BY ED WRIGHT
Feb. 1, 2010, 11:55 p.m.
In a game that decided who would claim at least a temporary grasp on first place in the rugged Michigan Independent Athletic Conference's Red Division, Plymouth Christian Academy closed down Franklin Road Monday night.
But it wasn't easy.
After trailing by five points with four minutes to play, the Eagles pulled out a 69-67 victory behind the stellar post play of sophomore Eric Jipping and exquisite guard play from Dan Mullet and Mick Noel.
PCA has now won eight games in a row to boost its record to 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the division. Franklin Road fell to 5-2 in the Red.
Jipping was nearly unstoppable in the paint for the winners, netting 24 points on nine of 16 shooting from the field. The gifted sophomore also nailed six of 12 free throws.
In his first outing against Franklin Road, Jipping connected on just six of 22 shots while attempting just two free throws.
Mullett notched 15 points while Noel netted 12.
Nick Ward paced Franklin Road with 23 points, more than half coming on a quartet of three-pointers. J. Walker twined 14.
"Franklin Road beat us the first time we played them, 69-68," recalled PCA coach Mike Doyle. "It was just as good of a game the second time around. It was a physical contest like the first game."
Doyle said his team's ball handling improved as the game went on.
"In the first half we had 16 turnovers and in the second half we cleaned it up with only five," he said.
A barrage of Ward triples staked Franklin Road to a five-point lead with four minutes to play.
"We changed our defense after a heated timeout and the defense stepped up and got two key steals from Travis DeKruyter and Ethan Walker."
Walker steal resulted in a three-point play to knot the game up.
"We went up five with a few free throws and a bucket by Jipping," Doyle added. "Franklin Road fought to the end and had a three-point shot to win it as time expired, but it hit the rim and bounced out.
"Everyone worked hard all night," Doyle concluded. "The players, the coaches, the fans."
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.