NOTEBOOK: Added motivation fueled Plymouth Whitemarsh boys against Upper Dublin

The Plymouth Whitemarsh boys basketball team didn’t need added motivation for its Suburban One League Liberty Division game against Upper Dublin last Friday night.

It was a rematch of the undefeated Colonials closest game of the season – a 57-51 win two weeks earlier – and a chance to clinch a share of their first league title since 2018.

When head coach Jim Donofrio got a call that college coaches were attending the game, it gave the players another reason to play their best. When he found he found out the scouts were coming to see Upper Dublin star center Drew Stover, it just added fuel to the fire.

“I wish (Stover) all the success in the world,” Donofrio said after the 68-31 win, “but if you’re going to show up in our gym as a college coach you’re going to show up looking at us, too. That was an easy motivator. I’m getting phone calls saying we want to come in, but we don’t want to watch your guys. OK. They used that, I think.”

Seniors Luke DiCianno and Zuri Jerman took advantage of the extra eyes in the building, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively.

DiCianno did most of his damage in the first quarter. He started the game 5-for-7 from the field, including a pair of three pointers, and scored 12 of the Colonials first 14 points in the first four minutes of the game.

He added six rebounds and four assists, but said he didn’t think about the college scouts in the gym.

“I try not to think at all about anything when I play,” DiCianno said. “(Coach Donofrio) said there were college coaches – that’s definitely motivation but I thought just know that they’re here, but don’t try to impress them because as soon as you try to it’s not going to happen.”

Jerman dominated the middle quarters of the game, scoring 14 of his 16 points and grabbing seven of his nine rebounds during the second and third quarters.

The two upperclassmen also played key roles in Plymouth Whitemarsh’s defense that held Upper Dublin to 31 points. The two forwards did their job on the back-end of a press that forced the Cardinals into 21 turnovers.

Protecting the ball

The Pennridge boys enter this week on a three-game winning streak and winners of four of their last five games. The Rams most impressive victory during that stretch came last Wednesday night against North Penn.

The win snapped the Knights six-game winning streak and Pennridge’s ability to protect the ball was a big reason why.

The Rams won the turnover battle, 14-4. They turned the ball over zero times during the fourth quarter, which they entered trailing by one and neither team led by more than five points until the final 14 seconds.

“I don’t think we’ve had a game where we had over 10 turnovers this season,” Rams guard Justin Nichols said after the 63-59 win. “It’s something we pride ourselves on and continue to do every single game.”

“Our goal is to always stay under 10 turnovers per game,” guard Luke Yoder said. “To go for zero in the fourth quarter when it’s crunch time is huge. Keep the ball out of their hands and keep it in ours.”

Round 2 Friday

The Upper Dublin and Plymouth Whitemarsh girls teams are currently the top two teams in District 1-6A according to the latest rankings. The Cardinals sit at No. 1 with an 8-1 record ahead of the No. 2 Colonials at 7-0.

UD’s lone loss came last Friday at home to PW, 46-31.

The SOL Liberty rivals don’t have to wait long for a rematch. They’ll get together again one week after the first meeting – this Friday at Plymouth Whitemarsh at 7 p.m.

Last season these teams met four times with most of the same players they have on the court now. They split their regular season meetings in the 2019-20 regular season while Upper Dublin picked up a second win in the SOL Tournament and PW made it 2-2 in the District 1-6A playoffs.

The 15-point margin of victory shouldn’t be a sign of what’s going to happen in the rematch. Last year PW won the first meeting by 22 points before Upper Dublin took the rematch by 13. The postseason games were by four points in UD’s favor and 14 in PW’s.

Look at districts

With only three weeks left until the District 1 seed meeting March 3, it’s still unknown how many teams will qualify for the playoffs in each classification.

In District 1-6A, 24 teams typically qualify for the playoffs. If that remains the same this year, the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media area will have some schools fighting for playoff berths over the next few weeks.

On the boys side, Upper Dublin is No. 20, Wissahickon No. 23 and Hatboro-Horsham No. 28. For the girls, Souderton is the closest to the potential cutoff line at No. 21.

The 5A classification usually has a 16-team playoff field. The Upper Moreland and Upper Merion boys appear to be locked in at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, while Lower Moreland is near the edge at No. 15. The Upper Moreland girls are comfortable at No. 5 as well as Mount St. Joseph at No. 9. Upper Merion has some work to do at No. 20.

The boys 4A classification only has three teams competing – Pope John Paul II, New Hope-Solebury and Springfield Montco – who will likely make up the playoff field. The girls 4A playoff picture should be more competitive – typically featuring a four-team field with seven teams vying for spots. Gwynedd Mercy, PJP and New Hope are currently the top three seeds with Lower Moreland on the outside at No. 5.

The Dock boys and St. Basil girls are the only teams competing in the 3A classification of District 1 this season.

The Dock girls should be locked into a 2A playoff spot with only four teams competing this year.

The District 1-A boys playoff field had four teams last year. Jenkintown is currently No. 2 and Faith Christian No. 4. On the girls side, Jenkintown and FCA are the top two seeds.

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