Pilgrims take tough road win at New Prairie

NEW CARLISLE — Crossing time zones may have created a little “jet lag” for Plymouth’s Pilgrims as they traveled for a tough non-conference game at New Prairie on Saturday, but they were able to revive in time to hold off the Cougars for a 72-56 win.
“We knew this would be a tough place to play; this was a tough weekend,” said Plymouth boss Ryan Bales. “We had two teams in New Prairie and Goshen that are physically tough and mentally tough — they play hard.”
To say the least.
The Pilgrims were not nearly as dominant as they had opened the night before against Goshen, and New Prairie came out hot using the 3-pointer to stay within striking distance for the entire first half. The Cougars hit seven 3s on the night — all of them in the first half.
“Tonight I think was more of a mental test than physical,” said Bales. “The first half they were hitting some shots. We were doing some things out of character on the defensive end. They played really well that first half, gained a lot of confidence.”
Fortunately for the Pilgrims, Mack Mercer has come to be a dependable option in nearly any situation. Mercer had an outstanding first half with 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Mercer ended the night with a game-high 25 points, game-high 13 rebounds and was two blocks shy of the triple double with eight.
For the second night in a row, the Pilgrims made a halftime adjustment that totally changed the complexion of the game.
“The one thing I try to do with our guys is hold them accountable,” said Bales. “They were frustrated in the locker room, but I felt they needed to hear some things.
“I had some disappointment in some effort. I thought New Prairie outworked us. It’s about me holding them accountable. It’s about them holding each other accountable. We (the coaches) can make all the adjustments in the world — ultimately our players have to go out and make those plays.”
And ultimately it was Tom Felke who had the second half of his career. Felke had 16 of his 19 points in the second half and added four rebounds and a pair of steals in a run that turned a slender halftime lead into a comfortable win.
“For Tom the difference is that he’s got more confidence off the dribble, he’s getting to the paint,” said Bales. “For the most part he’s making good decisions once he gets there. He kind of took over there for awhile and made some timely shots for us.”
While the Pilgrims ran away in the final quarter, the coach didn’t miss a teaching moment for a team that hopes to make its mark in the tournament.
“In the second half we played a little bit better,” said Bales. “I’m still not real happy with our situational play — the way we handled the last three or four minutes — but a win’s a win. We’ll leave here with our heads high. But it’s a good reminder that we need to get better in practice.”
Plymouth (14-3) has a rare Thursday game at home with Warsaw this week. New Prairie (10-7) has a conference match up with LaVille on Thursday.
Plymouth won the JV contest by a final of 37-12.
At New Carlisle
Score by quarters
Plymouth: 18 35 52 72
N. Prairie: 13 31 45 56
NEW PRAIRIE (56): Zachary Rehlander 10, Jasen Webb 11, Dylan Cory 4, Jared Monhaut 12, Luke Ketterer 0, Derek Scott 0, Matthew Winter 10, Noah Shail 0, C.J. Kowalski 7; Totals 21 7-13 56.
PLYMOUTH (72): Matt Flynn 3, Jack Barron 0, Joe Knapp 5, David Lee 6, Nick Bayley 0, Mack Mercer 25, Ike Kastner 6, Kyser McCrammer 2, Trent Briles 6, Josh Anders 0, Tom Felke 19, Michael Kaser 0; Totals 24 19-28 72.
3-pointers: Plymouth 5-11 (Briles, Felke 2) New Prairie 7-21 (Monhaut 4); Rebounds: Plymouth 36 (Mercer 13, Lee 9), New Prairie 27 (Kowalski 12); Assists: Plymouth 18 (Lee 6), New Prairie 12 (Webb 6); Steals: Plymouth 5 (Felke 3), New Prairie 5 (Rehlander, Webb, Monhaut, Winter, Kowalski); Turnovers: Plymouth 14, New Prairie 11; Fouls (Fouled out): Plymouth 16, New Prairie 24 (Rehlander, Kowalski).
Records: Plymouth 14-3, New Prairie 10-7