WHITEMARSH >> The second-seeded Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team broke huddle on a timeout with 10.7 seconds left in a tie game with a trip to Temple University for the District One-AAAA final four on the line.
The Central Bucks West defense seemingly had everything stopped. The Colonials first three options were not there, but the ball bounced in their favor.
Seniors Xzavier Malone and Mike Lotito were covered, leaving classmate Oakley Spencer alone. His shot was blocked, but he grabbed the offensive rebound and banked it in with 0.7 on the clock to lift PW to a 43-41 victory in front of a capacity crowd at Colonial Elementary School Friday night.
“They left me wide open so I attacked with five second left,” Spencer, who has been in the Colonials basketball program since third grade, said. “Missed the first, but with just a couple seconds left just had to go for the rebound and the second one fell.”
“The ball just didn’t go our way,” West coach Adam Sherman said. “Look at the last play – we blocked the shot, off the side of the backboard, hits the corner of the backboard and falls right into his hands and he puts it in. You can’t coach that. You can’t change that. It is what it is.”
The seventh-seeded Bucks’ Connor Lynch took a half-court heave at the buzzer that came up short.
West erased a five-point deficit in the final 2:25 of the game. Bill Power hit a three-pointer to make it a two-point game, 41-39, and West grabbed a steal on the ensuing possession. After a timeout, Jake Reichwein scored on a layup to tie it with 1:20 on the clock.
Plymouth Whitemarsh cycled the ball around before calling timeout with 10.7 left.
West held a five-point lead at the half, 26-21. From there, the Colonials defense held them to just 15 points over the final 16 minutes.
PW set the tone on its first defensive possession of the second half, pressuring the ball immediately after the inbounds pass and forcing a 10-second violation.
“We talked about it had to be a 90-foot game,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “It has to be about energy because West isn’t going to get tired if you play a half-court game. They are literally going to take 30 seconds off the clock each time and run a beautiful, fundamental play – run great offense. Their kids are physically strong. They are going to drive and kick. We’re not going to sit and let that happen all night. If you’re going to beat us, you’re going to beat us in our house on our terms. Our terms are going to be 90 feet and we hope we can take some legs.”
“They were real aggressive on us, daring us to drive,” Sherman said. “We were happy to oblige. We drove to the basket. It would have been nice to shoot from the free-throw line a little bit better (7-for-15) … Unfortunately we didn’t capitalize enough.”
PW’s 13-point third quarter was its highest scoring quarter of the game and swung the momentum. Lotito scored eight points in the session, two more than West did as a team, to send the game to the fourth with the Colonials ahead by two, 34-32.
West’s offense was hitting its stride in the first half. As a team they hit five three-pointers in the opening 16 minutes – two from both Powers and Lynch – and Reichwein was having success inside, scoring six of his 11 points in the second quarter.
Power joined Reichwein in double figures with a team-high 13 points.
Xzavier Malone led Plymouth Whitemarsh in scoring with 16 points and Lotito added 12.
The Colonials will face No. 11 Lower Merion in the semifinals Tuesday night at Temple.
Central Bucks West will host No. 14 Conestoga Tuesday night to determine seeding in the state tournament.