PLYMOUTH — To rephrase a popular sports joke, "I went to a fight and an NLC basketball game broke out". On a night when both teams seemed to land their share of punches, Wawasee landed one more and walked away with their first conference win of the season by a 48-46 final.
A literal stranglehold for the better part of three quarters both teams exchanged leads and runs but neither could land the decisive blow and get any separation from the other.
"It was hard-fought and give them a lot of credit it was back and forth all night," said Plymouth coach Ryan Bales. "Every time we started to pull away a little bit they'd make a run or hit a big shot. They stepped up at key times and made some key plays."
The biggest key plays came in the final minute as the Plymouth half-court trap had worked to perfection with a time out saving a Wawasee possession for the third time.
Coach Jon Everingham made a key substitution at the break inserting Ethan Carey at the guard position who was able to split the trap, get to the paint and find Austin Miller on the left block for what would be the game-winning basket.
Plymouth had their opportunity but a big defensive play by Miller and Kameron Salazar forced Jake Reichard to dribble the ball off his foot, spoiling a last-second shot opportunity.
"It was a tough finish at the end," said Bales. "A defensive breakdown on our part and our offense not getting a shot off, that's not great execution by us at the end."
The Warriors seemed to speed up Plymouth from the beginning jumping to a 9-2 lead at the first quarter break, but settling in for quarter number two.
"They have very good hands," said Bales. "They are very well-coached from that aspect, they are very scrappy and are able to knife in there and get a lot of steals."
"It's what they do. I think we made them feel uncomfortable at times too," said Bales. "You're talking about a rebound here, a turnover there and we're talking about a different game. Just little things that are part of a tough game like this."
"We had shots we wanted to take. We missed some, we hit some," said Bales. "Obviously, things look a lot better when the ball goes in."
Reichard had 20 points with Easton Strain getting 10 points. Brady Hissong had a strong floor game with seven rebounds and hitting two crucial threes in the third quarter.
"We saw a lot of good things from a lot of guys," said Bales. "We got a little loose with the basketball on offense. Possessions that you might not think it's a big deal when they get a turnover, because they don't go down and capitalize on it, but they still get the ball back and those end up being huge plays in a low possession game like this."
Plymouth falls for the first time in NLC play and moves to 6-9 and 3-1 with a doubleheader weekend at home next week with Northridge on Friday and Mishawaka on Saturday. Wawasee is now 8-5 on the year.
•WAWASEE 48, PLYMOUTH 46
Plymouth 2 15 28 46
Wawasee 9 14 28 48
Plymouth (46) — Reichard 6 5-7 20, Strain 4 2-2 10, Hunter 3 0-0 8, Hissong 2 0-0 6, Yoder 1 0-0 3, Weidner 0 0-0 0, Houin 0 0-0 0, Styers 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 7-9 46.
Wawasee (48) — Miller 7 0-0 17, Salazar 4 1-2 11, Stover 3 2-2 8, Hardy 2 3-6 7, Boyer 1 0-0 3, Dukes 0 2-2 2, Carey 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 8-12 48.
3 Pt. FG — Plymouth 8-24 (Reichard 3), Wawasee 6-15 (Miller 3).
Rebounds — Plymouth 18 (Hissong 6), Wawasee 18 (Stover, Hardy 4).
Assists — Plymouth 9 (Weidner 4), Wawasee 8 (Miller 2).
Steals — Plymouth 6 (Strain 2), Wawasee 11 (Salazar 4).
Turnovers — Plymouth 14, Wawasee 12.
Fouls (Fouled out) — Plymouth 13, Wawasee 12.