O’Brien, Plymouth Whitemarsh outlast Upper Dublin in double overtime

UPPER DUBLIN >> If there’s such a thing as being over-energized, Taylor O’Brien might have experienced it Tuesday night.

Even with her leg cramping, the Plymouth Whitemarsh junior point guard only missed one play in the fourth quarter. Even if her leg had fallen off, O’Brien likely would have found a way to get back on the floor. The game was that big and that important.

Pushed to double overtime in a gym it had never won in, PW got some clutch late points from O’Brien to top Upper Dublin 35-30. The Colonials improved to 15-0 overall and 10-0 in the Suburban One League American Conference, despite being held in check offensively and none of their offensive players really clicking.

“We just talked about keeping a cool head, execution, just do what we can and play good defense,” PW senior Laurel Suchsland said. “We’ve been practicing a lot lately on keeping our plays going because we’re used to running it real quick and getting a shot. It’s something we had to use tonight.”

O’Brien scored 18 points, including four in the second OT, to push her team to its biggest win of the season.

“Taylor O’Brien made plays, she was the best player on the court,” Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten said. “She found ways to get to the line and she didn’t miss from the line. She made some outside shots but I thought we did a good job of taking away her penetration and getting to the basket.”

Upper Dublin played the entire first half in a 2-3 zone defense, aiming to keep Plymouth Whitemarsh’s guards, namely O’Brien out of the paint. The strategy was effective for the most part, but PW has the outside shooting to compensate. Junior Ali Diamond hit a banked-in 3-point shot for the game’s first points and O’Brien hit two from outside sandwiched around the first quarter break.

O’Brien also wasn’t going to stay put of the lane all night, driving in for a dish to Lauren Coscia in the first quarter then earning a trip to the foul line in the second. The junior guard also showed off her improvement from outside the arc, swishing a 3-pointer with about 0.2 left in the first quarter and another to cap a 5-0 spurt in the second.

UD started slowly from the floor, missing its first five shots before junior Nicole Kaiser drove to the rim for a layup off a Josie Barrett outlet pass. The Cardinals twice cut the lead to one point, both times on a Barrett 3-point shot, but couldn’t get over the hump.

“We shot 24 percent,” Funsten said. “I was really excited with how the girls defended them tonight, other than the couple times O’Brien got to the foul line. They didn’t make a shot in the overtimes, but we only made one. The girls did a great job of taking away what they do well so it came down to the team that was going to make the shot, and they made foul shots, which was the shot tonight.”

UD’s zone did its job, but it also let PW take the lead into the half. After senior Laurel Suchsland pulled down a tough rebound off a Kaiser miss, the Colonials called timeout with 2:35 left in the half.

When they came out, O’Brien stood just past halfcourt and dribbled the ball until about 15 seconds remained, when she passed to Diamond, who got a layup to drop with .6 left on the clock.

“It was a huge boost,” Suchsland said. “Any sort of hustle play, we all get hyped up. With it being double-overtime, it was twice the energy.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ali Diamond drives for basket between Upper Dublin’s Nicole Kaiser and Demi Balasa during their game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Upper Dublin fell behind 20-14 early in the third quarter before senior Demi Balasa heated up. The forward hit three 3-point shots in a row for a personal 9-0 run that put UD ahead 23-20 going into the final quarter.

PW played off Balasa to give extra help on UD freshman center Jackie Vargas. Balasa is an all-around solid player who has a team-first mentality. But when she’s left alone, she’s more than capable of knocking down shots.

“I would love to have that kid on my team, but she’s such a team-first player we sometimes want to put her in the situation to shoot the ball,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “She’s a nice player, but Vargas demands that kind of respect.”

PW wasn’t concerned going into the fourth quarter trailing for the first time all game.

“Not only is it a historical thing, but the boys’ team at our school is really good and for us to come out and prove we’re good too, it’s been huge,” Suchsland said.

O’Brien got herself to the line just 13 seconds into the fourth, sinking both to cut the UD lead down to 23-22. She followed that up with a pull-up jumper that put PW back in front, 24-23, but O’Brien landed and cramped up.

With Suchsland already battling a tweaked right ankle, PW couldn’t stand to lose O’Brien for long. It didn’t as she came right back in after one play, then set up Lauren Coscia for a bucket.

O’Brien then scored with 2:49 left, giving PW a 28-25 lead.

“It showed how bad these kids wanted it, they wanted this game so bad,” Dougherty said. “Taylor was cramping and it’s a risk you run but I think sometimes for her a cramp could just be her energy pumping her up so much. Laurel Suchsland is incredibly tough, Lauren Coscia played the entire game, Lauren Fortescue played the entire game and Ali Diamond played the entire game.”

The Cardinals couldn’t buy a bucket until freshman center Jackie Vargas got a ball to fall in off the back iron with 3.7 seconds to force the extra period.

“Jackie Vargas, who struggled a little bit, we asked her to step up and make a shot for us to send it into overtime and she did,” Funsten said. “That speaks to her toughness as a freshman after missing shots earlier to come back and make that shot.”

Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas lofts a shot over Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Lauren Coscia and Taylor O’Brien  during their game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The gym was loud all night, fitting for the caliber of the two teams and tension riding on each possession in the second half. Both coaches gave the crowd plenty of props and Funsten thanked all the Upper Dublin supporters who came out. Dougherty echoed that, adding how valuable it was no just for his team, but the sport.

“What a great environment for a girls’ basketball game,” Dougherty said. “As someone who’s lived in boys’ sports, it was so great and credit to Upper Dublin for creating that kind of environment tonight. It demanded that kind of event and Upper Dublin showed out. A lot of credit to them and to Morgan, he and his staff do such a great job.”

UD senior Josie Barrett fouled out with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter, leaving the Cards without their most experienced guard and best outside shooter. Still, UD got enough good looks in both overtime sessions, it just couldn’t make them.

Neither team scored in the first OT, then PW made enough plays in the second session to pull out the win. O’Brien went 4-of-4 at the line in the second OT, but it was a foul shot by Suchsland with 33.7 seconds left that put the Colonials up by four.

“Laurel is the kid the team wants at the free throw line, and me too,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “She is a tireless worker and for her to step up as a leader of the team to make that shot, it took a weight off everyone’s shoulders there.”

PW faces Hatboro-Horsham Friday and Suchsland said the Colonials need to treat it as their biggest game of the season. Upper Dublin plays Springfield Twp, then Bonner-Prendie on Sunday in a showcase at Harriton. The Cardinals have bounced back well from their losses this season, and Funsten expected his team to do it again.

“We just have to make a couple more shots,” Funsten said. “Everything else is there.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh 34, Upper Dublin 30 (2OT)
Plymouth Whitemarsh 8 9 3 8 0 7 – 35
Upper Dublin 4 10 9 5 0 2 – 30
Plymouth Whitemarsh (35): Taylor O’Brien 3 8-8 18, Lauren Fortescue 0 1-2 1, Ali Diamond3 0-0 8, Laurel Suchsland 0 2-4 2, Lauren Coscia 3 0-0 6. Victoria Betterly 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 11-14 35.
Upper Dublin (30): Nicole Kaiser 5 0-1 10, Josie Barrett 2 0-0 6, Demi Balasa 3 0-0 9, Jackie Vargas 2 0-0 5. Nonscoring: Maggie Weglos, Kara Grebe, Megan Barbera. Totals: 12 0-1 30.
3-pointers: PW – O’Brien 2, Diamond 2; UD – Balasa 3, Barrett 2, Vargas.

Top Photo: Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien runs down the clock at the end of the first half  during the Colonials’ game against Upper Dublin on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply