WARRINGTON >> Inside a raucous gym against a hot-shooting opponent, Plymouth Whitemarsh found its way through.
“‘Keep on pushing,’ that’s all it was,” the Colonials’ Jaden Colzie said. “It was a tight game. My team came through in the clutch.”
PW rallied back from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter on the road Friday night, coming together for a thrilling 73-66 victory in the opening round of the District 1-6A Playoffs.
“This was a real grow-up moment,” said coach Jim Donofrio.
The victory advances the 22nd-seeded Colonials (16-7) to a second-round matchup at No. 6 Downingtown West on Tuesday night. The No. 11 Titans, led by Joe Rooney’s 17 points, saw a fine season come to a close.
“Just making free throws (was the key),” Colzie said. “We lost to Abington by missing free throws, and had a bunch of games where we were missing free throws. Going into this game, we really practiced free throws, made sure, and we went 25 of 33. That’s how you win games right there.”
Colzie poured in 18 points and Qudire Bennett had a game-high 24. The Colonials had six 3-pointers in the victory, including four by Colzie.
Said the sophomore: “When it comes to threes, when I make one of them, I’m feeling it. So I kept on going, kept on going. My team told me to keep on shooting.”
A three by Colzie deadlocked things at 55 apiece early in the fourth.
PW showed its quickness on the defensive end, jumping into the passing lanes and intercepting a pair of passes to get its transition game going: a basket by Taji Hubbard gave the Colonials a 57-55 advantage.
The lead and momentum swung back and forth until Bennett battled inside for a three-point play, powering PW in front, 64-63.
Ahead by one with a minute to go, Bennett made two more free throws to give the Colonials a 67-64 edge. Granito made two at the other end to slice the margin to 67-66, but Marshall Baker calmly sank two for the Colonials, extending the margin to 69-66 with just 18 seconds left.
With hearts beating fast and the crowd on its feet, PW’s defense stood firm and came up with one last stop, leading to a pair of free throws by Robbin Vinson that iced the game.
Asked if it was one of the most exciting games he ever played in, Colzie nodded, and added “biggest one for sure.”
“It’s amazing,” he said of the win. “I’m so happy right now, I can’t even explain it.”
The two teams stayed side by side for most of the first two plus quarters until South surged ahead 42-31 and later 45-34 in the third, thanks in large part to the three-point shooting of Rooney and Chris Granito (16 points).
But PW was unshakeable.
“I think there’s two types of teams that win championships,” Donofrio said. “And that’s teams that are predicted to win them all along, and the ones that rise at the right moment. And we’ve had teams in the past that were strong coming in. This is an interesting challenge because the kids just have to keep learning and learning. I said to the guys, ‘listen, you guys have put way too much into this thing over the last 12 months not to give yourself a fighting chance.’ So I’m just really proud of them.
“Credit to their guys – they shoot the lights out. They play really well as a team. They’re fun to watch, they believe in themselves. I know they have a lot of seniors so I wish those kids well.”
District 1-6A First Round
Plymouth Whitemarsh 73, Central Bucks South 66
Plymouth Whitemarsh 12 14 20 27 – 73
Central Bucks South 15 17 18 16 – 66
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Jaden Colzie 5 4-8 18, Marshall Baker 2 7-11 12, Trey Jones 0 2-2 2, Taji Hubbard 5 1-1 11, Qudire Bennett 7 9-9 24, Pat Flynn 2 0-0 4, Robbin Vinson 0 2-2 2. Totals 21 25-33 73.
Central Bucks South: Jay Macalindong 3 2-4 9, Joe Rooney 6 1-1 17, Chris Granito 4 4-4 16, Tyler Meinel 3 1-2 7, Michael Farley 4 6-7 15, Bryan Delara 0 2-4 2. Totals 20 16-22 66.
3-pointers: PW-Colzie 4, Baker, Bennett; CBS-Macalindong, Rooney 4, Granito 4, Farley.