ELKHART — The Plymouth boys basketball team has seen some good opposing guards this season already, but they may have seen one of the best Friday night.
Elkhart Memorial’s Todd Johnson was nearly unstoppable at Elkhart’s North Side Gym and the Pilgrims weren’t able to overcome an early deficit in a losing effort against the Chargers, 57-52.
Johnson finished the night with 33 points, making 12 of his 17 shots from the floor even with one and sometimes two Pilgrim defenders guarding him.
“Give him a lot of credit, he is a senior and stepped up for his team.” Plymouth coach Ryan Bales said of Johnson’s performance. “I’m glad that we don’t have to see him again.”
Both teams struggled to score early in the game, the first point coming nearly two minutes into the first quarter on a free throw by John Ruff. After a Memorial 3-pointer, Ruff was able to get a basket in the lane to tie the score at three ,but the Chargers went on a 10-1 run over the next three minutes and led the rest of the game.
Rebounds were hard to come by for the Pilgrims in the first half.
Even with having five offensive boards in the first couple possessions they were out-rebounded at halftime 21-14 by the Chargers. That statistic would turn around in the second half as the Pilgrims were able to control the boards and finished the game with a 35-33 advantage on the glass.
Mack Mercer led the way rebounding and scoring for the Pilgrims with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three steals in the game. Ryan McNeil finished in double-digit scoring as well, hitting on four of seven from beyond the arc to finish with 15 points.
Bales was pleased with Mercer’s game on both ends of the court.
“We like to see him get as many touches (on offense) as he can,” he said of his sophomore center. “I thought he got a few more tonight and was pretty productive with them. I thought he did a good job of not trying to force things and looked for an open teammate when he didn’t have a shot.”
Elkhart Memorial was able to keep its lead above six points for most of the second half, but the Pilgrims made it interesting in the fourth quarter as they were able to cut the lead to four points on a McNeil 3-pointer on a nice assist from Ruff with 5:29 left in the game. Another 3-pointer, this time by Ike Kastner and a foul under the basket on the same play resulting in two Mercer free throws, allowed the Pilgrims to cut the lead to two points at the 2:20 mark of the final frame.
Plymouth would cut the lead to one point with 1:15 left but couldn’t get ahead as Johnson was able to handle the defensive pressure and Memorial hit free throws at the end to secure the win.
With the loss Plymouth moves to 6-2 on the season and 1-1 in Northern Lakes Conference play. They will be in action again tonight against Tippecanoe Valley.
• PLYMOUTH 52, ELKHART MEMORIAL 57
at North Side Gym, Elkhart
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 8 20 27 52
Memorial: 13 28 35 57
PLYMOUTH (52):Tom Felke 1 0-0 3, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Kyle Kaser 0 1-2 1, Ike Kastner 2 0-0 5, David Lee 1 0-0 2, Kyser McCrammer 1 0-0 2, Ryan McNeil 5 1-2 15, Mack Mercer 4 8-10 16, John Ruff 2 3-6 7; Totals: 16 14-22 52.
ELKHART MEMORIAL (57):Jyrron Cooper 0 2-2 2, Parker Devenney 2 0-0 4, T.J. Gray 1 0-0 2, James Hershberger 0 2-2 2, Todd Johnson 12 5-8 33, Matthew Kibiloski 0 0-0 0, Markese McGuire 2 1-2 5, Urston Smith 4 1-2 9, Evan Weaver 0 0-0 0; Totals: 21 11-16 57.
3-point goals: Plymouth 6 (McNeil 4, Kastner 1, Felke 1) Elkhart Memorial 4 (Johnson 4); Turnovers: Plymouth 12, Elkhart Memorial 13; Rebounds: Plymouth 35 (Mercer 13), Elkhart Memorial 33 (Devenney 5, Smith 5); Assists: Plymouth 10 (Ruff 5), Elkhart Memorial 8 (Cooper 3); Steals: Plymouth 9 (Mercer 3), Elkhart Memorial 5 (Cooper 3); Fouls (fouled out): Plymouth 18 (Kaser), Elkhart Memorial 20 (McGuire, Weaver).
Records: Plymouth 6-2 (1-1 NLC), Elkhart Memorial 9-0 (2-0 NLC).
JV score: Plymouth 22, Elkhart Memorial 36.