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McTamney gives Plymouth Whitemarsh an edge over Upper Dublin in District 1-6A quarterfinals

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Anna McTamney drives to the basket as Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas looks to block during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Gene Walsh/For MediaNews Group)

WHITEMARSH >> Anna McTamney has a certain edge to the way she plays basketball.

The Plymouth Whitemarsh junior will guard anyone, even if she gives up a few inches, she’s relentless on the glass and scores the tough baskets. In the SOL semifinals, that edge wasn’t there and she went without a point in a loss to Upper Dublin.

Facing the Cardinals on Saturday night with a trip to the District 1-6A semis on the line, McTamney’s edge came out in force.

Paced by McTamney’s 16 points and 12 rebounds, the No. 1 Colonials stifled No. 8 Upper Dublin in a 35-21 win where the Cardinals only had one scorer until the final 90 seconds.

“I didn’t score at all last game so I knew I had to step up offensively as well as defensively,” McTamney said. “I had to do it for my team.”

Upper Dublin’s Jackie Vargas works to pass around a full court press by Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Kaitlyn Flanagan and Anna McTamney during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Gene Walsh/For MediaNews Group)

McTamney scored the first six points of the game and nearly had her double-double by the end of the first quarter. With PW’s lineup hit hard by injury and ailment, McTamney had to shift up and guard Upper Dublin’s forwards but that didn’t stop her from ending the opening eight minutes with 10 points and seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end that led to putbacks.

It was her first shot, a free throw line jumper, that got things going however.

“Before the game started, I was practicing on the floor and I thought that pull-up shot was going to work for me,” McTamney said. “I just gained the confidence to keep shooting it.”

Saturday was the fourth meeting already this season between the SOL American rivals. PW won the first game, then lost the next two including the SOL semifinal game heading into Saturday’s game and the amount of familiarity almost seemed to take some energy out of the Colonials this week.

PW coach Dan Dougherty wasn’t happy with the way his team practiced during the week but felt the players responded when it mattered on the court.

“We’ve played them three times in three weeks and yesterday was a bad practice where we all looked around at each other like ‘we are so sick of practicing these plays,’” Dougherty said. “Our scout team can run their offense, so it’s just the familiarity. We’re down three players now but we full-court pressed for three quarters.”

Upper Dublin’s Jess Polin battles Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Abby Sharpe for a loose ball during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Gene Walsh/For MediaNews Group)

Upper Dublin senior Jackie Vargas was the only reason her team was on the board through three quarters. She scored the first 17 points of the game for Upper Dublin, with a turnaround shot by Dayna Balasa with 1:32 left in the fourth the first basket from any other Cardinal.

As a team, UD shot 8-of-44 from the floor. Vargas was 6-of-16 and everyone else was 2-of-28. Upper Dublin also endured a nearly 14-minute spell from late in the second quarter to the midpoint of the fourth without a field goal, the only points in that span coming from two Vargas foul shots in the third.

“Number one, we want to make sure we stick together and don’t give up on the season,” Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten said. “That was the message after the game. I thought we had great practices leading up to the game but our focus level, once they got a couple baskets in the first quarter, dropped from a focus to a panic and I think that was the reason we shot as poorly as we did.”

One of the main things Funsten wanted from his team was to keep PW off the offensive glass. McTamney showed why with her first quarter effort and gave her team another spark when she scored the first six points of the second half.

“That’s Anna in a nutshell, she is a coach’s dream, a lot of people find it hard to believe but that’s how she practices every day,” Dougherty said. “Every drill, that kid gives everything she has and it’s just hard to defend someone like that. Her energy and effort was tremendous.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Abby Sharpe movers to the hoop while Upper Dublin’s Kara Grebe defends during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Gene Walsh/For MediaNews Group)

PW only rolled six deep on Saturday, but Dougherty lauded his team’s fitness and ability to fight through any fatigue. The Colonials were also able to slow the game down in the fourth because their team defensive effort had been so strong.

Kaitlyn Flangan scored 13 points and directed traffic on offense well but she was the only other Colonial to score more than three points. Even without high point totals, Gabby Cooper and Jordyn Thomas played strong defense and PW worked as a group to frustrate the Cardinals.

“It’s a credit to the kids, they buy in, they study film, they pay attention in practice,” Dougherty said. “When you have the length at all five positions, we put Gabby Cooper on (Jess) Polin, well she’s six foot tall with a 6-foot-4 wingspan. Abby Sharpe takes Erin Daley’s spot, which means Anna has to guard a post and it’s no problem at all.”

McTamney also credited a change in the team’s pregame preparation for their strong start.

“Usually before we come out we’re all energized and hyped up but we decided to change that tonight because the last time, we were too energized and too ahead of ourselves,” McTamney said. “We had to be a little more calmed down and just keep our focus, which I think helped a lot.”

Upper Dublin heads to the seeding bracket starting with a visit to No. 5 Methacton on Wednesday.

“I don’t think our shot selection in the first half was great and because of our poor communication defensively, it translated over to the offensive end and snowballed from there,” Funsten said.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Kaitlyn Flanagan pulls up to take a shot as Upper Dublin’s Kara Grebe defends during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Gene Walsh/For MediaNews Group)

PW is in the semis for the first time since 2017 and will face No. 4 Pennsbury on Wednesday at Wissahickon. It’s a new experience for the Colonials players and McTamney was excited to get back to work preparing for a team she hasn’t gone up against yet.

“We’re just really excited, I actually can’t wait for practice on Monday to go over everything and get ready to play Pennsbury,” McTamney said.

“Pennsbury is a very similar team to Upper Dublin, they’re so well-coached, a defensive slow-the-game-down style but it’s different star players,” Dougherty said. “Where this is Vargas and Polin, they’re (Ava) Sciolla and (Bella) Arcuri, it’s a different monster but their offense is designed to get all five kids open looks.”

UPPER DUBLIN 4 7 2 8 – 21
PW: Kaitlyn Flanagan 3 7-12 13, Abby Sharpe 1 1-2 3, Anna McTamney 7 2-2 16, Jordyn Thomas 1 0-0 2, Deja Evans 0 1-2 1. Totals: 12 11-18 35.
UD: Jackie Vargas 6 4-6 17, Dayna Balasa 1 0-0 2, Anajae Smith 1 0-2 2. Totals: 8 4-8 21.
3-pointers: UD – Vargas.

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