Plymouth Whitemarsh, Naheem McLeod heat up after halftime against Bensalem

WHITEMARSH >> It took a half for Plymouth Whitemarsh center Naheem McLeod to get going offensively in the second round of the District 1 Class-6A playoffs against Bensalem.

The 7-foot-2 junior had two points in the first 16 minutes and went 0-for-4 from the free-throw line.

That all changed after intermission.

McLeod scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after halftime — including 15 in the third quarter — to help No. 1 Plymouth Whitemarsh beat No. 16 Bensalem, 71-40, Tuesday night at Colonial Elementary School.

“It was about five minutes of a six-minute talk,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said about the halftime message to get McLeod involved. “Figure it out. We were doing pull-up jumpers and deeper threes without him being the first option. It’s not rocket science. There’s not a lot of that kind of ability walking around … There’s not that much walking around at 7-foot-3 that’s grinding and working and pivoting and making defenses put pressure on him so why aren’t we reading that correctly? We weren’t reading it right. The season is a constant reminder to stay intelligent. We just needed that half to get smacked a little bit in the head.”

“Coach D started yelling at me and I just got mad inside,” McLeod said of his second-half outburst. “I just went off from there.”

The win secures a PIAA Class-6A state playoff berth and sends PW to the district quarterfinals where it will face No. 8 Upper Darby Friday night.

The Colonials (25-0) led the entire way. McLeod sent the opening tip to Ish Horn, who drove straight to the basket to start a 7-0 run.

The lead shrunk to one, 21-20, late in the first half before PW went into the locker room with a 27-22 lead.

McLeod had three dunks to start the third quarter and a Horn layup completed an 8-0 run. McLeod’s 15 points in the third came on seven dunks and a free throw to help PW build a 50-37 lead going into the fourth.

Then PW’s defense took over.

The Colonials outscored the Owls (15-9), 21-3, in the final quarter to finish off their 50th straight win at Colonial Gym, 71-40.

“We have a way over 32 minutes of figuring teams out,” Donofrio said. “You can almost unleash to another level if you have to as far as if you really want to get overly aggressive and put some traps and things on, but it’s not about that with this particular team. They tend to figure out the nuances of the opponent … We just look at the best players on our team and try to figure it out. (Danny Cooper) did a great job on (Bensalem’s Ward Roberts) and then (Ahmin Williams) says I want it, I think I can do it. Then Ish says I can do it. Next thing you know now you can do different things with that. All four of them (adding Ahmad Williams) have a feel for it. There’s a sort of relentlessness that develops.

“It’s a combination of are we constantly getting a hand (up) and keeping you on the perimeter without getting easy drives to the basket and how are your legs doing at the 24-minute mark, 27-minute mark. You get in that fourth quarter and these guys are very well conditioned to play a 32-minute game at 85 feet completely without being undisciplined. They take a lot of pride in that.”

While McLeod only scored two points in the first half, he made his presence felt in other ways. He blocked five shots before halftime — and altered a few others — while grabbing eight of his game-high 13 rebounds.

“I think I’m a defense-first guy,” McLeod said. “I don’t really pay attention to how much I score.”

Horn added 16 points for the Colonials and Alan Glover scored 12.

Roberts led Bensalem with 20 points — all in the first three quarters.

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