WHITEMARSH >> Racing out to a 34-16 halftime lead, Plymouth Whitemarsh nailed down its first PIAA state tournament berth since 2005 with a 59-48 win against Coatesville Wednesday evening in the second round of the District One 6A girls basketball tournament.
Plymouth Whitemarsh junior guard and co-captain Taylor O’Brien led the charge, scoring 17 first-half points and finishing with 28 points. Junior guard Lauren Fortescue chipped in with 15 points for the winners.
“Both teams like to run and play up-tempo, so it was just a question of who was going to break through first,” said Plymouth Whitemarsh head coach Dan Dougherty. “Taylor has an explosive first step, and Lauren has a good first step, and that’s hard to defend against.”
With the victory, the No. 3 seed Colonials advance to the District One quarterfinals to face 11th seeded Council Rock North, who defeated Conestoga, 58-26, Tuesday.
Coatesville, the No. 14 seed, falls back into the District One consolation bracket. The Red Raiders still have a shot at a PIAA state tournament berth (11 teams are taken from District One 6A) but their next game is against No. 6 seed Conestoga Saturday.
Red Raider head coach Tem Mack said, “We knew we were going against a tough team in Plymouth Whitemarsh, and that we’d have to play tough defense and rebound the ball well tonight. [Plymouth Whitemarsh] established the tone in the first half and executed its game plan.
“I thought we played tough in the second half, when our rebounding was better. All we can do now is regroup and prepare for Conestoga.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh took a 4-0 lead as O’Brien broke inside for baskets twice, and the Colonials kept the lead the rest of the night. Coatesville hung tough early, though, and crept to within 9-7 as guard Dee Dee Irwin scored all of the Red Raiders’ first seven points.
Late in the first quarter, O’Brien made a steal and drove in for a layup to give the hosts a 14-9 lead; then fed senior center Lauren Cascio inside for a basket and a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Plymouth Whitemarsh held a 19-14 lead, then exploded for a 15-1 run that began when O’Brien drove in for a basket then shortly after hit a trey from the right corner.
Colonial senior forward Laurel Suchsland also played a key role in the 15-1 run, driving in for a basket to make it 26-14, then a minute later nailing a three-point field goal from the left side to make it 31-15.
Another key for Plymouth Whitemarsh Wednesday night was its rebounding. The 6-foot-2 Cascio pulled down 10 rebounds, and the Colonials got plenty of help on the boards from Suchsland (eight rebounds), O’Brien (six) and Victoria Betterly (five).
“We knew coming in that Coatesville was a tremendous offensive rebounding team,” said Dougherty. “I thought all of our five [on-court] players did a good job with [defensive] rebounding and scoring off the [resulting] fast breaks.”
Cascio, a co-captain, made her presence felt inside Wednesday in more ways than one, as she blocked four Coatesville shots.
“Everybody played well for us tonight,” said Dougherty. [Junior guard] Ali Diamond played well, Laurel Suchsland did a good job defensively, and Gia Schweitzer gave us some defense off the bench.”
O’Brien, who is averaging more than 22 points per game this season, said, “We knew what it meant to win this game tonight. We kept on pushing, kept on attacking the boards the whole game. We were able to attack the basket [early], finish shots and play up-tempo.”
In the second half, Coatesville kept battling, fighting for loose balls and playing aggressive defense despite several of their players being in foul trouble, and outscored Plymouth Whitemarsh 32-25. Irwin finished with 17 points and Amaya Douglas tallied 12.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 59, Coatesville 48
COATESVILLE: White 0 2-2 2, Brown 3 0-0 7, Douglas 5 2-3 12, Irwin 5 6-10 17, Stanton 1 1-1 3, Worthington 1 1-1 3, Torres 1 2-2 4. Totals 16 14-19 48.
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH: O’Brien 11 4-8 28, Fortescue 5 5-9 15, Diamond 1 0-2 3, Suchsland 2 0-1 5, Betterly 1 0-0 2, Coscia 2 2-4 6. Totals 22 11-24 59.
Coatesville 10 6 16 16 – 48
Plymouth Whitemarsh 16 18 15 10 – 59
Three-pointers: CO – Brown, Irwin; PW – O’Brien 2, Diamond, Suchsland.
Top Photo: Plymouth Whitemarshs Lauren Coscia and Coatesvilles Siani Brown reach for a rebound during their District 1-6A second round game on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)