The Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team is 11-0 this season and has its eyes on big prizes come February and March.
And why shouldn’t they?
The Colonials have beaten Archbishop Carroll, Archbishop Wood and Cheltenham by double digits and have closer wins over quality competition in Wissahickon and Bonner-Prendergast.
They’ve got a 7-foot-2 center in junior Naheem McLeod that few teams can hope to contain, two powerful guards in senior twins Ahmad and Ahmin Williams and a ridiculously athletic guard in senior Ish Horn.
Sometimes a team built around a dominant center can find itself in trouble when that player comes off the floor due to foul trouble or other reasons.
What makes PW so dangerous is that they don’t miss a beat when McLeod leaves the game. The Suburban One League American Conference leaders proved that Friday night against Cheltenham.
McLeod appeared to injure his ankle with an 18-17 lead and 50 seconds left in the first quarter. The Colonials went on a 6-0 run in the final 50 seconds and had a comfortable lead when McLeod returned early in the second.
The 7-footer picked up his fourth foul late in the third quarter with a 15-point advantage. The game was never in doubt while he sat on the bench before returning in the fourth quarter to help finish off a 77-57 road win.
“Naheem gives you different challenges,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said, “because if you’ve watched any of the teams that I’ve coached over the years, there’s an awful lot of pace to it. Trying to convince a 7-foot-2 guy to be really fast all the time is not easy, so we backed off that a lot to be a power-type team. I think we’re an excellent full-court, straight man-to-man team, but if Nah happens to come out of a game, it actually goes back into the wheelhouse that I know best — that we know best.”
Against Cheltenham, that meant more minutes for senior guard Danny Cooper, junior forward Jason Cherry and sophomore guard Caelin Peters alongside the Williams brothers, Horn and starting senior forward Alan Glover.
“Never underestimate the kids who are quietly sitting on your bench and practicing three hours a night for two months,” Donofrio said. “That gets infectious. It just gets contagious. Coop plays a huge role for us, obviously. You actually become more traditional. Ahmad is a power point guard. Ish is a guy that’s a modern-day attack-the-rim-and-score point guard. Coop — all of the sudden we can move Ahmad to a different spot and make him more or a pure two. We’re trying to figure all the options out.
“(The depth) is more of a blessing now than it was a month ago. There was a lot of learning curve going on, but now Jason Cherry quietly does some really good things and he’s not a little guy — he’s 6-8 240. And Caelin Peters is a young guy — sophomore — who is just about to break out. There’s guys just under the surface there that if they get their opportunity and handle the spotlight, I’m trying to give them those moments, but it’s really hard when Ahmad and Ahmin and Ish are locking in with Alan and Naheem.”
Cooper had five points, two assists and a rebound against Cheltenham. Cherry had two points and two rebounds — all in the fourth quarter — and Peters had an assist.
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