WHITEMARSH >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh defense has held opponents to some pretty low totals over the years and it usually follows a simple recipe – score, press, steal and start the process again.
It was different Friday night against Upper Dublin. The Colonials only made eight baskets, they didn’t press at all and they only forced 10 turnovers.
While the path changed, the destination was the same – the Plymouth Whitemarsh defense shut down Upper Dublin and led the way to a 31-23 Suburban One League Liberty Division win at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
“Instead of pressing we dropped back to half-court man,” PW senior Anna McTamney said. “I feel like that had us playing well on the defensive side of the court. Getting rebounds and being able to push the ball up the floor and run our offense was what I thought was good for us (offensively).”
“It’s what we did in the second half of the first time we played them,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said, referencing last week’s 46-31 win at Upper Dublin. “The first time we played them we pressed in the first half and they just missed open shots. It wasn’t great defense, they just missed open shots. The second half we stopped pressing and I thought we did an outstanding job. When we came into tonight, we said we don’t have the legs to press, coming off the emotion of Anna getting 1,000 points (Thursday) night. Let’s dig in in the half-court again. I told the kids I thought we played well enough to actually win by more tonight if we made a few more shots.”
The Colonials (10-0, 7-0 SOL Liberty) took control of the game early. McTamney scored the first four points of the game and Abbey Sharpe and Gabby Cooper each hit three-pointers to help build a 13-7 lead after eight minutes.
Both sides struggled offensively in the second quarter. PW’s scoring came entirely from the free-throw line – going 5-for-6 – while Upper Dublin managed just two points on a basket from Dayna Balasa. The Colonials led, 18-9, at the break.
“It’s not a coincidence that it happens against them,” Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten said of the offensive struggles. “They’re a very good defensive team. They prepare really well for us. They know our strengths and weaknesses and they come up with a good defensive gameplan every time. We’d like to sit here and say we have to make more shots, but a lot of it has to do with their defense.”
PW built a 14-point lead, 27-13, late in the third quarter after Kaitlyn Flanagan hit a three and Sharpe converted a layup for a 5-0 run. The Cardinals (9-2, 5-2 SOL Liberty) scored the final two points of the third to head to the fourth with a 12-point deficit, 27-15.
Upper Dublin needed stops and scores to get back into the game. They got the stops – forcing turnovers on four of the Colonials five possessions of the fourth and not allowing a single field goal in the final eight minutes – but the offense wasn’t able to do enough to get closer than eight points.
Bliss Brenner hit two free throws and Balasa made a basket to get the Cardinals within 27-19 with 5:35 to play, but they didn’t score again until the final 14 seconds of the game. In between, Cooper went 2-for-4 from the free throw line to get the difference back to 10. Polin hit a pair of layups with 13.7 and 3.9 seconds remaining sandwiched around McTamney going 2-for-2 from the charity stripe for a 31-23 final score.
“They came out and made shots in the first quarter again,” Funsten said. “It was a similar feeling to the first game we had. I thought we played a little better in the second half. The game was almost a carbon copy of the first game in terms of we’re down nine at halftime, I think we were down 10 last time. To start the third quarter they asserted themselves. They kept that distance in the first game and I thought we fought back a little better this time. That’s a really good team.”
McTamney led PW with a double-double – posting 11 points and 10 rebounds. Flanagan, Sharpe and Cooper each added five points.
Polin paced Upper Dublin with eight points. Sarah Eskew added five and Brenner and Balasa each had four.
These league rivals are done facing off for the regular season but could meet again in the District 1 playoffs. PW entered Friday as the No. 1 team in the district and Upper Dublin was No. 2.
“We have to keep fighting,” Funsten said. “There was a time in the third quarter that I thought it was real easy for our girls to give up or be frustrated or start pointing fingers but these girls are tough. They stick together. They kept battling. That was the message – maybe you get one more chance at them. There’s only one more chance you can have at them. I would think (PW) will take care of business, but if we can find a way to take care of business down the stretch we have a chance to see them again.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh 31, Upper Dublin 23
Upper Dublin 7 2 6 8 – 23
Plymouth Whitemarsh 13 5 9 4 – 31
UD: Brenner 0 4-4 4, Bilger 0 0-0 0, Polin 3 2-2 8, Sarnoski 0 0-0 0, Ngo 1 0-0 2, Eskew 2 0-0 5, Balasa 2 0-0 4. Total 8 6-6 23.
PW: Flanagan 2 0-0 5, Daley 0 2-5 2, Sharpe 2 0-0 5, Cooper 1 2-4 5, McTamney 2 7-8 11, Allen 0 1-2 1, Thomas 1 0-2 2. Total 8 12-21 31.
Three-point goals: UD: Eskew. PW: Flanagan, Sharpe, Cooper.
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