BOWLING GREEN - For a moment, it seemed as if Archbold was about to gain new life.
The Blue Streaks trailed Plymouth by two points in the final minute of their Division III boys basketball regional semifinal at Anderson Arena last night. But Archbold's Sam Miller stole a pass and seemed to be driving unimpeded for a game-tying layup.
Out of nowhere, Plymouth's Mitch McKenzie swooped in and knocked the ball away from Miller.
The Blue Streaks never recovered, and the Big Red claimed a 42-37 victory.
"I saw [Miller] with the ball, and I knew I had to get him stopped or foul him," McKenzie said. "I couldn't let him get a wide-open layup."
McKenzie's play sent Archbold home with a 19-5 record. Plymouth (24-0), ranked fourth in the final state poll, will play Lima
Central Catholic in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Thunderbirds advanced by crushing Centerburg 72-53 in yesterday's first semifinal.
"That kid can play - you need junkyard dogs like that to win," Archbold coach Doug Krauss said of
McKenzie. "That's how you win games like this, with plays like he made.
"I would have liked to have seen the foul called, but it wasn't. And that's how it goes. So credit them with making a play. If we tie that sucker up, [Miller] might get fouled on the play and who knows what happens?"
It was a painful finish to a game that saw the Blue Streaks jump out of the blocks quickly. They forced Plymouth to commit five turnovers in the first quarter and made 7 of 9 shots from the floor to take a 15-10 lead.
But the Streaks went stone-cold in the second quarter, missing all eight shots they took while connecting on just 3 of 7 free throws. And the Big Red took advantage, outscoring Archbold 10-3 to lead 20-18 at halftime.
Miller made the second of two free throws with 6:59 left in the half, and Archbold did not score again until Clay Giesige connected on a pair of free throws with 58.5 seconds to play.
The only good news for Archbold was that it was able to limit the Big Red to just two points in the final five minutes to hold the deficit to two.
"The foul line did us in," Krauss said. "You can't go 5 for 13 from the foul line in a game of this magnitude. If we would have made our foul shots, we would have been right there.
"We were 4 for 10 in the first half and down two. You have to convert when you have those opportunities."
The Blue Streaks came back in the third period thanks in part to Luke Kammeyer, who collected a pair of baskets in the first minute of the period to give the Streaks the lead. The sophomore had six points in the quarter as Archbold tied the Big Red 29-29 entering the fourth period.
Telly Fricke, who hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third, sank another 3-pointer early in the fourth and added a jumper off the drive to give the Blue Streaks a 34-31 lead with 5:04 left.
"We had the momentum," Fricke said. "Then [Kammeyer] got his fourth foul, then he got another one. I just thought, 'That's trouble.' We had momentum until he sat with his fifth.
"I think [momentum] switched to their side after that."
Archbold led 36-33 with
4:15 to play, but it only managed one point from that moment on. Meanwhile, Turson got back-to-back buckets in the low post to give Plymouth the lead for good with 3:14 left, and Brandon McCalley scored with 2:22 on the clock to set up the frantic final moments.
Fricke finished with 13 points to lead Archbold. Turson had 23 points and McCalley added 13 to score all but six of Plymouth's points.
But while Turson and McCalley were Plymouth's scoring leaders, they both knew who the Big Red's star was last night.
"We owe our tournament life to Mitch," Turson said.
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