Plymouth Whitemarsh stays unbeaten with big test looming

WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh’s girls basketball team wants to be a factor this season.

To do that, the Colonials are going to need to win the games they’re supposed to and then pick a few quality wins from the rest of their schedule. Tuesday night was one of those games that on paper, PW should have won.

It wasn’t their best game, but the Colonials did manage to win, riding good defense and balanced scoring to a 54-36 win over visiting Springfield Township.

PW will certainly need a better effort on Friday when it hosts Upper Dublin in a big Suburban One League American Conference matchup, but the Colonials are 4-0.

“I felt like we got to the rim tonight and we just could not make a layup,” Colonials coach Dan Dougherty said. “We had good looks, we just didn’t have a great feel to the game tonight offensively. Everyone’s touch was a little off, I don’t know if it was a chill in the air and everyone’s hands were cold or what.”

PW junior guard Taylor O’Brien provided the highlight of the night with a banked-in buzzer-beater from halfcourt to end the second quarter and provided a game-high 17 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. A three-sport athlete, O’Brien has stepped up her game on the hardwood and she was the player most often breaking down Springfield’s zone defense.

A state medalist in track and field and part of PW’s excellent volleyball team, O’Brien’s speed was her biggest asset her first two years in basketball. Now, she’s not reliant on just her natural left hand and made plays with her right against the Spartans.

“We would take advantage of how fast she is using her left hand, but now we can set up offense either her right hand or left hand,” Dougherty said. “We have her go to her right hand, her pull-up jump shot is much better and we haven’t had to showcase it much yet, but her 3-point shooting has gotten much better. Now that we play this four game lineup it opens up space for her and the other thing I have to compliment her on is her assists. She’s doing a great job of finding people.”

The Colonials didn’t lose anyone from last season’s district playoff team and actually added over the offseason. Lauren Fortescue moved into the district after playing at Norristown last year, giving PW another shooter/slasher on offense.

Fortescue scored 11 on Tuesday, with Laurel Suchsland and post player Lauren Coscia each adding 10 to give the Colonials four players in double-digits. Ali Diamond, the fifth starter, scored just two points but played a lot of good minutes defensively covering Springfield’s high-scoring senior, Molly Dugan.

Dugan led her team with 13 points, leaving her 16 short of 1,000 for her career. Grace Barraclough added 10 points for Springfield (2-3, 1-2 conference), which had tough offensive quarters in the second and third periods, combing for just 11 points between the two frames.

PW has plenty of players with last year’s experience so the next step they need to take is being more reliant on each other on the floor.

“I tell them by now they should be five coaches on the floor,” Dougherty said. “The addition of Lauren Fortescue has really helped us, but at the same time, she needs to learn the things these other kids have been learning for two or three years.”

The Colonials like to switch up their defenses, especially in the second half of games and Dougherty said that’s where the players have to help Fortescue get up to speed. She’s a good player who fits into what PW wants to do, but it’s only four games in a new system.

Dougherty also added his team needs to continue to play better defense and rebound better. Coscia, at 6-foot-1, had 17 boards against a much smaller Springfield team Tuesday, but the Colonials still allowed Dugan to grab 14 boards and gave up seven to guard Jameson Krewson. With a four-guard set, it is imperative for the guards to crash hard, which PW did on offense Tuesday.

Plus, if the guards are able to rebound, it allows PW to get into transition, where the athletes and speed on the roster thrive. O’Brien is a blur with the ball and she is only getting better at passing to an open teammate, which is easier on a fast break.

Friday’s contest will be a test for Plymouth-Whitemarsh against the standard in the SOL American in recent years. Upper Dublin, which defeated Wissahickon 48-15 on Tuesday is a stout defensive unit and methodical on offense.

“They’re going to play their game,” Dougherty said. “It’s going to be slow, deliberate, they’re going to run their offense, they’ll mix their defenses. It becomes a battle of execution and playmaking. You have to make a play and handle their pressure. We’re not going to surprise each other, it’s going to come down to that battle of execution.”

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