PLYMOUTH — While teams like to stay in a normal routine in tournament time, this week has been anything but normal for Plymouth’s Pilgrims (20-3) as they prepare to face West Lafayette (19-5) in Saturday’s opening regional contest.
Saturday’s second game features Gary Wallace (14-7) against Andrean (20-3).
Mother Nature has thrown a wrench in the works for normalcy, but head coach Ryan Bales and his team have done the best they can to work business as usual.
“Obviously you want to keep everything the same as you’ve done it all year, but I did give them Monday off,” said Bales of the team’s work week. “Three games in three days is tough, especially physical, emotional games, and I thought they deserved it and needed it. Everybody was still a little sore on Monday.
“We practiced before school for an hour on Tuesday because we didn’t know what the weather was going to do, and then we went another hour after school.”
Tuesday was a normal day at the office, content-wise.
“We worked them pretty hard with toughness drills, defensive drills,” said Bales. “We think it’s going to be a tough weekend, and a lot of it is going to come down to toughness. We’re going to have make hustle plays, get on the floor, take charges and play defense.”
Bales’ team will be looking at a West Lafayette team that looks very similar to themselves — just bigger.
“First of all they’re coached by Dave Wood,” said Bales. “He’s been there a long time (19 years) and he’s one of the most respected coaches in the state and his team’s are well-coached — they get after it and play hard.”
They will be looking at a match-up problem in 6’8” Justus Stanback, who is a force on the perimeter. The other starters range from 6’5” to 6’2”. Freshman point guard Nai Carlisle is the smallest player at 6’ 0”.
Stanback is the leading scorer, but three other players average between nine and 14 points a game to give the Red Devils a balanced attack.
“(Stanback’s) numbers are similar to Mack’s (Mercer), but he gets them in a different way,” said Bales. “He scores a lot on catching and shooting in that 15-foot range. The freshman at point guard — we’ve been very impressed with him.”
The Red Devils are similar in another way.
“They’re going to want to get out into transition and push the floor a lot like we do, but they are very good in the halfcourt too,” said Bales. “They’re balanced defensively, and they’ll really get into you, mostly in the half court.”
“They rebound very well, and that’s a concern,” said Bales. “We really need to control the defensive boards. They get a lot of putback baskets. Of course if the ball is going through the net that keeps us from doing what we want to do and push the floor.”
In all it’s a very simple key.
“You have to be a great defensive team to stay in this tournament,” said Bales. “We’ve been undersized before and found a way to make it up with hustle. We have to make some stops, we have to find a way to make them feel uncomfortable and finish our defense with a rebound.”