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Plymouth Whitemarsh stays undefeated with challenges ahead

WHITEMARSH >> Score, press, force a turnover, repeat.

That’s been the recipe for success for Plymouth Whitemarsh in its 10 years under head coach Dan Dougherty and it was on full display Friday night.

The Colonials made nine shots and forced six turnovers in the first quarter against Upper Moreland as they built a 16-point lead and never looked back. They improved to 14-0 with a 50-24 Suburban One League crossover win at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

“Lainey Allen at the top of (the press),” Dougherty said. “A kid at 6-2, 6-3, can move, as athletic as she is – it’s difficult just to inbound the ball. Then having four disciplined defenders behind denying the ball in. We’ve really been working hard in anticipation of some of these tougher games of what happens if you don’t get a steal on the first trap? How to continue to trap and get the next one. I thought we did that well tonight. It’s certainly something we need to continue to work on.”

“We practice the press so much,” PW junior Abby Sharpe said. “We really get it to an intensity in practice where it replicates a game. We’re really prepared from executing it in practice and translating it to the game – that’s really what it is. Intensity, being energetic and always finding the next person to get.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh huddles during its game against Upper Moreland Friday. (Ed Morlock/MediaNews Group)

PW’s pressure defense took the ball away in a variety of ways. Allen grabbed steals guarding the entry pass, Sharpe, Erin Daly and Kaitlyn Flanagan intercepted passes around half-court and their positioning forced Upper Moreland intro traveling violations and throwaways.

“You have six foot in front of you, six foot next to you and then a Division I guard shooting the middle,” Upper Moreland coach Matt Carroll said of PW’s press. “They’re intelligent, they’re long… They’re one of the best teams in the state.”

Upper Moreland’s EmmyFaith Wood made a three-pointer to open the game and Holly Gohl, who scored a team-high 14 points, hit a three-pointer to end the first quarter. Between those baskets, Plymouth Whitemarsh went on a 22-0 run.

Sharpe had nine of her game-high 18 points in the first quarter and Daly scored eight of her 12 points in the opening frame. 

“I was able to get some shots up before the game,” Sharpe said, “and I was just feeling good, had a lot of energy and my teammates were finding me for those open shots. I just finished high, good release. It was a good first quarter.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Abby Sharpe

Jordyn Thomas joined Sharpe and Daly in double figures with 10 points and added nine rebounds. Allen had four points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Challenges ahead

So far this season, Plymouth Whitemarsh hasn’t played a close game. The Suburban One League Liberty Division leaders have won all 14 games comfortably, the two closest wins being by 15 points.

That should change this week.

The Colonials face Archbishop Carroll Sunday, Abington Thursday and Cardinal O’Hara Saturday.

“We’re excited,” Dougherty, who scheduled some tougher games earlier in the season that were lost due to COVID, said. “We were just talking in the locker room saying to ourselves most of the kids experienced last year’s playoff district championship at Spring-Ford. But teams like Carroll, every game in the Catholic League is that way… We said Sunday is not our season, it’s not make-or-break. Obviously we’re going in to win, but we’re also going in for the experience of it. You’re going to go in and play against a team that has more college basketball players than we do. They’re tough as nails and they’re super well-coached and they give 1000% percent on every play.”

“We know it’s going to be really good competition,” Sharpe said. “Having a game with Scranton Prep (57-42 win on Jan. 15) and a game like this were really good games to have a fast pace. We’re really getting ready in practice to come out intense in the (upcoming) games and hopefully get the dub.”

Not quite perfect

Despite dominating the first 14 games of the season, the Colonials still feel like they have areas to improve. 

“As much of an emphasis that we put on defense,” Sharpe said, “I think we can definitely get better at that. A lot of off-the-ball type things – knowing when to switch on screens, when to hedge on screens … and knowing the defensive principles. That’s the biggest thing that we’re working on right now.”

“We’re not as deep as we’ve been,” Dougherty, who also mentioned some defensive spots to improve, added. “In the fourth quarter we missed five straight layups from a foot away. You can’t win championship games shooting 5-for-11 from the foul line and going 0-for-8 in the fourth quarter on layups. You’re not going to win a championship doing that. I think it’s fatigue. I think it’s physical play.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh 50, Upper Moreland 24

Upper Moreland 6 2 4 12 – 24

Plymouth Whitemarsh 22 9 11 8 – 50

UM: Gaul 0 0-2 0, Wood 3 0-0 7, Coyle 1 0-0 3, Meyers 0 0-0 0, Gohl 5 0-0 14, Hurley 0 0-0 0, Lancit 0 0-0 0. Total 9 0-2 24. 

PW: Baker 0 0-0 0, Flanagan 2 2-4 6, F Gooneratne 0 0-0 0, Daly 6 0-0 12, Sharpe 7 1-3 18, Allen 2 0-0 4, Thomas 3 2-4 10. Total 20 5-11 50.

3-point goals: UM: Wood, Gohl 4, Coyle. PW: Sharpe 3, Thomas 2.

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