Jim Donofrio wins 400th game as PW tops Upper Moreland in OT

WILLOW GROVE >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team completed its perfect Suburban One League American Conference season Tuesday night at Upper Moreland High School, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked like it was going to be.

The Colonials surrendered a 27-point third-quarter lead in the final seconds of regulation before going on to tally head coach Jim Donofrio’s 400th win, 63-56, in overtime.

Upper Moreland took advantage of PW’s poor foul shooting in the final 51 seconds of regulation. The Colonials went 2-for-5 from the charity stripe while the Golden Bears’ Casey Decker banked home a long three-pointer and Ryan Coyle made a layup with 3.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime, 52-52.

In the extra session, the Colonials came out strong. Ahmad Williams made a layup on the first possession and Cheo Houston made back-to-back layups and served up a perfect pass to Naheem McLeod for an easy dunk to go ahead, 60-54.

PW’s lead peaked at 27, 38-11, early in the third quarter. Then the Golden Bears started shooting the lights out.

Brett Brossman hit three three-pointers and hit three foul shots when he was fouled shooting one. Decker and Damien Washington each hit two threes and Coyle knocked one down in his nine-point fourth quarter. In all, the Bears went on a 41-14 run to tie the game at 52 with 3.1 seconds remaining.

“I’m proud of the way we responded in the second half,” Upper Moreland coach Matt Heiland said. “We fought, we battled, we sent it to overtime. That’s the fifth or sixth ranked team in the state in 6A and we were right there with them. We just can’t spot them the fast start and expect to win.”

“Upper Moreland is having a very nice year,” Donofrio said. “You see it in basketball all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s Division I college or the pros. They have great chemistry. They believe in each other. They can shoot… It’s a little weird. It felt like the Atlanta Falcons. It’s nice to be up like that, but all it takes is a few mistakes on defense, a few just-misses on offense and the next thing you know you have yourself a momentum change. At the same time, what a great way to get ready for playoffs. That’s kind of like a second or third-round District 1 game”

The Colonials (19-3, 14-0) built their lead by jumping out to a fast start. They started 4-for-4 from the field while Upper Moreland went 0-for-2 with a turnover and scored the first 14 points of the game. Naheem McLeod scored eight points in the opening eight minutes to lead PW to an 18-7 advantage.

In the second, Williams took over the primary scoring role. He totaled seven in the quarter and sent the Colonials to the half with a 32-11 edge.

Williams scored a game-high 21 points and McLeod was right behind him with 20.

Coyle led the Bears (12-10, 6-8) in scoring with 13 points, Brossman added 12 and Washington 10.

Donofrio’s record as PW’s head coach is 400-130.

“Obviously it makes you think about time more than anything,” the coach said about winning 400 games. “It’s not so much the wins, you’re proud of the winning percentage. That means the kids have upheld a great standard of success and that’s the thing you’re proudest of… That’s what stands out to me. The sustained effort by so many good teams, trying to maintain something special. You don’t do this stuff without a whole lot of people helping you and a whole lot of great players.”

The Colonials are set up well for the District 1 Class-6A playoffs. They entered this week as the No. 2 seed and should only be able to improve when the final rankings come out.

“We’re just trying to win as many basketball games as we can to get a top-four seed in districts,” Williams said.

Upper Moreland is in a little more trouble. The Bears entered the week as the No. 15 seed in Class-5A, where 16 teams make the playoffs.

“It’s going to be a tense couple days for us to see where we’re at,” Heiland said. “The unfortunate part is that if we’re able to pull this game out, we would probably solidify ourselves at No. 13. Now we have to wait and see.”

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