Backcourt leads Plymouth Whitemarsh to rare win at Cheltenham

CHELTENHAM >> Cheltenham’s gym has not been kind to the Plymouth Whitemarsh girls basketball program over the years.

PW coach Dan Dougherty decided to look into it prior to Friday night’s game at the Panthers’ house and found the Colonials hadn’t won at Cheltenham since at least 1985. That was before the game.

Now, the register will read 2017 as the most recent PW win at Cheltenham after the Colonials throttled the hosts, 58-24 behind a big night from their backcourt trio.

“Our team has a little bit of a bug going around so I wanted to push the tempo,” Dougherty said. “I felt like if we played slow tonight, it would have fed into their sluggishness this first week back, and a couple of them were feeling a little sick tonight.”

With all the points she’s scored this season and the big games she’s had, PW (9-0 5-0 SOL American) junior point guard Taylor O’Brien has been seeing a lot more man-to-man defending. Hatboro-Horsham guarded the three-sport athlete in a box-and-one defense Tuesday and Cheltenham (5-6, 3-2 SOL American) sticking their ace defender, Danielle Brown, on O’Brien Friday. O’Brien still worked her magic on Tuesday, but Dougherty wanted more from her running mates at the guard spots, Ali Diamond and Lauren Fortescue.

Friday, they showed what they can do. Fortescue led PW with 17 points while Diamond had 13 to complement O’Brien’s 14-point outing. Just as important, Fortescue ripped down seven rebounds, dished two assists and had five steals while Diamond had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“I challenged Ali and Fort that after the last game, being played in a box-and-one, the two of you have to take that as an insult almost,” Dougherty said. “That’s the other team saying we don’t think you two can score. The two of them combined for 30 points tonight, which was the difference in the game.”

Diamond canned three 3-point shots and it seemed like every shot she took was wide-open. Dougherty said that has a lot to do with O’Brien and Fortescue’s ability to beat defenders and get into the lane, where they can kick out to Diamond or senior forward Laurel Suchsland.

Like the other two, Fortescue is a junior but unlike Diamond and O’Brien, she is in her first season playing for PW after transferring to the district. With each game, it seems like the 5-foot-5 guard is breaking out more and more of her stuff, ballhawking like a free safety on defense and deftly using her body to shield the ball, clear space and draw contact around the rim.

“She’s someone as a player who is learning to take what the defense gives her,” Dougherty said. “One of the things we talked about with her last game was she was wide-open on the perimeter and she wasn’t shooting the ball. We’re working with her on that so that tonight, when you’re going against size, you can’t let there be space. You have to go into contact, bounce off and she did an excellent job of that tonight.”

PW’s pressure defending caused nightmares for the Panthers in the first quarter, which PW won 26-8. The handful of times Cheltenham was able to break the press, it usually resulted in a layup for senior forward Mia Leonard, who had a team-high 12 points plus 10 rebounds.

Cheltenham is in a strange spot with its roster where the Panthers start four seniors, but are very young and inexperienced at their guard spots.

“I knew we were going to take our lumps in certain areas,” Panthers coach Brendan Nolan said. “We don’t have a ton of experience at the guard spot and we struggle against teams that can put a lot of pressure on us. (PW) has been watching us. When we got in the right spots and ran it right, we looked good at times, we’re just inconsistent with that.”

PW hosts Palumbo at 1pm on Saturday as it looks to win 10 straight to open the season. As Dougherty noted, the Colonials aren’t even halfway through conference play yet and teams are going to want to be the first one that hands PW its first loss.

“Tonight was another example of what we talk about all the time with the girls,” Dougherty said. “They have to come out to play every night. They can’t look a team’s record. They learned that lesson Tuesday night, they thought they were just going to walk into that gym and blow a team out and it didn’t happen.

“Hopefully it’s a stepping stone.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh 58, Cheltenham 24
Plymouth Whitemarsh 26 9 10 13 – 58
Cheltenham 8 8 2 6 – 24
Plymouth Whitemarsh (58): Taylor O’Brien 6 2-4 14, Lauren Fortescue 6 3-5 17, Ali Diamond 5 0-0 13, Laurel Suchsland 1 0-0 8, Lauren Coscia 4 0-2 8, Haley Zygmunt 1 0-0 3. Nonscoring: Gia Schweitzer, Victoria Betterly, Brooke Felgoise, Shallyn Dickson, Alyse Caffery, Bria Rivers. Totals: 23 5-11 58.
Cheltenham: Mia Leonard 6 0-5 12, Nashira Brown 1 0-0 2, Kelia Holmes 1 0-0 2, Taylor Johnson 2 0-0 5, Madison Rorer 1 0-0 3, Kai Williams 0 0-2 0. Nonscoring: Caitlin Wallace, Courtney Murray, Danielle Brown, Najeh Edens. Totals: 11 0-7 24.
3-pointers: PW – Diamond 3, Fortescue 2, Suchsland; C – Johnson, Rorer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply