on defense and not make it easy for them to make shots,” said Plymouth senior Lauren Tanner.
“We planned on shutting (Barnard) down and (Diedri) Mastagh — they’re the two main players that score the most points — and we just kind of wanted to get them out of the game, and it kind of shut down the rest of their team.”
For Tanner and fellow seniors Redinger and Andria Shook, Saturday’s championship win was a long time coming.
The trio were freshmen the last time the Lady Pilgrims won a sectional title, and they played like they were on a mission Saturday.
Tanner finished with four points, four rebounds, a pair of steals and a deflection, Redinger scored eight points behind sophomore Haley Harrell’s team-leading tally of 10, and Shook put up five points with a team-high six rebounds to help Plymouth get back on top in Duncan’s first year at the helm after stepping up from an assistant coaching role at the start of the season.
“It feels very good,” said Shook. “I was on the team freshman year when we won sectional, but I didn’t have that big of a part. This year it feels really good, and I think we can go far in the tourney.”
“It’s pretty great,” Redinger said. “It’s a team effort — it’s not just the seniors, it’s been the whole team. That’s what it’s all about.”
“Everybody came out and played with their heart, and that’s all that matters,” she added.
• CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 19
PLYMOUTH 38, MARIAN 21
At New Carlisle
Marian: 3 7 10 21
Plymouth: 10 18 24 38
MARIAN (21): Katie Barnard 10, Erin Guzicki 5, Nicky DelPrete 4, Ashlee Taylor 0, Diedri Mastagh 0, Anna Barnard 2, Sarah Hansen 0, Kiersten Reed 0; Totals: 3 15-20 21.
PLYMOUTH (38): Haley Harrell 10, Amber Redinger 8, Hunter Stevens 5, Lauren Tanner 4, Allie Wright 2, Andria Shook 5, Kaydon Fosler 4, Bailey Brown 0, Dylan Holiday 0, Kirstin Riise 0, Shannon Stephenson 0, Elise Patrick 0; Totals: 11 15-19 38.
3-pointers: Marian 0, Plymouth 1 (Harrell); Rebounds: Marian 9 (Barnard 6), Plymouth 26 (Shook 6, Stevens 5); Turnovers: Marian 13, Plymouth 11; Steals: Marian 4 (Barnard 3), Plymouth 11 (Wright 3, Harrell 3, Stevens 3); Assists: Marian 1 (Taylor), Plymouth Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 18 (none), Marian 17 (none).
Records: Plymouth 17-6, Marian 14-9 (final).