The Big Red had three players in double-figures, but quality team offense and a thrilling third-quarter performance from South Central senior Michael Ponchel helped the Trojans take the late-season conference matchup 64-63.
Plymouth (4-15), came into the matchup after knocking off Galion in a non-conference matchup, Tuesday night. Meanwhile, South Central (11-7) heading into the game was looking to add another conference win after last weekend’s games that included a last-second loss to New London and an impressive team win against Mapleton.
“This place is a real tough place to play. We got beat here last year when we won the league,” South Central coach Brett Seidel said. “This is a hard place to play, so for us to come in here and just win. With the atmosphere and the adversity that we had, we’ll take it.”
From the opening tip, both teams showed urgency, slicing through lanes and knocking down uncontested opportunities. Combining for over 40 first quarter points, both teams were looking for defensive consistency.
“We thought we had a couple of mismatches we could take advantage of, so we put our guy on an island and told him to get some buckets and he got them,” Plymouth coach Derrick Shelenberger said. “They’re so hard to defend because they can space the floor so well with shooters. When one of them gets hot, it’s a nightmare.”
There was no let up after the quarter break, the teams remained hot, but the Trojans were able to build a small lead before heading into the break with the score 38-34.
In A Zone
Fresh off the break, Ponchel proved to be a lightning-rod for the Trojans. In a thrilling third quarter of action, the South Central senior dropped 12 of his team’s 16 points. Splashing in two shots from distance, one of which came near the quarter buzzer to cap of the stellar showing.
“In the third quarter, oh my, he hit tough shot after tough shot and wanted it. We gave it to him and he did his thing, so that defiantly was a big difference. Seidel said. “What’s crazy is he’s one point away from 1,000. He needed 26, but he got 25 which is great because tomorrow we’re at home.”
Shelenberger expressed how difficult it is to stop the Trojans, especially when one player gets into a rhythm.
“Ponchel, when he starts hitting his outside shot he’s impossible to guard because he can blow by you so quick. He beat us, he put the team on his back and beat us tonight,” Shelenberger said.
Weather the Storm
Even after Ponchel’s barrage in the third, the Trojans only led by six entering the final quarter. The Big Red didn’t fold and mustered up one final attack. Outscoring South Central 15-10 in the last quarter of action, the Big Red had a chance at a game-winning three but it was a misfire. Coach Shelenberger reflected on his team’s recent history with close games.
“We had a close game a couple weeks ago against Mansfield Christian in overtime. We had a shot to win that at the buzzer. Shelenberger said “I think we need to win a close game and that would really help, because our wins we’ve won by double-digits. We don’t have much experience in close games, at least good experience in close games. It’s like 11 or 12 points in the last three weeks. If we can figure out how to get those a couple of games, we’re on a five-game winning streak.”
Ponchel led all scorers with 25-points, senior Jason Hale added 15-points along with 9-boards; freshman Simon Blair scored 13-points for the Trojans. For the Big Red, sophomore Jacob Adams had 13-points, sophomore Kade Collins put in 11-points, and senior Austin Nester scored 10-points.
With Ponchel sitting at 999 points, he’ll be looking to eclipse the milestone Saturday as South Central hosts a peaking Edison team who’ve won 4 of its last 5. While Plymouth will travel to Monroeville to play the Eagles on Friday.
South Central 20-18-16-10 — 64
Plymouth 22-12-14-15 — 63
South Central: 23-43 FG, 13-21 FT, 5-14 3pt. (Michael Ponchel 4, Isaiah Seidel 1) 26 rebounds (Jason Hale 9), 9 turnovers. Scoring: Michael Ponchel 25, Jason Hale 15, Simon Blair 13, Aaron Lamoreaux 6, Isaiah Seidel 3, Josh Bonet 2.
Plymouth: 21-45 FG, 14-17 FT, 7-22 3pt. (Mitchell Chaffins 3, Kade Collins 2, Jacob Adams 2) 22 rebounds (Jarred Reed 8, Logan Myers 6), 7 turnovers. Jacob Adams 13, Kade Collins 11, Austin Nester 10, Mitchell Chaffins 9, Jarred Reed 8, Logan Myers 6, Dylan Osborne 4, Harley Richman 2.