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Defense sends Plymouth Whitemarsh past Pennsbury, into District 1-6A final

WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh’s last two District 1 championship runs were stopped by Pennsbury and Spring-Ford. 

The Colonials lost to the Falcons in the 2020 semifinals and the Rams in the 2021 championship.

After Wednesday night, they’ve got a chance to avenge both losses in four days.

No. 1 Plymouth Whitemarsh led nearly the entire way in a 47-36 District 1-6A semifinal win over No. 4 Pennsbury to set up a championship rematch with No. 11 Spring-Ford.

“We remember that stuff,” Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Kaitlyn Flanagan said. “It’s a new team, but same team in a way. We were definitely looking forward to this game.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Kaitlyn Flanagan dribbles while Pennsbury’s Nevaeh Dash defends. (Ed Morlock/MediaNews Group)

After falling behind 2-0, the Colonials rattled off nine straight points and a 19-3 run to build a 19-5 lead halfway through the second quarter. Abby Sharpe had seven points in the first quarter – including an opening three-pointer for the game’s only lead change – and Fiona Gooneratne knocked down a three-pointer to cap off the early game-changing run.

Lainey Allen finished the first half with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks to help the Colonials take a 23-13 lead into the locker room.

“Being aggressive,” Allen, who was a part of three first-quarter jumpballs, credited for her big night. “This team is aggressive. They’re going to go at you. I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to keep posting up, I was going to keep going hard, I was going to trust in my team that they were going to be able to get me the ball and I was going to be able to finish at the rim.”

PW’s defense continued to dominate through the third quarter. Junior Erin Daley drew the tough assignment of having to guard Pennsbury’s four-time first team All-League senior Ava Sciolla and held her to five points through three quarters while PW built a 32-19 lead.

“I knew the biggest job was going to be holding her to a low amount of points if we wanted to win that game,” Daley said. “Personally I was not too worried about my offense. I knew I was going to need to make smart decisions with the ball and do what I need to do, but going into that game I was focused on her and shutting her down. That’s what I wanted to do. I’m really proud of myself for that.”

“I thought Erin Daley played spectacular against Sciolla,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “We’ve had since Saturday to prepare. When you go back to the SOL Championship (Feb. 15 against Pennsbury) I stayed up until one or two o’clock in the morning. We were already ahead of the game, knew every play call and we saved a couple of things for tonight, too. We mixed a couple different defenses, but, listen, these girls studied their plays, studied the gameplan. We had two straight really strong practices of just knowing what they were going to do. It’s one thing to know what a team is going to do – it’s another thing to be able to stop it.”

“They do a good job defensively,” Pennsbury coach Frank Sciolla said. “You have to start with that. Their length, their physicality inside, their experience – these are good pieces for them. Unless you want to make the game up-and-down, they give a lot of people, it seems, a hard time scoring. I thought we laid back a little more than we should’ve in terms of our aggressiveness, but you have to give them credit cause of how they’re playing. They were being really, really physical.”

Ava Sciolla took over in the fourth quarter to give the Falcons a fighting chance. She went on a personal 7-2 run to get within 11, 37-26, with just under three minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, she knocked down a three to make it 39-29, but that’s as close as Pennsbury would get.

Flanagan found Jordyn Thomas for a layup and 41-29 lead with 1:48 left in the game and Pennsbury’s Nicole Pompili responded with two free throws to get the difference back to 10, 41-31, with 1:38 to go. 

Frank Sciolla received a technical foul for wanting a misbehaving fan removed from behind the basket and Sharpe hit both free throws at the other end. PW kept possession and Flanagan found Allen for a layup and 45-31 advantage. It was Flanagan’s 10th assist in the game.

“It comes back to preparation,” Flanagan said, “looking at their defense on film and also just the feel of the game. My teammates are so good at moving to get open. Lainey is great at posting up, Jordyn, Abby and Erin around the perimeter – they’re all so good at getting open. It’s really them.”

Ava Sciolla added another short jumper and long three-pointer before the buzzer for a 15-point fourth quarter and game-high 20 points.

Allen led PW with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks while Daley added 11 points and Sharpe nine.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Lainey Allen (33), and Pennsbury’s Ava Sciolla (2) jump to start the District 1-6A semifinal Wednesday. (Ed Morlock/MediaNews Group)

Gooneratne only scored three points in the game, but she gave PW 11 minutes off the bench in the first half. She entered with 3:09 left in the first quarter with a 6-2 lead when Thomas picked up her second foul. Gooneratne played the rest of the half, helped build a 14-point, 19-5, lead and contributed to the Colonials 10-point halftime advantage.

“It’s the second straight game,” Dougherty said. “(Gooneratne) came in against Haverford when Lainey Allen got hurt in the second half and she played 15 minutes on Saturday… She’s a four-year, varsity program role player, plays three varsity sports… She’s just a fantastic kid, comes from a fantastic family. The whole team pulls for her and she knows she has the green light to shoot when she’s open. She’s a very good shooter. I thought (her three) was not just a basketball lift, but I thought it was an emotional lift for the team because she is a kid everybody roots for that shot to go down. I think I even gave a little fist pump.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh and Spring-Ford will face for the District 1-6A title at 4 p.m. Saturday at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

“It’s the same thing as Pennsbury,” Flanagan said. “Same team but different team. We’re definitely looking forward to it.”

“Being able to go to Temple is amazing,” Daley said. “Obviously last year we had to go to Spring-Ford to play them in their gym for the district final, which is one – a little unfair, but two – it’s not the same experience or excitement. I think one – we’re looking for that revenge and two – we’re just excited to be going to Temple and getting that experience.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh 47, Pennsbury 36

Pennsbury 5 8 6 17 – 36

Plymouth Whitemarsh 11 12 9 15 – 47

P: Sciolla 7 3-5 20, Matthias 1 0-0 2, Vitucci 4 0-0 9, Pompili 0 2-2 2, Dash 0 0-0 0, Foote 0 0-0 0, Sherman 0 0-0 0, MacDonald 1 0-0 3, Davis 0 0-0 0. Total 13 5-7 36.

PW: Flanagan 2 2-3 6, Daley 4 2-2 11, Sharpe 3 2-2 9, Allen 6 4-7 16, Thomas 1 0-0 2, Gooneratne 1 0-0 3. Total 17 10-14 47.

3-point goals: P: Sciolla 3, MacDonald, Vitucci. PW: Sharpe, Gooneratne, Daley.

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