Williams sparks Plymouth Whitemarsh to rally past Neumann-Goretti

LOWER MERION >> Ahmin Williams was frustrated, so he let his teammates know about it.

The Plymouth Whitemarsh senior guard felt his team wasn’t playing up to standard in the first half Saturday night against PCL powerhouse Neumann-Goretti. In the locker room, Williams spoke up and his message was received.

It certainly helped that the senior was backing up his word with his play, scoring a game-high 22 points as the Colonials rallied after halftime to top the Saints 66-57 as part of a Play-By-Play Classic at  Harriton High School.

“When you get that close to winning the state two times in a row, that’s all the edge you need, we don’t want to have that feeling again,” Williams said. “We believe we should have won states last year and the year before that. That’s all we need in motivation.”

Williams spent last year’s playoff run on crutches and a walking boot after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, missing every postseason game the Colonials played in. It ate at the guard that he couldn’t be on the floor, because he knew his team needed him to be.

The setback did also prove to be a benefit this season. Aside from the obvious motivation, Williams spent a lot of time in the gym just shooting the ball because it was the only thing he could do. It’s paid off so far as the senior said he’s shooting about 59 percent from beyond the 3-point line, including four makes on Saturday.

“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t feeling much like myself,” Williams said. “It felt kind of weird because last year I got hurt, but it feels good to be back out there.”

Saturday’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 31 but was postponted due to weather and while the Colonials wanted to play it then to cap off a gauntlet of non-league games, the rescheduled also helped them. After running roughshod over the SOL American the second time through, the Colonials found themselves pushed by the tough, aggressive Saints.

Williams, who moved to the off-guard position this season and let twin brother Ahmad take over as the lead guard, felt the Colonials were getting beat too easily on defense in the first half. With N-G’s Dymir Montague going off from beyond the arc and Noah Warren and Chris Ings causing havoc, Williams talked to his team about tightening up.

“They’re too quick, if you’re going to try trapping the game’s going to be 100-99 and the fouls immediately took that out of play,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “It’s been a long time since December when we stared at Wood and Carroll and Bonner(-Prendie) and it was getting really exciting to the point we had to be on point every night with this.

“We went on a long run of games that were decided by the fourth quarter and that’s what we looked at halftime. You’re getting beat up, you’re getting out-paced, you look shocked and you’re looking average.”

PW also had a scare at the end of the first half when center Naheem McLeod went down with a right leg injury that had the 7-foot-2 junior in considerable pain. Donofrio said McLeod’s Achilles tendon tightened up and while McLeod eventually walked off the floor on his own, he didn’t immediately come back out for the second half.

While the Colonials were ready to play without him, McLeod re-entered with 5:42 left in the third quarter and made his presence felt the rest of the game. While he only scored 10, the center was able to alter a lot of shots and had six of his 11 rebounds after halftime.

“The string of the third quarter and to start the fourth, the threes that were going for them weren’t going for them, the little layup finishes weren’t going,” Donofrio said. “That 7-8 minute stretch was the game and that’s with the 7-foot-2 guy on the floor.

“Having a 7-foot-2 guy is like having a rare bird or something as a pet. It’s different when he falls compared to when other people fall, it’s like what’s going on where and you let him work through it.”

For as poorly as the Colonials felt they played in the first half, they were only down 29-26 so Donofrio said there weren’t adjustments, just tweaks, to be made in the intermission.

Williams came out on fire, scoring the first nine points of the third for PW, all coming on 3-pointers. The senior made his first eight shots of the game and finished 8-of-12. Williams’ third three put PW up 35-32 and the Colonials never trailed again.

“I guess I was in a groove and my teammates found me, but I was focused on getting my teammates hyped up because this is the type of game we live for,” Williams said. “For us it was about ‘let’s go out there and prove a point.’ They were beating us off defensive drills that we work on 24/7 so I guess our heads weren’t in it and that’s what I got on my teammates about, let’s show them we’re the top dog.”

The win improved PW to 20-0 on the season but as Donofrio noted, they haven’t won anything yet. That extends to the SOL American, with the Colonials’ 12-0 record not yet enough to clinch it outright.

This isn’t the first time Donofrio’s had an unbeaten team this late in the season either, with the 2006 squad starting 26-0 before eventually falling in the District 1 semifinals and later in the second round of states. Yet, the guys on the team don’t really seem to care what their record is.

“To tell you the truth, we’re not really focused on the record,” Williams said. “Last year, we lost to Reading (in states), a game I feel like we should have won. So we’re trying to play every game like it’s our last. We’re trying to win and trying to get smarter every single game, so whether it’s Neumann, Wissahickon or Upper Moreland, we’re trying to play hard every single game.”

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 13 13 20 20 – 66
NEUMANN-GORETTI 13 16 9 19 – 57
PW: Ahmin Williams 8 2-2 22, Ish Horn 7 4-6 19, Naheem McLeod 4 2-2 10, Ahmad Williams 1 1-3 3, Alan Glover 2 8-11 12. Nonscoring: Danny Cooper, Jason Cherry. Totals: 22 17-24 66.
NG: Dymir Montague 6 3-4 18, Chris Ings 2 1-5 5, Noah Warren 5 1-1 13, Ja’Cor Smith 1 2-3 4, Marcus Littles 5 1-2 11, TaQuan Woodley 2 0-0 4, Ahmad Fair 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 8-15 57.
3-pointers: PW – Ahmin Williams 4, Horn; NG – Montague 3, Warren 2.

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