CHELTENHAM >> Here’s a six-second microcosm of how Taylor O’Brien’s Thursday night went.
With her team up just six points and time winding down in the third quarter, Plymouth Whitemarsh’s junior point guard picked up an and-1 to put her team up nine. Then, she stole the ball from Council Rock North and canned a 35-footer as time expired.
Just like that her team was up 12 after three.
O’Brien was dominant all night for Plymouth Whitemarsh, scoring 31 points in her team’s 60-47 PIAA 6A second round victory.
“She’s very good,” PW head coach Dan Dougherty said. “The first time we played them it was clear (CR North’s) game plan was to run multiple defenders at her, try and wear her out and play a physical brand of man defense. I thought they came out and tried to do the same thing tonight, we really practiced it hard…the snow day gave us an extra day to really practice it hard.”
O’Brien set the tone for her team and the game in the first quarter. The junior attacked the basket every chance she got, pouring in 11 points on five field goals in the first eight minutes.
“I thought her mid-range game was really nice tonight,” Dougherty said about his star guard. “(Council Rock) does a good job of getting squared up and trying to take a charge. Had her work on pull-ups, she was able to hit a few pull-ups tonight. The shot at the end of the third quarter was pretty special.”
O’Brien scored 12 points in the game-clinching third quarter.
“Well Laurel (Suchsland) was the one who tipped it away in the beginning. I was like let me just chuck it up and see what happens. And sure enough,” O’Brien said about the buzzer beater. “Just being able to end the quarter like that and then coming out from the rip knowing what we wanted to do…we wanted to finish the game strong.”
Doubling a lead in five seconds is always a suggested game plan. Dougherty was just happy his team is getting better as it heads into the PIAA AAAAAA quarterfinals.
“Something I’ve been waiting and waiting for is this team to improve their basketball IQ,” Dougherty said. “I’m trying to tell them to understand clock, try to jump the inbounds pass because normally Rock will try and long inbound and run up to get a last shot…(O’Brien) grabbed it and understood to shoot the ball right away…I was so proud that they understood score and situation and finally got the right shot off at the end.”
O’Brien also got to the free throw line six times in the opening half, en route to 13 first-half points. She finished 8-11 from the charity stripe in the game.
Lauren Coscia seemed to gather every missed shot in the middle for PW, pulling down 11 rebounds to go with her 7 points.
“She’s such a presence,” Dougherty said. “When (we) break the press, you have a 6’3″ kid sitting there that can catch the ball and finish. It’s a huge weapon.”
“Defensively I thought she was great. She did a great job of not fouling…they we’re able to get the ball in and I think her presence bothered them a little bit. And then battling through some physical rebounding…it was crucial tonight.”
Ali Diamond added 12 points, including four one-and-one free throws with North fouling at the end of the game.
As a team, PW went to the line nine times in the first half compared to two for North, which was a big part why the Colonials led 24-20 at the break.
Mackenzie Tinner was a leader for Council Rock North inside, finishing with a team-high 16 points.
Plymouth Whitemarsh (27-2) face Souderton in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals 4 p.m. Saturday at Spring-Ford.
“Just gotta have short-term memory, kind of,” O’Brien said. “This win has been amazing but we have to keep on moving. There’s more games to win and more places to go.”