After controlling a decent lead for most of four quarter, the Eagles started to slow down and let the Big Red back into Friday’s Firelands Conference game at the Monroeville Athletic Complex.
However, it was Monroeville who was left standing when the dust settled after an overtime.
After Jacob Adams hit a three-pointer to give Plymouth a 51-50 advantage, Eagle Conar Burns came down the floor and was fouled on his way to the basket with 10.1 seconds remaining. Burns proceeded to put both shots through the net to take back the lead.
The Big Red were unable to find the basket in the remaining ticks.
For Monroeville coach Al Mielcarek, this marks his first win in the Firelands Conference and an end to an 11-game losing streak.
“I’ll take a conference win any time,” he said. “It’s a huge boost for the team.”
The Eagles started out the game by taking a 17-11 first quarter lead the slowly grew from there. Plymouth senior Mitchell Chaffins scored nine of his 15 points — all of which came on three-pointers — in the first period.
It appeared the Big Red (4-16, 2-11) could gather some momentum at the end of the second quarter, as Logan Myers drained a three-ball at the buzzer to make it a 27-21 game at the break.
However, Monroeville (3-18, 1-12) picked it right back up and went to work, as Nick Newell hit back-to-back three’s late in the quarter to give the Eagles a 38-27 advantage.
Then the Big Red defense put up a stand, limiting Monroeville to just seven points in the fourth quarter, while the offense put up 18 to force the overtime. Plymouth’s Jacob Adams was the one who tied the game up with a three-pointer from the corner with 24.7 seconds left in regulation.
Mielcarek has stressed during the season how important it is to play four good quarters of basketball. Friday night, the Eagles did a little bit more than that.
“They played five quarters of what I thought was great basketball,” he said. “You have to remember the season is a sprint, it’s not a marathon. For us, after losing 11 games in a row, to come back and to not quit tonight says a lot about the character of this team and a lot about our program. We’re not giving up on these guys and we believe in them and they believed in themselves tonight.”
Newell paced Monroeville with 16 points, including a trio of three’s, while Reece Kendall scored 10 points, Burns eight and Sam Miller six.
“Talk about a kid who makes the most of his opportunities,” Mielcarek said of Miller, who had to clutch baskets in the game. “Sam is a kid who is team first and not me first. He’s been there for us all year and at any part of the game when we put him in, he stepped up and made a difference this year.”
Mielcarek believes the difference in the game was shutting down Chaffins in the second half.
“That was the key. And unfortunately, Adams stepped up and then hit three three’s, but you can’t take away everything. In the overtime we had just enough to win it with Burns’ free throws,” he said.
Despite having just one basket in the second half, Chaffins’ 15 points led Plymouth. Adams and Austin Nester each scored 12, while Myers added nine.
“Those guys hit some big shots early,” Big Red coach Derrick Schelenberger said. “Jake definitely hit some big ones down the stretch. We just need to start doing that in all four quarters instead of spurts.
“We’ve been in a lot of these. Our kids really need the confidence of winning one before this tournament starts. Without conference wins, this team isn’t going to believe that they can do it. I know they can do it, they just have to battle through it. If we play harder in the first half, we don’t put the game in the hands of the officials at the end. Their job is to make calls and they did, so I can’t complain.”
The Big Red still have to Lucas and New London before the tournament.
“We’ve got senior night at home (tonight) against Lucas. They are the No. 5 seed in our district, a pretty good ball club. It’s a team that’s very physical, very big and well-coached. It’s a win we desperately need going in,” Schelenberger said.
The Eagles have one more game to go before the postseason, as they host Crestview next Friday.
“It’s senior night, so it’ll be a big night,” Mielcarek said. “We’re hoping to get this kind of crowd. I think that helped us tonight. It was a good community win for us. I think that was really a big difference tonight to have that support here.
“We’ve seen what we can do at times. We’ve played the best teams in our conference closer than what we have the worse teams. We believe in ourselves. It’s just, again, a matter of finding 32 minutes out there and challenge ourselves to play those 32 minutes.”
Reed 2-0-4; Adams 3-3-12; Nester 5-2-12; Myers 3-2-9; Chaffins 5-0-15. Totals 18-7-52.
Stieber 1-0-3; Newell 5-3-16; Schaub 1-1-4; Burns 3-2-8; Clouse 1-0-2; Miller 3-0-6; Anderson 1-2-4; Kendall 5-0-10. Totals 20-8-53.
Plymouth 11 10 6 18 7 — 52
Monroeville 17 10 11 7 8 — 53