Boys basketball: Plunk brothers sink Bunnies

FISHER — Before the season started, Fisher boys basketball head coach Ron Ragle said Blue Ridge would surprise some people with its play in the Heart of Illinois Conference.

Consider the Knights a surprise no more.

Led by senior forward Mark Plunk and junior guard Michael Plunk, the Knights used a key second quarter spurt and then staved off a furious second half rally by the host Bunnies to prevail 64-59 on Friday night.

"We came off a really tough loss on Tuesday (against Heyworth), and that really gave us a lot of motivation to come out right from the get-go and put it on them as much as we could," said Michael Plunk, who finished with a game-high 24 points on the strength of hitting 13-of-19 at the free throw line and grabbed seven rebounds. "As it started going, we thought we could coast the rest of the way. Give Fisher a lot of credit. They kept battling. They never gave up the whole game."

Blue Ridge (6-2, 2-1 HOIC) led by nearly 20 (42-24 after junior guard Will Duggins scored on a fast break layup with 6:58 left in the third quarter).

But Fisher (0-8, 0-4) did not go away easily, mainly thanks to a steady game off the bench by sophomore guard Grant Pointer and inspired play in the second half by Fisher senior forward Hans Carmien.

Pointer netted a career-high 18 points while Carmien scored all 11 of his points in the second half and finished with nine rebounds. Carmien sat the majority of the first half with two first quarter fouls.

"The second quarter, they put it on us," Ragle said after the Knights outscored the Bunnies 25-10 in the quarter to take a 38-23 lead into halftime. "Hans not being on the floor was the difference. I think if Hans is on the floor, we may have won this game."

Blue Ridge led 60-51 with 44.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Michael Plunk at the foul line. But the junior missed both free throws, setting up a few anxious moments for Knights head coach Kyle Watson in the closing minute.

Fisher junior guard Brody Farrar (eight points) hit his second three-pointer of the game off a ball screen to trim Fisher's deficit to 60-54 with 35 seconds left.

The Bunnies forced a turnover on the Knights' inbound pass, with Pointer coming up with the steal and banking a two-handed scoop shot in while he was fouled. He converted the free throw with 26.6 seconds left to cut Blue Ridge's lead to 60-57.

"Ron's a great coach, and one of my best friends in coaching, so I knew (Fisher) was going to come out and play hard," Watson said. "We knew if they got back in the ballgame, we'd have a war on our hands, and we did."

Fisher trailed 62-59 with 20 seconds left after Michael Plunk made two free throws and Pointer sank a layup. Fisher failed to foul right away on the inbounds pass, and when it did, Bunnies senior forward Tate Estes (eight points, eight rebounds) was whistled for an intentional foul with 12.7 seconds remaining.

The younger Plunk put the game away at the free throw line.

Mark Plunk had a strong inside game for Blue Ridge, making up for the absence of senior center Travys Nichols, who was out with an ankle injury.

The elder Plunk wound up with 18 points and 10 rebounds, with five of those rebounds coming on the offensive end.

Junior forward Clint O'Neal added nine points and 11 rebounds for the Knights.

"Coach always talks about taking one more step up the ladder and getting better every game and every day," Mark Plunk said. "That's what we need to do."
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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