FISHER — Before the season started, Fisher 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 Mark Plunk and junior Michael Plunk, the Knights used a key second-quarter spurt and then staved off a furious second-half rally by the 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 — 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 points (42-24 after 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 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. He missed both free throws, setting up a few anxious moments for Knights coach Kyle Watson in the closing minute. Fisher’s Brody Farrar (eight points) hit his second three-pointer to trim Fisher’s deficit to 60-54 with 35 seconds left. The Bunnies forced a turnover on the Knights’ inbounds 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.”
Mark Plunk had a strong inside game, making up for the absence of center Travys Nichols (ankle injury). The elder Plunk wound up with 18 points and 10 rebounds, with five of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. 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.”