It was a snowy trip to New Prairie on Saturday night for the fifth back-to-back weekend series for the Plymouth Pilgrims. Behind a seventh double-double performance by junior Mack Mercer, Plymouth defeated New Prairie 72-56.
“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.
New Prairie came out shooting well from outside. The Cougars hit seven threes 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 half time 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 out worked 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 added four rebounds and a pair of steals in a run that turned a slender halftime lead to 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 their 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