WHITEMARSH >> Trotting backwards up the court, Kaitlyn Flanagan looked to her right, pointed at Abby Sharpe and gave her teammate a thumb’s up.
Flanagan had just dished her eighth assist of the night to get Lainey Allen an easy look inside but it was only because Sharpe had given up an opportunity to shoot and passed the ball back to Flanagan for the better look. It was a theme all night for Plymouth Whitemarsh, with the Colonials racking up 21 assists on their 29 made field goals as they took the floor for the first time since winning a District 1 championship.
PW’s unparalleled unselfishness helped make short work of visiting Manheim Township as the Colonials won their PIAA 6A girls basketball tournament opener 63-32 on Tuesday night.
“It’s interesting because it’s never been something we’ve had to talk about,” Flanagan said. “From the beginning, it’s always been whoever is playing well is encouraged because they’re playing well. There hasn’t been an instance for four years now where someone has had an issue with that, it’s great as teammates to have that support from each other.”
The Blue Streaks, the sixth seed out of District 3, played hard and with good energy but were clearly under-matched against the Colonials’ blend of size, experience and of course, sharing ability. PW scored first, with Jordyn Thomas assisting Lainey Allen on a post-to-post score and while Manheim Township would briefly tie the game, the Colonials rolled from there, taking a 22-4 lead after one with assists on eight of their 10 makes.
Flanagan led with eight helpers, the Holy Cross recruit only taking one shot in the game while five other PW players recorded at least one assist.
That unselfishness has been a hallmark of the Colonials all season and a testament to the unselfish nature of their main seven players. Instead of demanding shots or hunting points, the core rotation has bought in to playing their specific role on a given night and when they find a teammate who has a good matchup or is going well, that’s where they try to get the ball.
“Everyone is so genuinely happy for each other when they’re playing well, it’s just been that way,” Flanagan said. “It’s never something we had to try and do.”
A new tweak to the PIAA playoff format this year is the first round being played midweek instead of the weekend, which allowed higher-seeded teams to host. That offered PW the opportunity to get another game at Gym West, bringing the team home for the first time since Saturday’s district title win, and allowing the Colonials to play in front of a packed house.
PW officials estimated the school sold about 700 presale tickets and there was an excellent crowd on hand to take in the last home appearance for Flanagan, Allen, Thomas and Fiona Gooneratne, who recorded their 94th win since coming into the program. Coming in as freshmen, the quartet had a high standard to maintain in the program and they’ve only added to it with their three league titles and the district title over the weekend.
“We really worked to included everyone in everything we do,” Gooneratne, who had two assists off the bench, said. “I think I can speak for everyone when we say we have full faith in everyone continuing on what we’ve done and carried on from years before we got here. But, we’re not done yet and we’re going to cherish every moment we have left this season and make it last as long as we can.”
Allen was on both ends, having seven of her eight baskets assisted but also dishing out two helpers of her own. The senior didn’t miss a shot from the floor but once Abby Sharpe got rolling in the second quarter, looked to set screens to help her teammate keep finding open looks.
Certainly, the Colonials work on their offense and movement to develop a sense of what plays will work in a game but they also have an innate connection that makes throwing that extra pass or pass to set up a pass second nature.
“I think it’s a mixture of both,” Allen said. “Off the court, we have that connection where it’s become something we can bring onto the court. We have been with each so long, we’ve instilled it into each other at practice and came to the same thought of ‘this is what we’re going to do together,’ it’s become natural.”
Sharpe finished with a game-best 19 points, scoring 12 in the second quarter while shooting 8-of-12 from the floor. Erin Daley and Jordyn Thomas each had four assists while Thomas again controlled the lane on defense with six blocks and two steals.
PW will face District 11 runner-up Northampton, a 56-43 winner over Garnet Valley, in Friday’s second round at a site and time to be determined.
Tuesday, the PW community got a chance to give the four seniors a final send-off on their home court. The seniors hope their support network is willing to make a couple trips over the next few weeks as they work to keep a special season going.
“It’s calming to see all the support and the trust people have in us to put on a good show and make them proud,” Thomas said. “If we continue to play together, we feel like we’ll show them a good game.”
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 62, MANHEIM TOWNSHIP 32
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 22 24 13 4 – 63
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP 4 7 11 10 – 32
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Kaitlyn Flanagan 3 0-0 3, Erin Daley 5 0-0 11, Abby Sharpe 8 0-0 19, Lainey Allen 8 0-0 16, Jordyn Thomas 4 0-1 8, Fiona Gooneratne 1 0-0 2, Angelina Balcer 1 0-0 2, Remiah Stripling 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 0-1 63.
Manheim Township: Ava Byrne 5 0-0 13, Missy Welch 3 2-2 9, Gianna Smith 1 0-0 2, Keliah Santiago 2 0-0 6, Nia Mountis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 2-2 32.
3-pointers: PW – Sharpe 3, Daley, Flanagan; MT – Byrne 3, Santiago 2, Welch.