WILLARD - Things started out slow for both Plymouth and Buckeye Central at the Division IV district semifinal at Willard High School.
Plymouth played a different style of basketball than normal, took charge early on and never relinquished it's lead even though the Bucks made multiple rallies in a 43-37 loss.
"We were pretty stagnant the first half and couldn't get anything to drop but we weren't attacking the zone we needed to and that was frustrating," Buckeye Central coach Phil Loy said.
Plymouth coach Troy Keene mentioned how it was the first time all season that his team played a zone defense and how it was a huge factor in the Big Red's district semifinal win.
"This is the first time all season we went into zone," Keene said. "Our game plan was to pound it from inside to outside and we didn't do a great job of that, so we wanted to take away dribble penetration and I thought we done a great job of that tonight."
Buckeye Central was the first team to get on the scoreboard a minute in and hung tough with Plymouth for the first quarter, only trailing 8-6. But the Bucks struggled in the second quarter, only accumulating two points. Meanwhile, Plymouth was getting warmed up, slowly wedging open a seven point lead with just less than four minutes to go in the first half. Then another seven point Big Red scoring run emerged.
Plymouth's Jeremiah Gregor had a lot to do with it.
After BC's Grant Loy hit a short jumper to make it 15-10, Gregor hit a trey from the right side. Immediately into the Bucks next possession, Gregor grabbed a quick steal, ran down the court and rolled in a tough jumper with his right hand while getting fouled by Cade Kaple.
The Big Red fans went into a massive uproar.
It set the tone for the remainder of the half, in which Plymouth sat pretty with a 12-point lead, 22-10.
Loy wasn't very thrilled about starting the second half down by a dozen. The same thing happened last year in Buckeye Central's district semi-final game against Colonel Crawford. The Bucks lost on a missed buzzer beater.
"You can't score 10 points in a half against a good team like Plymouth expect to win," Loy said. "It's weird, it was kind of the same way last year. We were down 12 in the fourth quarter, actually with a few minutes ago and we had a shot at the buzzer to win it last year."
Being down by more than single digits didn't seem to phase the Bucks.
It started to pick up momentum in the second half, hitting more shots and grabbing more boards but Plymouth kept a sizable edge on the Bucks, leading by no less than eight the entire third quarter. It held a 29-21 advantage going into the final quarter.
However with eight minutes remaining, Buckeye Central showed it was far from over.
Buckeye Central, trailing 33-25 with 4:30 left started to make a comeback.
Cade Kaple, who was an inside and outside force the entire game, shot a short jumper, sank it and was fouled by Big Red star-sophomore, Tyrell Edmiston. Edmiston, who finished with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, tallied his fifth foul with 4:11 left.
Keene knew that his youthful team had to step up, which it did. The Big Red went 10-12 from the charity stripe in the last 3:30, including a critical 6 of 6 showing from Tyson Beebe.
"We've got an awfully young team, you know we start three sophomores," he said. "When you lose one of the best players in the district, once he went out I thought my other younger kids stepped out. We brought a freshman off the bench and he stepped up. I think we took a couple steps growing up tonight."
Still even in a 43-37 loss, there was some bright spots for BC.
Loy talked about how much his kids have grown and improved, both on and off the court.
To some, it may not be as good as a tournament win but it's a fundamental that may just be better in the long run.
"That's what I like about these kids, they never quit," Loy said. "They work their butts off and I'm proud of them."