A change for the good as Pilgrims beat Minutemen

PLYMOUTH — After three straight losses, Plymouth head coach Ryan Bales decided to make a change.
The Pilgrims’ starting lineup got a makeover Friday as sophomore Tom Felke got his first start at the point, and Gabe Vervynckt stepped in the other starting guard slot.
Plymouth’s revamped lineup jumped off to a fast start, knocking down 10 of its first 11 shots en route to a 22-14 first quarter, then held off the Minutemen down the stretch for a 61-51 skid-snapping Northern Lakes Conference victory at The Rock.
“Any time you lose three in a row, sometimes changes have to happen,” said Bales. “The guys that we replaced in the lineup, they’re great kids, and who knows? By next weekend we could have a different starting lineup. It just comes down to production.”
“We thought Gabe, he gave us some solid play. All year long, he’s not a big time playmaker, but he’s just dependable,” Bales continued. “Tom Felke, he’s been someone that we’ve looked at. He’ll come into a game and not hesitate. As a point guard, we need a guy playing with confidence, and Tom, it was just his turn.”
Felke finished with eight points, a steal and an assist in his first start running the point, while Vervynckt put up four points with two assists.
The Pilgrims were led by Ryan McNeil, who finished 6 of 13 from the field — including a 3-for-6 clip from downtown — on his way to 18 points, while John Ruff finished with a 5-for-8 conversion rate from the floor and 14 points with a game-best six assists.
Ruff poured in seven of his points in the first quarter to help Plymouth’s fast start, while McNeil put up five straight points with a steal during a 7-0 run midway through the fourth in which the Pilgrims stretched their lead from four points back to double digits at 52-41 with 3:43 left to play.
“I think a key part of that stretch was our defense,” said Bales. “Ryan did a great job playing on (Jason) Spriggs there down at their end, forced him to take some tough shots. He had a key steal; we’ve been on him for his defense, and as a senior I thought he responded. I expect our seniors to make plays. I thought John Ruff made some nice passes tonight, a lot of great assists.”
Concord was paced by Seth Huxford’s game-high 20 points, and the Minutemen outrebounded Plymouth 38-29, including an eye-popping 22 offensive caroms for 15 second-chance points.
Friday’s NLC victory was the Pilgrims’ first win since an overtime loss at Penn Dec. 22 derailed the team’s 6-0 start. Plymouth went on to lose a 57-52 conference contest at Elkhart Memorial Jan. 6, followed by a 54-43 defeat at Tippecanoe Valley the following night.
The Pilgrims once again face a short layover as they travel to LaPorte tonight. They’ll be looking for their first back-to-back wins in consecutive days this season as the game tips off at 8 p.m.
“The only thing we talked about with our guys was at the end of the night, we wanted to be the hardest working team,” Bales said of Friday’s win. “We can talk losing streaks, winning streaks, but no matter what when we walk in that locker room, we want to be the hardest workers, and I thought tonight that was the case, as well as many other nights. Last Saturday, it wasn’t the case. I thought Tippy Valley out-executed us and they outworked us. We went back to work, our kids responded, our coaching staff did a great job preparing us and I thought we came out prepared and I think our guys were hungry to get back and play.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
Concord: 14 23 35 51
Plymouth: 22 33 43 61
CONCORD (51): Ramon Johnson 1 0-0 2, Dylan Wynne 0 0-0 0, Adam Glanders 0 2-2 2, DuWhan Alford 2 5-6 9, Osirus Munn 0 0-1 0, Franko House 4 0-0 8, Dakota Simon 0 0-0 0, Seth Huxford 6 5-13 20, Ghaneah Wayker 0 2-2 2, Jason Spriggs 4 0-1 8; Totals: 17 12-17 51.
PLYMOUTH (61): Ryan McNeil 6 3-3 18, Gabe Vervynckt 2 0-0 4, Joe Knapp 0 0-0 0, David Lee 2 0-0 4, Connor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 3 1-2 8, Ike Kastner 0 0-0 0, Kyser McCrammer 1 0-0 2, Kyle Kaser 0 3-4 3, Tom Felke 2 4-5 8, Hayden Skirvin 0 0-0 0; Totals: 21 15-19 61.
3-point goals: Concord 5 (Huxford 5), Plymouth 4 (McNeil 3, Mercer); Turnovers: Concord 12, Plymouth 13; Rebounds: Concord 38 (Spriggs 7), Plymouth 29 (McNeil 5, Mercer 5); Steals: Concord 6 (Alford 2, Huxford 2), Plymouth 8 (McNeil 2, Ruff 2, Skirvin 2); Assists: Concord 5 (House 2), Plymouth 14 (Ruff 6); Fouls (fouled out): Concord 19 (none), Plymouth 15 (none).
Records: Plymouth 7-3 (2-1 NLC), Concord 7-3 (1-2 NLC)
JV score: Concord 36 (Filip Werwatka 10), Plymouth 22 (Zach Stone 7)