Caelin Peters (above) and P-W have struggled in the non-con, but had no trouble with Upper Moreland on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mitchell Gladstone (@mpgladstone13)
PLYMOUTH MEETING — Caelin Peters had made up his mind before he walked into the gym Friday night. The senior was going to score 30 points.
It was only a matter of how.
Eight minutes into the game, Peters had all 10 of Plymouth Whitemarsh’s first-quarter points, and that was just the beginning for the Colonials’ star.
Peters shot 13-of-20 from the field, posting a game-best 33 points, as Plymouth Whitemarsh got its first victory of 2020 with a 76-33 rout of Upper Moreland at home to get back on track in Suburban One play. The Colonials followed a pair of losses on their trip to South Carolina with a 68-64 defeat at Abington a week ago, a far cry from the powerhouse program they’ve been in recent years.
But it felt like this was the Plymouth Whitemarsh team that longtime coach Jim Donofrio expected to see, even with a relatively young squad that is growing around Peters.
“He forgot the kind of killer he can be,” Donofrio said of Peters. “You’ve got to create a persona as an athlete. Some guys do it — they become Superman on the court. … But trying to develop that killer in him and to let it go, it’s everything.”
Even with his thumb still wrapped from an early-season injury, Peters showed no ill effects with his jump shot. He hit on seven of his 11 shots from distance and even got a little shooter’s roll before halftime with a shot that bounced high off the rim before making its way in.
That gave the Colonials a 40-17 advantage at the break and more than enough momentum to carry them the rest of the way.
“I was putting so much pressure on myself to be the guy,” Peters said of the first month of the season. “When I take the pressure off and just relax, keep a smile on my face during the game and take all the pressure off, I just end up playing way better.”
Peters was also able to get his teammates in on the action with four assists in the second quarter, including one for Luke DiCianno, who added 12 points to help account for the majority of Plymouth Whitemarsh’s offense.
“This last half of the season, we’ve just got to change the mindset,” Peters said. “I just want to involve the team and really lead the team to victory. Not just be one of the guys, but my sure that everyone follows by my example.”
The losses in the first part of the season had Donofrio a bit worried.
Certainly, Simon Gratz, Archbishop Wood and Sanofka Freedom Academy weren’t going to be easy games by any stretch, but this is a Colonials program that won a state championship a decade ago and made it to the second round of state playoffs in 2018.
Even with veteran talent graduated, it was hard to foresee Plymouth Whitemarsh entering Friday night at 3-8.
With Peters as the sparkplug, perhaps the Colonials are starting to figure things out.
“Something changed in [Caelin] a day or two ago. We’ve had our long talks and we’ve had our challenges to him,” Donofrio said. “This team has me back on my heels wondering. I’m not completely sold. There has to be some level of consistency. … I didn’t expect [Caelin and Jaden Pryce] to take as long as they did — which, in the end, it’s he who laughs last, right?”
Peters, who was previously drawing some Division I looks, seems to now be more of a Division II or III target. The 6-foot-2 guard said he recently applied to Jefferson but also identified California (Pa.) and East Stroudsburg as potential landing spots, as well as Wesleyan, Arcadia, Randolph-Macon and Dickinson at the D-III level.
But even with future opportunities on the horizon, Peters made clear that his focus is on Plymouth Whitemarsh, which will certainly need their senior to be at the top of his game if there’s any chance to make a postseason push.
“We remember the games, all the losses we’ve had,” Peters said. “We’ve tried to make sure we keep those experiences, but we’re putting that behind us. We’ve got the second half of the season coming up and our goal is to go 6-0 in the next six games.”
PW: 10 | 30 | 20 | 16 | 76
UM: 6 | 11 | 12 | 4 | 33
PW: 26-50 FG, 10-21 3PT, 14-17 FT
UM: 10-36 FG, 1-13 3PT, 12-22 FT
PW : Peters 33, DiCianno 12, Harris 10, Pryce 10, Rink 4, Jones 3, Bennett 2, Thomasetti 2
UM: Woollens 7, Johnson 6, Gregg 5, Hopkins 5, M. Tiernan 4, Byrd 2, Harmer 2, Ibbotson 2