(Red Oak) -- It may not have been the prettiest win, but Red Oak ground out a 55-47 victory over the Clarinda Cardinals for their first win of the 2021-22 campaign in their season opener.
"They played hard, and they played their butts off, and that's all we can ask for," Plank said. "Coach DeVries actually challenged them in the locker room to not only match their intensity but to beat their intensity. The energy and hustle our boys played with was all I could ask for."
Despite holding on for the win, it was a tale of two halves for the Tigers as defense prevailed throughout the first half, mainly behind the efforts of Bradley Sifford and Ryan Johnson.
"The gameplan was to stop (Grant) Jobe and stop Drew Brown," Plank said. "Drew is a heck of an offensive player, but with all hands on deck we were able to slow him down. Jobe killed us a few times, but it was a team effort in rebounding the ball, and our game plan was to help on Jobe."
Sifford would also snag four steals in the game, three of which came in the first half.
It was a physical matchup between these two squads throughout the game, and the Tigers weren't lighting it up from three-point range as expected. However, Plank says his team made the most of what they were given.
Sophomore guard Max DeVries would lead the Tigers in scoring on the night with 23 points.
"We came out there project lower than them (Clarinda), and came out and fought," DeVries said. "Hats off you know, we just really got after it, got on the floor, and got at them."
While he may have been off from three-point range hitting just one three on the night, DeVries took advantage of opportunities and knocked down seven free throws.
"I call him relentlessly aggressive is the term I give to scorers like that, you know he's always looking for angles, and looking for his shot, but he didn't hit his shots tonight but he got to the free throw line and did what he needed to do," Plank said.
For the first half, the Tigers were able to slow down Cardinal guard Drew Brown and the 6-foot-5 forward Grant Jobe.
"I tried to faceguard Drew (Brown) the whole game and shut him down, and Ryan (Johnson) was on Grant (Jobe) and he got a couple fouls early, but we fought through it," Sifford said.
Johnson would eventually foul out of the game late in the third quarter but put up 10 points for his squad.
Ultimately the Tigers would take a commanding 12-point margin into the locker room at halftime after going on an 11-6 run to finish the second quarter, making it a 33-21 ball game.
In the second half, however, the Tigers missed Johnson's presence. A surge for the Cardinals came in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter, as Jobe helped bring Clarinda within at least four points of the Tigers lead at a score of 51-47 with just over a minute left to play.
"We're going to go back to film and see the thousand things we did wrong," Plank said. "We lost the second half, we lost by one in the third quarter, and lost by five in the fourth quarter which isn't good enough."
Jobe would finish the night with a team-high 14 points, Brown would eventually tack on seven points, and Isaac Jones put up 10 of his own, mainly off two three-pointers.
However, four clutch free throws from DeVries would ice the game for the Tigers, and they walked away with a hard-fought 55-47 victory.
The Tigers will hope to carry that momentum into their tout with the Lewis Central Titans.
"We keep telling the boys, we don't peak night one and it's not a roller coaster ride, we want to keep getting better and better every day," Plank said. "I told them, tf that's how you open, we're not backtracking."
Meanwhile, the Cardinals fall to 1-1 on the year and look to bounce back in their Friday matchup as they travel to St. Albert.
You can catch the full interviews with Plank, Sifford, and DeVries below.