WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh lost arguably the best defender in District 1 in the regular season finale when Ahmin Williams suffered a foot injury. No one knew how the team’s signature up-tempo, trapping defense would hold up without him.
Consider that question answered.
The Colonials held Conestoga to 29 points in the District 1 Class-6A quarterfinals Friday night, winning 44-29 at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Just because Williams is hurt doesn’t mean he wasn’t playing a big role in what the Colonials accomplished.
“Stepping up for Ahmin Williams is hard,” PW guard Ish Horn, who took over a starting position after the injury, said. “His defense is crazy. He’s taught me so much already. In just three games he’s taught me so much. He’s another assistant coach.”
It wasn’t just the trap that worked in front of a packed house at Colonial Gym. PW’s defense allowed just nine field goals and blocked 14 shots.
“What we’ve had to do in the last week is decide what gets you far at this time of the year,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “You have to get serious about defense and not necessarily just running around trapping all over the place. You have to be able to lock people down. That was our challenge — to advance in that. We have. The first two playoff games here there is a concentration in practice on detail and they’ve followed two game plans in a row. Twenty-nine points for any team this far into districts is a heck of a defensive performance.
“We’ve got to evolve where we don’t have to always be making it some kind of 90-foot pace game. The great championship teams lock people up in half-court and just contest and force the best players to make shots contested. If you don’t do that, someone somewhere is going to hurt you. The concentrations the last two days was very focused. I think that showed on the court … I was impressed.”
No. 2 seed Plymouth Whitemarsh pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back. The hosts scored the first 10 points of the quarter and ended up winning the eight-minute frame, 12-2. They turned a one-point lead after one into an 11-point advantage at halftime.
No. 7 seed Conestoga rallied in the beginning of the second half, scoring the first six points of the third quarter to cut its deficit to six, 24-18.
But the Colonials had an answer. They rattled off seven straight points — baskets by Horn and Naheem McLeod and a three from Matt Walker — to open up their largest lead of the game, 31-18.
Pioneers guard Zach Lezanic hit a three to cut their deficit to 10, 31-21, going into the fourth.
PW pulled away thanks to the backcourt duo of Horn and Ahmad Williams. Horn scored five in the fourth — including a highlight-reel slam — and Williams had six to help the Colonials lead balloon to 17 before winning by 15, 44-29.
Horn put PW ahead for good in the middle of the first quarter. An acrobatic, underhand layup broke a 6-6 tie and Williams made it a two-possession lead with a step-back jumper. The first quarter ended with the hosts leading, 12-11.
PW’s Williams finished with a game-high 17 points and Horn scored 11.
Conestoga had just one player score more than five points. That was Angus Mayock with 10.
“PW did a really nice job defensively,” Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. “And we didn’t execute well enough on the offensive end. I thought our initial defense was pretty good. PW averages over 60 a game. You hold them to 44 and think you’re going to have a good chance. But we just didn’t do a good enough job on the offensive end tonight.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh advances to the district semifinals where it will face No. 3 Abington Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Temple University.
Abington beat PW less than two weeks ago in the Suburban One League Tournament championship game.
This marks the third straight year the Colonials advance to the district semifinals at Temple University.
“I’m not sure if a PW set of teams have been to the college arena game — the district final four — five times in a row,” Donofrio said, referencing two games in 2015 and two in 2016. “That’s pretty special. The kids should be proud of keeping that going.”
“We had expectations,” Horn said. “Students were asking us when are we going to Temple before we even played the game to get there. We had to go.”
Conestoga will face No. 11 Penn Wood Tuesday in a game for state seeding.
“We talked to our guys about what the playback games mean,” Troy said. “They are very important from a state seedings standpoint. Obviously the team is disappointed right now and we’ll regroup tomorrow and start to focus on Tuesday.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh 44, Conestoga 29
Conestoga 11 2 8 8 — 29
Plymouth Whitemarsh 12 12 7 13 — 44
Conestoga: McFillin 1 0-0 3, Shapiro 2 0-0 5, Robinson 0 3-6 3, Martin 2 0-0 5, Lezanic 1 0-0 3, Lambert 0 0-0 0, Mayock 3 4-6 10, Erickson 0 0-0 0, Schappell 0 0-0 0. Total 9 7-12 29.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Horn 5 1-4 11, Breeden 0 0-2 0, McLeod 2 3-4 7, Cooper 0-0 0, Walker 2 0-0 6, Houston 0 1-2 1, Williams 7 2-3 17, Glover 1 0-0 2, Lawrence 0 0-0 0. Total 17 7-15 14.
Three-point goals: C: McFillin, Shapiro, Martin, Lezanic. PW: Walker 2, Williams.
TOP PHOTO: Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ish Horn reaches to knock the ball away from Conestoga’s Colin McFillin. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)