PLYMOUTH MEETING >> Plymouth-Whitemarsh likes to push the tempo to its liking, and few have been able to keep up this winter.
The Colonials used a second-quarter surge and the many skills of Most Valuable Player Taylor O’Brien to speed away to a 65-40 victory over West Chester East in the PW Holiday Classic Final Saturday night.
“It was a good win. I really like their team,” said Colonials coach Dan Dougherty, after his squad captured the tournament title for the fifth time in its six years of existence. “I think (East) plays in a really tough league (Ches-Mont) and plays a really tough schedule.
“I thought the second quarter was a big improvement for us. We preach and preach to not foul. We wanna force teams to try and make shots over top of us.”
The Colonials (7-1) used their team speed to create havoc on the defensive end, leading to an 18-point lead at the break.
“It was very scrappy, on both ends of the floor,” O’Brien said. “West Chester East is a very good defensive team and they pressured us to play.
“We just had to fight back, keep the pressure on, and get the win.”
Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s defensive pressure led to easy points early.
Lauren Fortescue intercepted a pass at midcourt, leading to a layin by O’Brien for an 8-5 lead in the first quarter.
“Get the other team to play fast, to the point where they don’t feel comfortable anymore,” Dougherty said of his squad’s defensive focus. “Make them have rushed decisions, quick shots…”
Ali Diamond stole another Viking pass, the takeway leading to a score off a rebound by O’Brien.
O’Brien scored 13 of her game-high 30 points in the first quarter alone.
The senior guard nailed a three from up top, took it hard to the hoop for another two, as the Colonial lead spiked to 15-8.
The Vikings did make a push though, as Kayla Yoegel banked in a three and Marissa McDonald, who connected for a team-high 20 points, scored on a layup, tightening things to 15-13.
But back came O’Brien, sinking a pullup jumper at the buzzer to stretch the PW advantage to 17-13 at the end of the first quarter. She was well on her way to capturing her third straight MVP trophy.
“She’s obviously a very special player,” Dougherty said, “and she did a nice job too with shot selection. She realized when it was there, when it wasn’t, and made the open pass.
“I felt like in that second quarter, we had a lot of assists. The girls were doing a good job of making the extra pass, finding the open player, sprinting down the floor. There were a couple times in that second quarter where I said to myself, ‘I’m impressed.’”
It was then that the Colonials broke it open.
Continuing to capitalize on turnovers, PW went on a 12-2 run to start the second, with O’Brien batting down a pass and taking it all the way in for a 29-15 lead.
Fortescue scored four points in the second quarter and Anna McTamney had six, and when Gia Schweitzer passed to O’Brien for her fourth basket of the quarter, the Colonials took a 35-17 lead into the half.
“PW does so many things well,” Vikings coach Erin Listrani said. “And they have so many weapons that it’s really hard to keep them contained for too long.
“I have a lot of respect for PW and when you can compete against them, and leave with your heads held high, that’s gonna help us going forward in our league.”
McDonald kept finding ways to score for East (1-5).
“Marissa’s a great all-around player and she makes it easy for me as a coach because I can put her anywhere,” Listrani said. “We’re lucky to have her.”
West Chester East is at Coatesville Thursday for a Ches-Mont battle.
Said Listrani: “We’ve been steadily improving on the details, and this tournament has given us confidence going into league play.”
The Colonials further strengthened their lead in the third. Working the ball around until an open three presented itself, reserve Sydney Kesselman knocked it down to widen the gap.
“I tought our subs came in and provided a lot of energy,” Dougherty said.
The Colonials have an SOL American contest Tuesday at Springfield Monto and then a showdown at Upper Dublin on Friday.
“I would say that this is one of the best Upper Dublin teams I’ve ever seen,” Dougherty said. “(Jackie) Vargas is such a force. I thought tonight was good practice — McDonald is a very similar player.
“Just like we do a good job of upping the tempo, something else that Upper Dublin is very good at is playing at both speeds.”
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