CHELTENHAM >> Plymouth Whitemarsh took full control of the Suburban One League American Conference Friday night with a 77-57 win over Cheltenham at Cheltenham High School.
Both teams entered the night with undefeated league records and the Colonials made sure they left the court that way.
“The first goal is league title,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “That’s it. The first goal is league title. Sometimes in the talk of saying can you get in the districts and do well and possibly play for a state title, I’m very proud of the league titles we have. There’s a process to winning those. It’s nice to maybe get to Temple (district semifinals) if you can, it’s nice to get a run in the state tournament, but to win league titles requires you to beat seven teams twice and they know you well. To win 14 of those is a heck of an accomplishment.”
Naheem McLeod led PW with 20 points and Ahmad Williams, Ish Horn and Ahmin Williams joined him in double figures with 18, 16 and 10 points, respectively.
“We went downstairs early and just played off of Naheem,” Ahmad Williams said. “Ahmin hit a lot of open shots to open it up and Ish got the dribble. It was everybody. Team effort.”
The game took a turn late in the first quarter. With 50.3 seconds left and the Colonials (11-0, 6-0 conference) leading, 18-17, McLeod was fouled and hurt his ankle. During the play, Cheltenham coach John Timms dropped his towel on the floor and was called for a technical foul. PW led 24-17 at the end of the quarter and Timms — who has never been called for a technical foul before — was required to sit the rest of the game.
“It kind of removes you from the game,” Timms said. “If you notice, neither coach has a chair to sit because we don’t. With that being in place, that means we’re involved in the game.
“If you sit me, you’re taking me out of this game. This is a big game. We can’t afford that … We came out in the third quarter after going in at halftime and being able to get rejuvenated by my voice because out there you can’t really get it. At halftime I’m able to talk direct. If you look at the third quarter it’s 12-10. I’m allowed to be in the game.”
PW opened up a lead before the half. Ahmad Williams, McLeod and Danny Cooper combined for 18 points in the frame to help turn what was a one-point game in the final minute of the first quarter into a 47-32 Colonial lead at the half.
The Panthers (7-4, 4-1) battled back in the third quarter. Jack Clark scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the third to help trim Cheltenham’s deficit to a manageable 13 points going into the fourth.
Clark and Ahmin Williams traded three-pointers to start the fourth quarter and Cheltenham eventually cut their deficit to single digits, but Ahmad Williams made three big baskets down the stretch to extend the lead and keep PW comfortably ahead.
Plymouth Whitemarsh, a perfect 6-0 in SOL American play, has beaten its two biggest threats — Wissahickon and Cheltenham — on the road.
“We feel good that we can get wins on the road,” Ahmad Williams said. “Even through all the adversity we still prevail. Now they have to come back home to our place.”
Timms was happy with Clark’s performance in defeat.
“I like the fact that he was able to get free throws,” Timms said of the La Salle commit who went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. “We’re talking about him becoming more aggressive and not settling for the 25-foot jump shots. He’s growing. Even in a loss, you have a guy who was able to get 26 points, but able to get foul shots. If you look at his history, he doesn’t get to the free-throw line enough. The fact that he was attacking the rim is positive for us moving forward.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh 77,
Plymouth Whitemarsh 24 23 10 20 — 77
Cheltenham 17 15 12 13 — 57
PW: Horn 7 1-2 16, McLeod 9 4-6 20, Cooper 1 2-2 5, Ahmin Williams 2 4-4 10, Ahmad Williams 7 3-5 18, Glover 2 2-2 6, Cherry 1 0-0 2. Total 28 16-21 77.
C: Clark 8 8-8 26, Bickley 4 3-3 11, Lewis 2 2-2 6, Healey 1 0-2 2, Scott 0 0-1 0, Myarick 1 0-0 2, Harrison 3 2-2 8, Pope 1 0-0 2. Total 20 15-18 57.
3-point goals: PW: Horn, Cooper, Ahmin Williams, Ahmad Williams. C: Clark 2.