Eagles in, Pilgrims out at Sectional 19

PLYMOUTH — Culver Military Academy rallied past Mishawaka Marian for a 55-51 reprisal victory, while South Bend St. Joseph’s used suffocating defense to knock out defending champion Plymouth in Class 3A Sectional 19 semifinal action at The Rock Friday.
The Eagles and the Indians will face off in the championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST.
The old adage goes that the best defense is a good offense, but St. Joe showed that sometimes good defense can make for a pretty good offense, too.
The Indians got out in the passing lanes and generally pestered the host Pilgrims into 18 turnovers and made them pay with 19 points off those miscues on the way to the win, their first sectional victory over Plymouth in their last six tries.
“Our biggest offensive game plan was defensive pressure,” said St. Joseph’s head basketball coach Marty Harshman. “We did not want to get in a halfcourt game with them; we had to get some buckets in transition. Their halfcourt D is tremendous, and that’s why they’ve knocked us out of the tournament five of the last six years... So we felt like we really needed to create some deflections on the perimeter and turn those into some opportunities in transition.”
“They just had us on our heels all night with those two guards up top really spreading it out and really pressuring the ball,” said Plymouth head coach Kevin Stuckmeyer. “We struggled to get it to the wing and get it back to the point, and I thought we could’ve put the ball in the middle with the pass or the drive a little bit more, but we weren’t able to. I just thought we were a little bit on our heels, and they started to sense that and come after us and we didn’t adjust real well.”
Plymouth fell behind early as St. Joe opened the game 5-1, but the Pilgrims closed out the first quarter 11-5, and senior point guard Houston Hodges found 6-foot-5 freshman Mack Mercer on an inbounds pass under the Plymouth basket at the 1:38 mark of the first period to put the home team up 12-10 at the quarter break.
But the Indians induced five turnovers by the defending champs in the second frame, taking a 17-15 lead off a 7-3 quarter-opening spurt on their way to a 28-23 advantage at the half and steadily building for the eventual win.
“They really took us out of some things the first half and set the tone on us there,” Stuckmeyer said. “I was pleased with our guys for battling and somehow finding a way to still be in it just under two possessions, but that being said we knew we’d have to come out and change some things that third quarter defensively to keep them out of the middle, keep them from turning that corner on the drive and attack the middle of their zone a little bit more on the other end and unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
St. Joe’s balanced offense saw three players in double figures as Dylan McMahon scored 15, Matt Machowiak had 12, and Kyle Wieschhaus scored 11.
The Indians will play CMA in the championship tonight in a rematch of an earlier 50-49 loss at the Academies on January 25.
“A whole other battle,” Harshman said. “They obviously have great size and athleticism, but (Jermaine Myers) is who makes them go. He’s a tremendous player. He’s probably the most under control player that can do as much as he does that I’ve seen in a long time.”
Plymouth was led by a season-high 17 points from senior guard Brock Smith, who went 5 of 6 from beyond the arc on his way to the game-leading tally, while Mercer put up 15 points to cap off an outstanding freshman season in which he scored 172 points, second only to Hodges’ 187.
The Pilgrims close out a tough season at 7-15 and lose four seniors in Hodges, Brock Smith, Sean Smith and Mitch Holloway.
“Like I told the seniors in the locker room, some of them have been around the last three years; it won’t be the same without them,” said Stuckmeyer. “They’ve been out on that court, whether it’s the practice court or the game floor with me for the last three years, so it’ll be different without them. I hope them the best as always, and hopefully I can be there for them as any coach wants to be because you spend so much time with a group of guys like this that you really care deeply for them.”
The last time the Eagles played Marian, they jumped up by 20 before the Knights rallied back for a 67-66 win.
CMA flipped the script on them Friday, using a 17-2 run stretching from the last 3:16 of the third quarter to the 3:44 mark of the fourth to surge past Marian for a 48-40 lead, then responding to a 10-1 Knights run that tied the game up 49-all with 1:09 to play with its own 6-2 game-ending run that put the Eagles on top after nine lead changes and five ties.
