Day of drama falls short of Hollywood ending for Plymouth

PLYMOUTH — A day of classic storylines fell short of a storybook ending for Plymouth as the Pilgrims fell to Andrean (22-3) by a 70-60 final in overtime in the Plymouth Regional championship game Saturday night.
The big story line was of the team that refused to go away with Plymouth trailing for much of the game and living to play overtime on an epic 3-point buzzer beater by Joe Knapp that capped an unlikely comeback.
“These guys don’t realize it now — they have a lot to be proud of,” said Plymouth Head Coach Ryan Bales. “There are a lot of teams that would have quit in that situation, and we kept chipping away. We’ve done it all year. These guys have shown a lot of heart.”
Seeming to always be chasing an Andrean lead, the Pilgrims went in at the half down by one, battling an Andrean team that seemed to have an endless source of weaponry. The 59er’s had three players over 15 points in the game, and Andrean guard Nick Davidson added 10 assists as part of his brilliant effort.
“We fought and scrapped and clawed,” said Bales “They have an inside game. They have an outside game. They have guards who can post up and guards who can hit 3s, and they just keep coming at you. They are a match-up nightmare. Our kids fought and battled and put us in position to win.”
That they did, and Knapp’s huge 3 as the red light went on seemed to light a spark in the Pilgrims. But four fouls hanging over the head of Mack Mercer was a sub-plot to the Cinderella story that would make it a horror film for Plymouth.
A phantom offensive foul far away from the ball very shortly into the overtime period sent the Plymouth big man to the bench to watch. He ended his night with a stellar defensive performance, seven rebounds and eight blocked shots to go with 18 points.
“Big call there at the end losing Mack,” said Bales. “I don’t want to blame the officials in any way, but that was a big call and it didn’t go our way. It seemed to take all the momentum we had there in the overtime. It just didn’t go our way.”
And neither did the rest of the overtime as Andrean pounded big man Skyler Moss in the paint and ended the game at the free throw line.
Plymouth will say goodbye to a senior class that was important to the program.
“Every single one of them are great kids on and off the court,” said Bales of his seniors. “They’ve represented our program in a positive way. We’ve battled some adversity this school year. They are definitely going to be missed. There wasn’t a superstar among them but together they were a force to be reckoned with.”
Plymouth ends at 21-4 for the season.
At Plymouth Regional Championship
Score by Quarters
Plymouth: 13 22 33 51 60
Andrean: 14 23 40 51 70
PLYMOUTH (60): Matt Flynn 2, Gabe Vervynckt 0, Joe Knapp 22, David Lee 11, Nick Bayley 0, Mack Mercer 18, Ike Kastner 4, Kyser McCrammer 0, Trent Briles 0, Josh Anders 0, Tom Felke 3, Jack Barron 0, Reis Yoder 0; Totals: 22 11-16 60.
ANREAN (70): Ramon Guerrero 0, Daniel Keilman 3, Ben Davidson 0, Zach Catlin 0, J.J. Bosak 0, Matt Ruberry 0, D.J. Gonzalez 5, Nick Davidson 18, Sam Toporski 0 Nick Podkul 7, Shamir Johnson 0, Collin Wojcik 17, John Daugherty 0, Skyler Moss 20; Totals 23 15-20 70.
3-pointers: Plymouth 5-12 (Mercer, Knapp 2), Andrean 9-15 (Wojcik 4); Rebounds: Plymouth 25 (Mercer 7), Andrean 30 (Moss, Davidson 6); Assists: Plymouth 9 (McCrammer 3), Andrean 14 (Davidson 10); Steals: Plymouth 7 (Lee 2), Andrean 4 (Ruberry 2); Turnovers: Plymouth 9, Andrean; Fouls (Fouled Out): Plymouth 17 (Mercer), Andrean 18 (Keilman).
Records: Plymouth 21-4 (final), Andrean 22-3
Plymouth 46, West Lafayette 44
It is an instant classic.
It was a game that featured storylines right out of a Hollywood movie — most dramatically the outstanding freshman at the line with :01 on the clock with a chance to win the game. The climax of that movie was a tragedy for West Lafayette, and a triumph for Plymouth as they took a 46-44 win to move on to regional final action.
“With our crowd today I think they willed us to a win,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales after the game. “I don’t know how we got it done, but we got a win.”
Nobody in attendance can doubt the fact that the name Nai Carlisle is going to be heard a lot in the next four years. The freshman point guard from West Lafayette was nothing short of brilliant in the time he was able to spend on the floor.
He single-handedly willed the Red Devils to contention early, scoring seven of his team’s first 10 points, but Plymouth found a way to take him away — make him foul. Carlisle spent most of the first half on the bench with three personals and got his fourth very early in the second half.
Meanwhile the Pilgrims were taking away other potent members of the Red Devil offense with some outstanding play from both Kyser McCrammer and Ike Kastner. McCrammer held West Lafayette scorer Justus Stanback to seven points — well below his season average of 15 and frustrated the 6’8” matchup headache for the entire game.
While no statistic will show it, Kastner gave up his body time and again, flying around the floor to keep plays alive — over and over tipping rebounds and loose balls to teammates at key moments.
“What a game plan for them, they showed a lot of guts. It was a beat down, drag out type of game, and we happened to be on the winning end,” said Bales. “Our kids showed a lot of toughness. Ike Kastner makes a couple big plays. We’ve been talking about it all year — he and Kyser (McCrammer) being shutdown guys every night. They came up big today.”
In the second half, the Red Devils’ William Mbongo became a one-man army, scoring six unanswered baskets in a row in the third quarter and crashing the boards with ferocity on his way to a game-high 15 points and nine rebounds. He put West Lafayette ahead for much of the final two frames.
The game came down to the classic Hollywood finale — freshman Carlisle on the line with three free throws, his team down two points, and the hopes of West Lafayette on his shoulders. Carlisle surely would have chosen another scriptwriter as he missed all three and Mack Mercer pulled down the rebound to seal the win.
Tom Felke was instrumental on offense with 13 clutch points and Mercer was nothing short of brilliant in his own way with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, stealing the ball and going coast to coast for a dunk that seemed to ignite his team at a key moment.
At Plymouth Regional
Score by Quarters
Plymouth: 14 27 34 46
W. Lafayette: 10 20 36 44
PLYMOUTH (46): Matt Flynn 0, Gabe Vervynckt 0, Joe Knapp 10, David Lee 3, Nick Bayley 0, Mack Mercer 14, Ike Kastner 6, Kyser McCrammer 0, Trent Briles 0, Josh Anders 0, Tom Felke 13, Reis Yoder 0; Totals 19 4-14 46
W. LAFAYETTE (44): Christian Gatmaitan 0, Kyle Gick 0, Jay Chapman 0, Brian Bangs 10, Justus Stanback 7, Brody Forbes 0, Jared Snoble 0, Trev Parker 0, Nai Carlisle 9, Tory Eger 3, Caleb Smith 0, William Mbongo 15; Totals 7 4-8 44.
3-pointers: Plymouth 4-9 (Knapp 2), W. Laf. 4-16 (Bangs 2); Rebounds: Plymouth 32 (Mercer 10), W. Laf. 24 (Mbongo 9); Assists: Plymouth 8 (Kastner, McCrammer, Felke 2), W. Laf. 11 (Bangs 5); Steals: Plymouth 3 (Mercer 2), W. Laf. 13 (Eger 5); Turnovers: Plymouth 21, W. Laf. 12; Fouls (Fouled out) - Plymouth 12, W. Laf. 14.
Records: Plymouth 21-3, West Lafayette 19-6 (final).