PLYMOUTH — Two steps forward, one step back.
Coming off a breakthrough week in which they broke into the Northern Lakes Conference win column and put together their first consecutive wins, the Pilgrims suffered a setback Friday, falling to NLC foe Goshen 48-37 in a Homecoming spoiler at The Rock.
Plymouth got off to a slow start as the visiting Redskins held the home team to just three points in the first quarter and 13 total points at the half, snapping a five-game losing streak in the Pilgrims’ worst offensive showing since a Nov. 30 loss to Triton.
“It’s frustrating to keep telling our guys we’re getting better and we’re improving in different areas — we’ve been doing that all through January,” said Goshen head basketball coach Brian Bechtel. “Finally tonight we were able to put 32 minutes of defense and offense together.”
“That’s our best defensive effort in a long time,” he added. “That’s the most satisfying thing I think for us, is that we got it done on the defensive end.”
By contrast, Goshen finished at better than 59 percent from the floor, going 13 for 22 on the night, including an efficient 3-for-3 clip from beyond the arc.
The Redskins took their first lead of the game with a Jake Speicher trey from the top of the key at the 5:37 mark of the first frame and outscored Plymouth in every quarter, eventually building a double-digit lead on a Ryan Getz lob to Sam Stegelman for a layup that brought the score to 37-27 with 4:25 left to play.
With time running out and double figures to make up, the Pilgrims began fouling to stretch the clock, and the Redskins capitalized with 9-of-13 foul shooting to polish them off.
“I just thought we were patient tonight offensively in the halfcourt,” said Bechtel. “I thought we were able to spread them out a little bit. They really do a good job of pressuring out on the basketball, and our ball handlers did a decent job of handling it and not forcing passes tonight. I just thought we did a good job spreading them and making them have to defend farther out on the court.”
Plymouth head coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said his team’s problems Friday boiled down to focus.
“Our lack of communication allowed for that, our lack of identifying shooters and just keeping guys in front and all the basic things that we’ve taught all year that I thought maybe were turning around,” he said. “They left us tonight. I think again it comes back to a mindset and a focus; communicating at both ends of the floor. We were pretty silent tonight, we were pretty lethargic and when that happens you’re probably going to let a team shoot 60 percent, when you give them layups and their shooters wide-open 3s.”
It was a disappointing decision for the Pilgrims, who claimed back-to-back wins over first Northridge for their first NLC victory of the year, then Mishawaka on the road last week.
Plymouth’s low offensive numbers were especially befuddling considering the team is finally at full strength after a bumpy start to the season. The Smiths, Brock and Sean, are both back in the lineup after injury and suspension sidelined the duo for long intervals — Friday’s contest with Goshen was Brock’s third game back after sitting out 13 games with a football injury and Sean’s sixth following a five-game suspension — and 6-foot-7 freshman Mack Mercer continues to develop.
Brock and Sean finished with five and six points, respectively, while Mercer was the lone Pilgrim to reach double figures with 12 points to compliment a game-high six rebounds.
“He can put the ball in the basket and he’s starting to grow up a little bit,” Stuckmeyer said of Mercer. “You can sense that he’s getting that mindset, maybe from a few of our seniors it’s starting to rub off a little bit. He’s getting there. We just need more than three guys to get there.”
Goshen was led by Speicher’s 12 and Jesse Good’s 11 points at The Rock as the Redskins improved to 4-10 overall with a 1-5 NLC mark.
Plymouth’s record slides to 5-11, meanwhile, with a 1-4 NLC record. The team will try and bounce back against a tough Class 4A, No. 5 Warsaw team Tuesday.
“There’s no secret between the team that showed up at Mishawaka and Northridge and the team that showed up here tonight,” Stuckmeyer said. “If they can’t see it then we can talk about it all we want, but you just kind of have to start doing it rather than talking and doing it consistently.”
• GOSHEN 48,
Score by quarters
Goshen: 5 17 31 48
Plymouth: 3 13 22 37
GOSHEN (48): Sam Stegelman 3 1-1 7, Warren Kay 2 0-0 4, Jesse Good 2 6-8 11, Louis Kissinger 1 4-4 6, Ryan Getz 1 6-8 8, Jake Speicher 4 2-4 12, Carson Roberts 0 0-0 0; Totals: 13 19-25 48.
PLYMOUTH (37): Ryan McNeil 0 0-0 0, Brock Smith 2 1-2 5, Houston Hodges 2 1-2 5, Kyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 2 1-2 4, Kyle Kaser 1 0-0 2, Mitch Holloway 0 0-0 0, Sean Smith 2 0-0 6, Mack Mercer 6 0-0 12, Joe Knapp 0 0-0 0, Gabe Vervynckt 1 0-0 2, David Lee 0 0-0 0, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0; Totals: 16 3-6 37.
3-point goals: Goshen 3 (Speicher 2, Good), Plymouth 2 (S. Smith 2), Turnovers: Goshen 11, Plymouth 10; Rebounds: Goshen 17 (Speicher 5), Plymouth 20 (Mercer 6); Steals: Goshen 4 (Stegelman, Good, Kissinger, Getz, Speicher), Plymouth 6 (Hodges 3), Assists: Goshen 8 (Good 2, Kissinger 2, Getz 2), Plymouth 6 (Hodges 4); Total fouls (fouled out): Goshen 11 (none), Plymouth 21 (McCrammer); Records: Goshen 4-10 (1-5 NLC), Plymouth 5-11 (1-4 NLC).
JV score: Plymouth 30, Goshen 19.