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Plymouth Whitemarsh’s shooting touch helps hold off Upper Moreland

UPPER MORELAND >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh girls basketball team has seen a lot of zone recently.

The Colonials saw a little too much zone, actually, but until they started knocking down perimeter shots consistently, that wasn’t going to change. It’s not like the PW coaches aren’t letting the player shoot, either, if it’s a good shot and in rhythm, they want the players firing away.

Still, breaking a zone still comes down to making shots and in the first half Tuesday, that’s exactly what PW did before fending off a furious Upper Moreland comeback try in a 44-33 win at UM.

“Only one team has played us in man I think the entire month of January so we’ve seen nothing but zone,” Dougherty said. “We’ve worked so much with them on in-rhythm shooting, what’s a good shot and I think it showed tonight. The kids were taking the shots we practice all the time and it really paid off.”

Upper Moreland (13-8, 7-6 SOL American), which celebrated Senior Night for Phoebe Longstreth and Kelley Leighton, couldn’t have gotten off to a more nightmarish start offensively. After Emma Meakim hit a 3-pointer off a Longstreth pass to go up 5-2, the Golden Bears didn’t make another shot from the floor in the first half and saw PW (17-4, 9-4 SOL American) rip off 14 straight to end the first quarter.

In the first meeting, Upper Moreland played zone and had some success with it. The Colonials showed early on they didn’t want to let that happen again, hitting four 3-pointers in the opening quarter, capped by a Sydney Kesselman buzzer-beater for a 17-5 lead.

“They did a good job of adjusting to our zone, it worked well the first time but they put four people on the perimeter and with our three in the perimeter, they over-loaded a side,” UM coach Matt Carroll said. “We adjusted but adjusted a little too late. Defensively, we had to turn it up, we went to a different defense which worked, but you can’t play that kind of defense over four quarters.

“They made every look count. They hit open shots, credit to PW but our girls kept fighting.”

Kesselman had a big game from beyond the arc, hitting four treys including a pretty important one in the fourth quarter.

PW made nine 3-pointers in Tuesday’s win and shot 9-of-19 overall from beyond the arc, with five different players knocking down at least one long ball. The Colonials hit 5-of-10 from deep in the first half and coupled with a particularly solid rebounding effort, led to a 28-7 advantage at the halftime break.

Dougherty noted a number of factors, most prominently the good crowd that came out to support the Bears, as things that his team would have struggled with a few weeks ago.

“We kept telling the kids this team is sitting in a zone, so keeping working the ball around until we get a good shot,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “Credit to Upper Moreland, they started playing super-aggressive, a couple bounces didn’t go our way and with a young team, a couple weeks ago we would have lost that game.”

Upper Moreland, which is on pace to qualify for the District 1-5A playoffs for the second straight season, never quit on the game and came out firing in the third quarter. Playing a frantic full-court pressure style of defense, the Bears started to get some turnovers and hit some shots.

PW got a pair of timely 3-pointers from Jordyn Thomas in the third quarter and held a 36-17 lead at the end of the frame. The Bears never got closer than 11, but back-to-back buckets by Bean Hughes and Longstreth, who tied for the team lead with nine points each, got the lead down to 38-25 with 2:43 left.

“We haven’t won our last few games, but I think we’re playing well,” Carroll said. “We have bigger goals coming ahead of us and we have to get ready for them. We’ve gotten to practice a lot of different defenses and we’re getting closer to our main goal of winning a playoff game.”

The next trip down, PW freshman point guard Kate Flanagan picked out Kesselman in the left corner and the senior buried the trey to quell the rising Bears momentum. Flanagan was a stat-stuffer on Tuesday, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing four assists and poking away five steals.

“She’s probably the smartest kid on the team in terms of basketball IQ,” Dougherty said. “She played the whole game, we never subbed her. She’s everything to us offensively and defensively, she makes a lot of big plays, a lot of deflections and keep telling her she has to be more selfish offensively. She passes the ball too much sometimes.”

Carroll, in his third season leading Upper Moreland, has guided the Bears to a better win total every year. From a winless first season to a 10-12 finish last year and this season’s current 13 victories, Longstreth and Leighton have been there for every step.

Programs aren’t built overnight and culture takes time to develop, but both seniors have done all that was asked of them and more.

“They have such different roles,” Carroll said. “Phoebe is our point guard and she can never come of the game. Kelley gets in depending on match-ups and who we’re playing against but they don’t bat an eye, they’re always focused in practice. The best part about both of them is they know each game is different, each practice is different but they take all of them very seriously.”

PW will be tested again to end the season as it tries to lock up a home playoff game. The Colonials face Hatboro-Horsham, which is trying to grab one of the last few District 1 playoff spots, on Thursday to end the season.

“It’s a great test, we just played Abington, Upper Dublin and now Upper Moreland, all playoff teams and Hatboro’s right there on the bubble, we know if they beat us, they’re going to make it,” Dougherty said. “I told the kids, every game starting with Abington is a playoff game and we’re going to get every team’s best shot.”

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 17 11 8 8 – 44
UPPER MORLEAND 5 2 10 16 – 33
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Sydney Kesselman 4 1-2 13, Kate Flanagan 2 2-3 7, Gabby Cooper 2 0-0 5, Anna McTamney 2 2-5 7, Lainey Allen 2 1-2 5, Jordyn Thomas 2 1-2 7. Totals: 14 7-14 44.
Upper Moreland: Phoebe Longstreth 3 0-0 9, Kaiya Herb 3 1-2 7, Emma Meakim 2 1-3 7, Bean Hughes 3 2-2 9, Katie Opferman 0 1-2 1. Nonscoring: Kelley Leighton, Hannah Finn, Abby Ellen Wood, Kathryn Morrow. Totals: 11 5-9 33.
3-pointers: PW – Kesselman 4, Thomas 2, Flanagan, McTamney, Cooper; UM – Longstreth 3, Meakim 2, Hughes.

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