Plymouth Whitemarsh knocks off Cheltenham in SOL American clash

WHITEMARSH >> Whenever Plymouth Whitemarsh and Cheltenham get together on the basketball floor, it is an electric environment. It was no different Friday night when both teams entered with perfect Suburban One League American Conference records and first place was on the line.

After 32 minutes of diving for loose balls, blocked shots and fast breaks, it was Plymouth Whitemarsh who came out on top, 75-59, at Colonial Gym, to take over first place in the league.

The Colonials dominated the two middle quarters to turn a two-point deficit into a 13-point lead heading to the fourth.

“We were just consistent throughout the whole game,” PW’s Matt Walker said. “We know what kind of team (Cheltenham is). They started out emotional and we just kept with the pressure and eventually we got to them.”

The Panthers — already without starter Tim Spencer — played much of the first half without senior leader Trevonn Pitts. Pitts picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game and missed the rest of the first quarter. His third foul came just 23 seconds into the second quarter and he sat out the rest of the half. He eventually fouled out with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter.

“This is something we have to battle,” Cheltenham coach John Timms said. “I don’t know how to combat it. We tried to hide (Pitts) in a zone. Maybe change his number?”

A pair of three-pointers from Cheltenham junior Jack Clark helped cut the Panthers deficit to six points in the fourth quarter, but it was PW sophomore Naheem McLeod who kept his side ahead.

The 7-foot center scored PW’s first two field goals of the fourth and six of his 11 points in the final frame. He threw down a pair of dunks to keep the home crowd involved during Cheltenham’s late-game run.

“He’s so much better,” Walker said, comparing McLeod now to where he was last year. “Every game he starts off slow but he always shows up in the last couple moments when we need him. He always comes up big. I’m excited to watch him when I graduate.”

Walker kept the Colonials deficit to just two at the end of the first quarter. He hit three three-pointers in the opening eight minutes and totaled 11 of the team’s 16 points.

“I like to start hot,” Walker said. “You can’t come out cold — just have to take shots early.”

“We got up,” Timms said. “We were riding the momentum and their crowd got involved. They made a couple substitutions. I think (Walker) kept stretching the lead. Every time we would come up he would hit big threes. He kept us at bay.”

Cheltenham’s Tim Myarick hit a three at the first quarter buzzer to give the Panthers an 18-16 lead.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ahmin Williams scored a game-high 20 points, Walker added 19 and Ahmad Williams 14.

Clark led Cheltenham with 19 points and Rodney Carson chipped in 17.

The Panthers are happy with their performance against PW. The team lost 10 seniors from last year and is sitting at 4-1 in league play.

“I’m very proud of the way we performed,” Timms said. “Considering we didn’t have a starter, considering we were on the road — we were in the game. We gave ourselves a chance to win. I’m very happy about the way we performed. We weren’t expected to be competing for first place. The fact that we’re in the argument … that’s a pretty good argument. That’s a good conversation. I think we understand what we’re working with as a team. We’re young. We understand this is a 22-game season. We’re OK at 6-3.”

Cheltenham and PW will get together again — at Cheltenham — later this month. With the recent history between these schools, there’s a good chance the game will have league championship implications.

Top image: Cheltenham’s Ahmad Bickley holds the ball in front of Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ahmin Williams. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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