“I thought overall we made a lot of great plays,” said CMA head basketball coach Mark Galloway. “I’m proud of our kids for the way they battled. We outrebounded them 29-25, so I thought on the glass we got some big offensive rebounds that kept plays alive... and free throws. One thing that we talk about with free throws, it’s a sign of toughness to get to the line, and we were 12 of 16 and they were 4 of 10 so we made more than they even shot. I thought that was huge for us.”
Marian sophomore standout Demetrius Jackson led all scorers with 27 points while dishing out three assists to complement team-highs of four steals and seven rebounds. The Knights close at 15-7.
The Eagles were powered by junior guard Jermaine Myers’ 19 points, four assists and five steals, while senior forward Juwan Brescacin tallied 13 points with nine rebounds, and junior forward Willie Strong scored 15 points with eight caroms.
Friday’s sectional win got a persistent monkey off Culver Military’s back as the team moved past the first round of the tourney for the first time in 11 years.
“I think it’s a big first step,” said Galloway. “You’ve just got to take it one game at a time, and we’ve definitely been talking about that... The first step is always the hardest.”
At Plymouth
Score by quarters
St. Joe: 10 28 39 57
Plymouth: 12 23 31 44
ST. JOE (57): Matt Clark 0 6-6 6, Sean Hart 1 3-3 5, Brandon Thorpe 0 2-4 2, Kyle Wieschhaus 4 3-7 11, Dylan McMahon 7 0-0 15, Tre Olive 2 0-1 4, Connor Edmonds 0 0-0 0, Matt Machowiak 5 1-1 12, Connor Levey 1 0-0 2; Totals: 20 15-22 57.
PLYMOUTH (44): Ryan McNeil 2 0-0 6, Brock Smith 6 0-0 17, Houston Hodges 1 0-3 2, Ike Kastner 0 0-0 0, Kyser MCrammer 0 0-0 0, John Ruff 0 0-0 0, Kyle Kaser 1 0-0 2, Mitch Holloway 1 0-2 2, Sean Smith 0 0-0 0, Mack Mercer 7 1-2 15, Joe Knapp 0 0-0 0, Gabe Vervynckt 0 0-0 0; Totals: 18 1-7 44.
3-point goals: St. Joe 2 (McMahon, Machowiak), Plymouth 7 (B. Smith 5, McNeil 2); Turnovers: St. Joe 13, Plymouth 18; Rebounds: St. Joe 24 (Machowiak 8), Plymouth 27 (S. Smith 10); Assists: St. Joe 9 (Hart 5), Plymouth 7 (B. Smith 3, Hodges 3); Steals: St. Joe 10 (Hart 4), Plymouth 5 (B. Smith 2, Hodges 2); Fouls (fouled out): St. Joe 14 (Hart), Plymouth 20 (none); Records: St. Joe 12-10, Plymouth 7-15 (final).
Score by quarters
Marian: 15 30 38 51
CMA: 18 23 38 55
MARIAN (51): Brian Florin 0 0-0 0, Michael Whitfield 0 1-2 1, Coley Schultheis 4 0-0 11, Robert Mischler 3 0-0 6, Demetrius Jackson 11 3-5 27, Michael Henry 1 0-0 2, Andrew Hasler 2 0-3 4; Totals: 21 4-10 51.
CMA (55): Jermaine Myers 6 4-4 19, Hayes Barnes 1 0-0 3, Elijay Murray 0 0-0 0, Juwan Brescacin 5 3-5 13, Alex Dodane 1 0-0 3, Chier Ajou 1 0-0 2, Willie Strong 5 5-7 15; Totals: 19 12-16 55.
3-point goals: Marian 5 (Shultheis 3, Jackson 2), CMA 5 (Myers 3, Barnes, Dodane); Turnovers: Marian 15, CMA 14; Rebounds: Marian 25 (Jackson 7), CMA 29 (Brescacin 9, Strong 8); Assists: Marian 11 (Mischler 3, Jackson 3, Hasler 3), CMA 11 (Myers 4); Steals: Marian 8 (Jackson 4), CMA 9 (Myers 5); Total fouls (fouled out): Marian 15 (none), CMA 12 (none); Blocked shots: Marian 0, CMA 4 (Myers 2, Ajou 2); Records: Marian 15-7 (final), CMA 15-6.