FRANCONIA >> When it seemed a deluge of Pocono Mountain West 3-pointers was washing away the Plymouth Whitemarsh girls basketball team’s season, Anna McTamney was there to keep the Colonials afloat.
“She weathered the storm in the first half,” said PW coach Dan Dougherty of his junior forward. “We could have been down by 20 points in that first half but her leadership, her effort and her scoring weathered the storm.”
PM West knocked down 10 triples in the first half – seven coming as the Panthers posted 27 points in the second quarter of Friday night’s PIAA Class 6A first-round matchup. But West held just a 40-37 lead at halftime due to McTamney erupting for 23 points.
“It was just there tonight,” McTamney said. “I just came out intense as I would any other game and I was just motivated to keep going after that.”
McTamney’s strong half gave Plymouth Whitemarsh the opportunity to right the ship after the break. The Colonials locked down PM West in the second half – holding District 11’s fourth seed to one 3-pointer and a total of just 12 points – while McTamney finished with a game-high 32 points as PW pulled away for a 68-52 victory at Souderton Area High School.
“The adjustment in the second half was stop pressing because we’re not matching up and just guard, just defense cause I have to trust our kids, our kids are good defenders,” Dougherty said. “I mean, they made 10 threes in the first half. Ten threes in the first half – they shot better from three than we shot from the free throw line. I mean, that was the biggest difference, stop pressing.
“We always try to think that we are the best team at playing fast. Well not tonight. That team was better at playing fast than we were. So we had to slow the game down.”
The Colonials (24-4), who placed third in District 1, trailed 45-41 in the third before finishing the quarter with 13 straight points – Abby Sharpe’s 3-point play with 8.1 seconds left making it 54-45 PW.
A Gabby Cooper basket to start scoring in the fourth made it a 15-0 run. The Panthers cut the margin to nine twice but after a Sharpe three-point play made it 61-49 the Colonials’ advantage stayed in double digits.
Sharpe collected 10 of her 15 points in the second half for the PW, which advances to state second round for the third time in four seasons and faces Baldwin Tuesday at time and place to be announced. Baldwin, the District 7 fifth seed, knocked off District 3 champ Central Dauphin 42-35.
“Every time they would hit a three we would be like, ‘Oh my God, they’re hitting everything,’” Sharpe said. “So going into halftime we were just like soon it’s got to end. Coach was saying we were fighting the storm out there with all their shots. So I think just not letting it get to us and just keep pushing and playing the way we know how to play and executing.”
Caroline Weirich and Taliyah Malone both hit three 3-pointers and finished with nine points to pace Pocono Mountain West (15-11), which was making its first PIAA appearance since 2014.
Weirich drained the Panthers’ 11th and final triple for a 43-37 lead in the third but consecutive baskets from McTamney had PW within 43-41. Two from Vatijah Darby made it 45-41 but those were West’s final points of the quarter.
Jordyn Thomas cut the Colonials’ deficit to 45-41 while Sharpe tied the game and drew a foul at 3:15. She couldn’t convert the and-one but McTamney grabbed the rebound and was fouled – the junior hitting both at the line for a 47-45 lead at 3:14.
“She just absolutely incredible,” said Dougherty of McTamney. “I had a really nice conversion with a college coach about her today and he paid her the compliment of she’s a Swiss Army Knife and I said you’re absolutely right. Whatever the team needs that’s what she’ll do.
“You need her to guard a post, she’ll guard a post, you need her to guard a guard, she’ll guard a guard. You need her to score 30 points, she’ll score 30 points, you need her to get 30 rebounds, she’ll get 30 rebounds.”
Baskets from Kaitlyn Flanagan and Deja Evans extended PW’s advantage to 51-45 with Sharpe’s 3-point play in the quarter’s final seconds putting the Colonials up nine going to the fourth.
“It wasn’t just Anna anymore,” Dougherty said. “Abby Sharpe really stepped up and made a couple shots. Coop got loose in transition, Kait Flanagan got loose in transition.”
A Paige Knecht basket had Pocono Mountain West down 58-49 in the fourth but Sharpe answered with a 3-point play to start a 9-1 run that gave the Colonials their largest lead at 67-50 after two Sharpe free throws at 1:38.
McTamney provided most of the PW offense early, scoring 14 of the Colonials 18 first quarter points. Plymouth Whitemarsh jumped out to a 7-0 lead after a McTamney 3-point play at 5:27 and was up 14-5 thanks to five straight points from McTamney.
“Just from the start I thought this could be my last game, I want to give it all that I have,” McTamney said. “So I went out there strong and we obviously finished strong.”
Malone’s back-to-back 3-pointers put PM West within 14-11 before McTamney answered with the next four. A basket from Tiera Hudson had the Panthers trailing 18-13 at the end of the first eight minutes.
PM West’s second quarter 3-point barrage began with a trey from Azahni Simmons that made it 18-16. A Malone three gave the Panthers their first lead at 21-20 while Hudson’s basket capped a 10-2 run for a 23-20 edge.
A Weirich trey pushed the Panthers’ advantage to 26-22. The Colonials cut the margin to one twice on 3-point plays from Jordyn Thomas and McTamney but West answered each with shots from beyond the arc.
“Bad coaching by me,” Dougherty said. “I get a little stubborn about the press and wanting to press. Sometimes I don’t trust our kids enough. I need to trust them more. So I was a little overprotective in terms of worrying about their speed and our youth.”
After a Simmons three put the Panthers up 35-30, Sharpe got a friendly bounce on a corner trey. West, however, was back up five at 40-35 on a Knecht three. McTamney banked in a shot off a drive in the half’s final seconds to get PW within three at the break.
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