UPPER DUBLIN >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team sat down two of its biggest stars — Ahmad Williams with an eight-point lead and Ish Horn with a seven-point lead — due to foul trouble in the third quarter of the first round of the PIAA Class-6A state playoffs.
The (1-3) Colonials advantage remained seven at the end of the third, but that quickly changed in the fourth.
The lead grew throughout the final quarter and Williams and Horn remained on the sideline until the final horn sounded on an 80-64 win over (3-4) Lebanon Saturday afternoon at Upper Dublin High School.
“We practiced from three-to-seven (Friday) night,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “It’s just been a team that has to put a lot of time in because there are so many guys that can contribute. A lot of them haven’t gotten big opportunities and I think it’s a little fascinating that in a state tournament game that Danny Cooper, who’s waited patiently all season — prototypical point guard — can just go in and play an entire half and control the game. It’s great.”
Cooper beat the Cedars press and was a big reason why the Colonials scored 30 points in the fourth quarter.
“In practice the blue team — the bench — we stick together and work as hard as possible to makes the red team better for the game,” Cooper said of his preparation for big minutes on the state stage. “Usually my time comes when they’re in foul trouble, so I just stay ready. Every day in practice working hard.”
The PW seven-point lead after three quarters doubled when the Suburban One League American Conference champs opened the fourth on a 7-0 run. Cooper hit a three and Kevin Tilghman and Naheem McLeod each made baskets to extend the lead to 14 and they never looked back.
A big reason why they stayed out in front was the play of McLeod. The 7-footer scored 11 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth.
“We’ve had trouble all year for some reason breaking press offense,” Donofrio said. “It should be what it was today — Naheem at the end doing his dunks with no jumping.”
“Our press offense,” Cooper credited for the big fourth quarter. “We really moved the ball well. We didn’t wait for traps we swung it quickly and worked together — got our big man some dunks at the end.”
The teams — which faced in the first round of states last year and PW won, 81-41 — traded runs early. The Colonials scored the first seven points of the game and built a 14-8 lead before an 8-0 run extended it to 22-8. The Cedars closed the first on a 7-0 stretch to make it 22-15 after eight minutes.
Lebanon battled to within one, 25-24, late in the second, but PW separated itself again. Jason Paul and Matt Walker sandwiched threes around baskets from Cheo Houston and Alan Glover. Houston added a free throw and the 11-2 run had PW comfortably ahead, 36-26. Lebanon hit a three to make it a seven-point game at halftime.
Walker and Houston joined McLeod in double figures with 15 and 13 points, respectively. The Colonials had 16 different players step on the floor and 10 of them scored points.
Lebanon’s Shaquell Ortiz scored a game-high 23 points. Luis Aquino-Rios netted 20 and Dante Vargas had 10.
Plymouth Whitemarsh will face the winner of (11-1) Pocono Mountain West and (1-9) Lower Merion in the second round of the state tournament Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 80, Lebanon 64
Lebanon 15 14 14 21 — 64
Plymouth Whitemarsh 22 14 14 30 — 80
Lebanon: Hillesheim 1 0-0 2, Martinez 1 0-1 2, Young 0 1-2 1, Shaak 1 1-2 4, Aquino-Rios 7 4-6 20, Ortiz 7 8-10 23, Washington 0 0-0 0, Vargas 3 2-4 10, Kortright 0 0-0 0, Pereya 0 0-0 0, Sierra 1 0-0 2. Total 21 16-25 64.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Horn 2 4-5 8, Tilghman 2 1-2 5, Levinson 0 0-0 0, Breeden 2 3-7 7, McLeod 5 5-9 18, Cooper 2 0-0 5, Walker 5 2-3 15, Houston 5 2-4 13, Williams 1 3-5 5, Paul 1 0-0 3, Glover 2 0-0 4, Lawrence 0 0-0 0, Kodish 0 0-0 0, Evans 0 0-0 0, Peters 0 0-0 0, Gruzinski 0 0-0 0. Total 23 20-35 80.
Three-pointers: L: Shaak, Aquino-Rios 2, Ortiz, Vargas 2. PW: Cooper, Walker 3, Houston, Paul.
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