KNOX — Todd Boldry was expecting a close game.
The Knox head basketball coach wasn’t disappointed in that regard, and he wasn’t disappointed in the outcome either, as his team took the lead for good on a pair of Patrick Ambrose free throws with 3:12 to go and held off Plymouth in the final minutes for a 40-38 Senior Night victory at Knox Friday.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” Boldry said. “We hoped it was going to be a close game; we don’t blow anybody out, so if it wasn’t close it’d be bad. We just had to step up and make plays. We knew they were going to make plays... and we just had to have guys step up and make plays back at them, and that’s what we did.”
The game featured six lead changes and five ties, and the Pilgrims still had chances in the closing moments.
Following Ambrose’s free throws, 6-foot-5 Redskins forward Josh Risner hit a short jumper in the lane on an Ambrose assist to stretch Knox’s lead to three points, 39-36, with just over two minutes remaining, but Plymouth point guard Houston Hodges grabbed an inbounds lob intended for Risner and buried a pair of freebies drawing a foul on the ensuing fast break to keep the score within one point at the 1:26 stop.
The teams traded four straight turnovers before Ambrose broke the stalemate with a free throw in the bonus with 22.8 on the game clock, bringing the score to its final margin as Hodges missed a contested floater from near the top of the key and John Ruff was unable to convert on the last-second tip.
“We had a tip at the buzzer, we looked for a chance and it didn’t go,” said Plymouth head coach Kevin Stuckmeyer. “Thought we could have hopefully gotten a better shot out of that, but Knox took us out of what we were looking to do.”
As in their loss at Culver Military Tuesday, the Pilgrims got off to a slow start at Knox as they didn’t get on the scoreboard until a Hodges 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 4:38 mark of the first quarter, and they trailed the Redskins until Hodges converted in transition on a buzzer-beating coast-to-coast layup that gave Plymouth a tenuous 20-19 lead at halftime.
“I thought it was an extremely slow start. Knox really came out and played well defensively,” said Stuckmeyer. “We settled for some 3s, didn’t get much going to the basket and weren’t high percentage shots. When you’re not shooting well and you take OK to average shots, that’s not going to help you a whole lot.”
Hodges scored a game-high-tying 15 points with three triples and three assists to lead the Pilgrims. Knox seniors Ambrose and Risner put up 15 points each, while Ambrose handed out four helpers and pilfered three steals, and Risner clutched five rebounds as the duo led their team to victory on Senior Night.
“Elliott Coad usually scores around 15 points for us, and he wasn’t quite as much of a factor for us offensively tonight but just his threat opens up other guys,” said Boldry. “Coad, Risner, Ambrose, those are the guys that have scored all year. We need those guys to score, and Patrick’s been on a pretty good roll lately shooting the basketball and it carried over to tonight.”
Knox improves to 8-10 with its second consecutive win and first win over Plymouth in the last seven tries dating back to the 2004-05 sectional.
Plymouth, meanwhile, slips to 5-14 with its fourth consecutive loss, the last two of which have come at the hands of potential sectional opponents. The Pilgrims have just one game remaining against Sectional 19 opponent in John Glenn next Tuesday before the state tournament begins March 1.
“Fortunately it’s not sectional so we still have some time to right the ship, and we’ll see if we can do that,” Stuckmeyer said.
• KNOX 40,
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 8 20 28 38
Knox: 13 19 30 40
PLYMOUTH (38): Ryan McNeil 1 0-0 2, Brock Smith 2 1-3 5, Houston Hodges 5 3-4 15, Kyser McCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 1 0-0 2, Kyle Kaser 0 2-2 2, Mitch Holloway 1 0-0 2, Sean Smith 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 3 202 8, Gabe Vervynckt 1 0-0 3; Totals: 14 8-11 38.
KNOX (40): Quinn Biddle 0 0-0 0, Dylan Short 1 1-1 3, Patrick Ambrose 4 4-5 15, Steve Graman 0 0-0 0, Elliot Coad 3 0-0 7, Josh Risner 7 1-3 15; Totals: 15 6-9 40.
3-point goals: Plymouth 2 (Hodges, Vevynckt), Knox 4 (Ambrose 3, Coad); Turnovers: Plymouth 14, Knox 9; Rebounds: Plymouth 24 (Mercer 7), Knox 18 (Risner 5); Assists: Plymouth 7 (Hodges 3), Knox 6 (Ambrose 4); Steals: Plymouth 7 (McCrammer 3), Knox 7 (Ambrose 3); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 13 (none), Knox 12 (none); Records: Plymouth 5-14, Knox 8-10.
JV score: Plymouth 46, Knox 5.