WHITEMARSH >> No. 1 Plymouth Whitemarsh’s lead peaked just below 20 points midway through the fourth quarter of its Suburban One League Tournament opening round matchup against No. 8 Neshaminy Friday evening. The advantage shrunk to four points with 25 seconds left and the Skins had an opportunity to tie the game in the final 15 seconds, but the Colonials held on for a 61-59 win at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Plymouth Whitemarsh (21-2) was fouled with 12.7 seconds left and a four-point lead, 60-56. While walking down the floor, the Colonials were whistled for a technical foul. PW split its free throws, making it a five-point game with the Skins (14-9) getting two shots and the ball. They split their free throws and made a layup while Plymouth Whitemarsh let the final seconds run off the clock on a two-point win.
“The end of the game was simply not acting like potential champions,” PW coach Jim Donofrio said. “Champions have a certain mindset about them that teams are going to make runs – it’s basketball. If you decide all of a sudden that you don’t like adversity and you’re going to curl up inside of yourself then you really can’t call yourself championship material. That’s what we’re working on now. Embrace it – you bobbled the ball, so what, you’re up 12. Why are you compounding it with mistakes. Where’s your head at.
“This game here – a beautiful gift, beautiful gift… For this game, this tournament that doesn’t really hurt you – you’re in the districts – I’d much rather practice this idea here than next Tuesday when I’m probably a little more stressed. This type of tournament, if you can get two games out of it- great. If you can get three out of it – OK – because you’ve got, what, 73 days off between the end of the regular season and districts. You get as many as you can to shorten that. (This game) was really important for us in a critical kind of way.”
The Colonials took a 54-35 lead with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter. Neshaminy ended the game on a 24-7 run. Emeer Coombs and Sean Curley led the comeback attempt, scoring 10 points and eight points, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
PW’s Qudire Bennett scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, making two shots and going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. Jaden Colzie had seven of his 21 points in the fourth.
“We were not in our right mind, not in our right head,” Bennett said of the fourth. “For them, too many offensive boards, too many loose balls that we just weren’t ourselves for.
“These SOL Tournament games really show the true character of each player and each individual. This game shows us a lot of what we need to work on during this type of event and getting ready for districts. Every team is trying to get better and find a way to stop us. We have to worry about ourselves and make us better because there were a lot of things that we need to fix tonight, in my opinion.”
The Colonials took control of the game with an 11-2 run in the third quarter. Ben Marsico came off the bench and hit a three-pointer to extend a 30-27 lead to 33-27. Bennett and Colzie hit threes on the next two possessions to help build a 41-29 advantage.
“Benny Marsico did a great job coming off the bench,” Donofrio said. “Terrific, terrific example of a total team guy who doesn’t get as many minutes as you’d love to see him get. He can really knock down shots. He goes right in and plays five, six straight minutes like he’s been there all day long. That is character. That is championship-level thinking and I’m really happy for him.”
“When Ben hit that three it was a momentum changer,” Bennett said. “Ben hit a three, I come hit a three, (Colzie) hits a three. Our coach says all the time – scoring on offense – dunk, layup, fancy move, hard shot – get back and play hard on defense so you can do the same thing over and over again. I feel like we need to work on that – us scoring and then giving up coast-to-coast layups. We have to get better, overall.”
PW jumped out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter thanks to six points from Chase Coleman. Neshaminy responded with a strong second, highlighted by seven points from Coombs, including a buzzer-beating three, to trim their deficit to 24-21 at the half.
Coombs led the Skins with 20 points while Nate Townsend added 11 and Curley and Guy Horton each had 10.
Plymouth Whitemarsh and Neshaminy could meet again in the second round of the District 1-6A playoffs. Plymouth Whitemarsh is the No. 3 seed and has a first-round bye. Neshaminy is the No. 19 seed and would advance to face PW with a win over No. 14 Penn Wood. The seedings are unofficial until Sunday morning.
Plymouth Whitemarsh hosts North Penn in the semifinals Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Knights beat Pennsbury, 46-40, in the first round.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 61, Neshaminy 59
Neshaminy 7 14 11 27 – 59
Plymouth Whitemarsh 14 10 19 18 – 61
Neshaminy: Sean Curley 3 3-4 10, Boima Gobah 0 0-0 0, Ashton Lovelace 3 0-1 6, Joey Zack 1 0-0 2, Emeer Coombs 7 3-4 20, Guy Horton 4 0-0 10, Nate Townsend 5 1-6 11. Total 23 7-15 59.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Jaden Colzie 9 1-4 21, Jimmy Flowers 0 0-0 0, Chase Coleman 4 1-2 9, Evan Ring 0 0-0 0, Ben Marsico 1 0-0 3, Qudire Bennett 6 9-10 22, Jahseir Sayles 0 0-0 0, Lincoln Sharpe 3 0-1 6, Rodney Willis 0 0-0 0. Total 23 11-16 61.
3-point goals: N: Emeer Coombs 3, Guy Horton 2, Sean Curley. PW: Jaden Colzie 2, Ben Marsico, Qudire Bennett.