Plymouth South boys’ basketball secured their first state tournament berth in 12 years after squeezing out a 46-44 win over visiting Bishop Stang during the Panthers’ senior night, Thursday.
The Panthers (10-6) have held nine teams to less than 50 points this season and tightened up their defense in the second half to gain momentum.
“After the first half we talked about knowing our matches and our responsibly on defense. And in the second half we tried to take away their [Bishop Stang] drives and try to deny them [Bishop Stang] in the paint,” said second year coach David Costa. “The biggest thing the kids did was move their feet and grind. We are a blue collar team and we buy into defense and that’s what we practice.”
The Panthers tightened up their man defense and applied consistent full court pressure to hold the Warriors to a single field goal in the third quarter. On the offensive end they turned to senior 6 foot 3 forward Andrew Bochman’s interior post game. Bochman notched five of his six points in the second half and collected eight key rebounds down the stretch. Senior guard Dan West (nine points) drilled three 3-pointers in the second half to provide a spark of the bench.
Both teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter and the Panthers held onto a slim 40-38 lead with four minutes in regulation. Sophomore guard Mike Mele (three points) was fouled with 10.8 seconds left to go, and made one of two free throws to put the Panthers up 46-44.
After the botched free throw, the Spartans quickly inbounded the ball and reached the foul line with a second left on the clock, only to miss the ensuing free throws and ensure the Panthers a place in the state tournament.
“This game was a gut check and we did a really good job of staying mentally tough and only giving up 28 points in the second half,” said Costa. “It was our motto the whole game to keep fighting and usually good things happen when you keep on fighting.”
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