It was the first eight minutes of the game Saturday night between Plymouth and Oostburg’s boys basketball teams that decided the outcome.
An ambush by Owen Henriksen to open the quarter and a late spark by Thomas Jankowski pushed the Panthers (2-0) to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter as Plymouth won 56-43 over the Flying Dutchmen in a highly anticipated non-conference match-up at Plymouth.
“Before the game, we weren’t too uptight, we were relaxed,” Henriksen said. “We had a good week of practice. We practiced against the 2-3 (zone) a lot, our spacing was good and we were able to get the open looks and make them. Once you hit them, your confidence is completely up.”
Henriksen finished with 13 points in the quarter while Jankowski chipped in eight in the frame.
“Our defense was good to start the game,” Plymouth coach Jason Duff said. “We got a lot of stops. Offensively, I thought we had a good plan for their zone. We learned a lot from getting thumped by them last year, so we were prepared and the guys for the most part executed well in the first quarter.”
Early on, it was a game of runs as Plymouth opened with an 11-0 spurt followed by Oostburg (1-1) answering with a 7-0 run. But then a 15-0 burst by the Panthers gave them a 26-7 lead early in the second quarter and early control of the game.
After that early blitzkrieg, the game was practically even the rest of the way. The Panthers’ lead swelled to as many as 21 and Oostburg (1-1) was able to close to within nine in the third quarter before Plymouth pushed the lead back to 13.
“We had it to nine and then a three rimmed out, and they come down and score a layup,” Oostburg coach Kevin Bruggink said. “That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. They’re just very good, and you’re not going to dig yourselves out of the hole we got ourselves into playing against them.”
Henriksen also added six steals, Kevin Friedrichs had five steals and Kollin Neils led the Panthers on the boards with six rebounds.
A key for Plymouth on defense was to try and stop 6-foot-9 Josiah VerVelde, who finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks.
“One of the reasons why we’re able to (play a 1-3-1 zone) is because the guys that we put down there underneath have to be both pretty fast but also pretty tough,” Duff said of Clay Henning and Cory Unger, a pair of 5-10 guards who run the baseline at the bottom of Plymouth’s 1-3-1 zone. “I think both Cory and Clay fit that bill. Cory does a pretty good job of not letting him catch it and he’s got a lot of help from the top side.
“With really good players (like VerVelde), playing a zone like that, sometimes it takes them away from what they’re most comfortable with.”
While Plymouth’s first quarter was close to perfect, both teams showed glimpses of early season rust, giving both coaches plenty to work on as the calendar approaches December.
“We have to do a better job rebounding in our zone,” Duff said. “Oostburg’s a tough team, they’ve got a lot of tough kids. I felt like they just whipped us, physically, in a lot of ways. We have to get better at pursuing the ball and going and getting it.”
“We have to be tougher and we have to take care of the ball,” Bruggink said.
Oostburg 7 14 13 9 — 43
Plymouth 23 14 10 9 — 56
Oostburg — VerVelde 16, Hartmann 8, Flipse 6, Telschow 4, Hurlbutt 3, Josiah 2, Mauer 2, Gabrielse 2. 3-pt: Hartmann 2. FT: 13-19. Total fouls: 13. Fouled out: Flipse.
Plymouth — Henriksen 20, Unger 10, Jankowski 10, Neils 8, Nygaard 4, Mueller 2, Friedrichs 2. 3-pt: Henriksen 2, Unger 2, Jankowski 2, Neils 1. FT: 5-9. Total fouls: 18.