WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh freshman Kenna Winland made the go-ahead layup with 16 seconds remaining and Abby Sharpe added four free throws to seal a 49-44 win over Council Rock South in the first round of the Suburban One League Tournament Friday afternoon at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Trailing 44-43 with 31 seconds remaining, the top-seeded Colonials (21-2) called timeout and designed a play for Sharpe to take the go-ahead shot. When the eighth-seeded Lady Hawks (16-7) had her guarded, she gave the ball to senior Angelina Balcer, who drew the attention of two defenders at the right wing and found Winland open in the paint. Winland converted the layup for a 45-44 Plymouth Whitemarsh lead.
Kenna Winland puts PW ahead late. pic.twitter.com/V51ybYFcSz
— Ed Morlock (@emor09) February 10, 2023
“Stuff happens, (Sharpe) gets double-teamed and you have to find the open player,” Balcer said. “Our freshman stepped up and made a big shot.”
“Abby Sharpe made some incredible shots tonight, incredible shots,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “Credit to Balcer to get us going early and then credit Kenna Winland for having the sense of mind to spin, turn, go. Then she forces the ball out of bounds there, turnover at the end.”
On the ensuing possession, CR South drove to the basket looking to take the lead, but PW senior Erin Daley was there to alter the shot. Sharpe grabbed the rebound, got fouled and made both free throws to make it a three-point game, 47-44, with 5.5 seconds left.
The Lady Hawks stepped out of bounds bringing the ball up the floor and PW got the ball into Sharpe’s hands again. She sealed the win with two free throws, making it a two-possession game, 49-44.
“We’re definitely working on our free throws a lot in practice and a lot on our own,” Sharpe, who went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 12-for-13 from the line in the game, said. “I said, ‘free throws and layups win games.’ Moving into playoffs, we have to be at least a 70-percent free-throw shooting team. I think today we really saw that improvement. For me, I really want to try to focus on that and step up with that. Honestly, those were pretty big free throws to give us that edge. It’s definitely something we’ve been focusing on.”
South entered the fourth quarter leading by three points and that margin held for more than two minutes.
Sharpe gave PW its first lead of the fourth quarter with 4:08 remaining. She hit four straight free throws to put her side ahead, 37-36. South’s Fiona Reckner took the lead back with a three-pointer, but Sharpe answered with a triple of her own to make it 40-39. PW freshman AJ Avery hit a three on the Colonials next possession to complete a 10-3 run and make it 43-39 with 2:45 to go.
From there, PW’s offense slowed down. The Colonials missed the front-end of a one-and-one before committing three consecutive turnovers.
South took advantage with a Cam Gregory three to get within 43-42 and a Kathryn O’Kane steal-and-score to take a 44-43 lead with 31.9 seconds left.
PW answered with Winland’s game-winning layup and Sharpe’s four game-sealing free throws on its next three possessions.
“We used our past experience, shook off (the turnovers) and came on to the next play,” Balcer said. “We believed in each other and just had patience. We believed in each other and our coaches and took it one step at a time.”
“Having a (District 1) first-round bye and having that many practices in a row,” Dougherty said of the turnovers, “it will allow us to practice end-of-game scenarios, which we’ve kind of been ad-libbing in games. We have not been practicing end-of-game scenarios. When you don’t practice end-of-game scenarios, things like that happen and we were lucky to get away with it.”
Sharpe scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and had 17 of her game-high 23 points in the second half.
“It was just a different mindset,” Sharpe said of her second-half performance. “I didn’t come out with the best mindset in the first half – it wasn’t as intense, wasn’t as mentally in it – so coming into the second half I just upped my aggressiveness. I was rushing a lot of my shots also in the first, so just taking the shots that I know I practice. It’s like muscle memory at this point. Just getting out of my head and just playing – that’s really what I was really trying to focus on.
Balcer also scored in double figures for the Colonials. She scored six of her 12 points in the first quarter. She either scored or assisted on PW’s first eight points.
“I try to use my past experience from other big games with a lot of pressure,” Balcer said. “I knew coming into a game like this there was going to be a lot on Abby and Erin, so I just felt like I had to do something, come out of my comfort zone and try to be more confident in myself. I believe in my teammates and sometimes they get a lot of pressure and I have to step up. I feel like I tried stepping up tonight.”
Liliana Metrick led Council Rock South with 15 points. The sophomore hit five three-pointers, including a halftime buzzer-beater to send the Lady Hawks to the locker room ahead, 23-20. Karissa Smedley added eight points, including a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter.
Plymouth Whitemarsh will host Abington in the semifinals Saturday at 7 p.m. The SOL Liberty rivals split their regular season meetings, each winning at home.
The Colonials will be without Dougherty behind the bench. The head coach is flying to Arizona for the Super Bowl.
“I booked the latest possible flight I could but I can’t stay for the game,” Dougherty, who’s a big fan of the SOL Tournament, said. “I don’t want to ruin my Super Bowl experience either. We bought tickets in November in hope. My dad’s 75, he’s a huge Eagles fan. My dad and sister are already there. If I could be here I would be tomorrow, I just couldn’t. I can’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity, either.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh 49, Council Rock South 44
Council Rock South 7 15 11 10 — 44
Plymouth Whitemarsh 9 11 11 18 — 49
Council Rock South: Kathryn O’Kane 2 1-3 5, Liliana Metrick 5 0-0 15, Lily Boss 1 0-0 2, Katie Pupura 1 0-0 2, Cam Gregory 2 0-0 6, Fiona Reckner 2 0-0 5, Karissa Smedley 3 1-3 8, Jess Mangoni 0 0-0 0. Total 16 2-6 44.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Erin Daley 1 0-1 2, Abby Sharpe 5 12-13 23, AJ Avery 2 1-4 6, Azzy Crumpton 0 0-0 0, Angelina Balcer 5 2-2 12, Kenna Winland 3 0-0 6, Haley O’Hara 0 0-0 0, Joslyn Perez 0 0-0 0. Total 16 15-20 49.
3-point goals: CRS: Liliana Metrick 5, Cam Gregory 2, Fiona Reckner, Karissa Smedley. PW: Abby Sharpe, AJ Avery.