Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)
ABINGTON — Abby Sharpe is breaking out, but it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows her.
The Plymouth Whitemarsh junior patiently waited her turn, filling in as a reserve and a deep-range sniper last year on a veteran team and has thrived since moving into the starting lineup this season. She can still shoot the lights out if someone's foolish enough to let her, but Sharpe knew to get where she wants to go, she couldn't let herself get shoehorned into one role.
Abby Sharpe (above) tied her career high with 21 points as PW beat SOL rival Abington. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
In Thursday night's clash between SOL powerhouses, Sharpe displayed the payoff of her efforts by tying a career-high with 21 points in the Colonials' 64-57 win at Abington.
"I wanted to be an elite player and I wanted to be more of an impact player on the team this year," Sharpe said. "So many people have said 'you can be so great,' and had so much belief in me so this offseason, I started to believe in myself a lot more. I wanted to be the best player I can be so that was really my motivation, my pursuit to get better."
Sharpe, who plays for the Lady Runnin' Rebels outside of Plymouth Whitemarsh, is doing just that as a key cog for a Colonials team envisioning an SOL Liberty title but also much, much more beyond that. The guard, listed at 5-foot-11 but maybe topping out at 6-foot in the right sneakers, and classmate Erin Daley have excelled in their new expanded roles replacing the offensive punch of Anna McTamney (USciences) and defensive clamps of Gabby Cooper.
It's also fitting the two juniors have been on the receiving end of many of each other's passes, as Sharpe was Thursday when Daley set her up for a three that capped a critical run by the Colonials in the third quarter that turned the tide of the game. When Abington got called for a technical foul on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, PW coach Dan Dougherty didn't have a second thought on who he wanted taking the foul shots that came with them.
"She's always been really talented," Dougherty said. "I give her a lot of credit, because not many kids will do it, but she embraced that 'sixth man' role and has developed her game while doing so. The biggest difference I see in her is the confidence in her shot, when she shoots, she has confidence in her shot and that's why I kept putting her on the free throw line because she has confidence."
The sharpshooter - that pun was coming at some point, much like the inevitable big shot she's seemingly made into a nightly routine - needed to build herself up. She's not only rounded out her game, but Sharpe is better at playing through tough moments or rough patches as she and her teammates did after a messy first half against Abington's frenetic pressure defense.
Sharpe said she was "playing 1000 miles an hour" in that first half but slowed herself down in the second half when the Colonials strung together 13 straight points to turn a narrow Ghosts lead into a double-digit advantage when she knocked down her lone outside make of the night. That fact that was the only three she or anyone on the Colonials' roster hit and Sharpe still finished with 21 is more evidence to how she's expanded her ability to alter a game.
The Colonials' core has been together for three years now and experienced all the highs and lows imaginable from losing a district title game to seeing a potential deep state run derailed by a pandemic-canceled season. Sharpe said it's made this team closer than ever and they've worked very hard to build their bond, although they can still surprise each other.
"I think a lot of my teammates saw a change in my game and especially in my confidence, which again, is what is bringing all these new levels to my game," Sharpe said. "I talk more than I did last year and I feel like I'm more of a leader on the court but they also saw new skills I didn't have last year.
"I think I'm more of a versatile player offensively and defensively, so I think they were surprised but they've all improved as well. I just want to make an impact and I think as a team, we're going to do great things this year."
Dougherty likened the emerging junior to former Colonials standout Taylor O'Brien in terms of athleticism, build and skills. It's a lofty comparison as O'Brien, in the midst of a terrific senior season at Bucknell and is the all-time leading scorer at PW, male or female, but Sharpe is gaining some significant traction toward the next level to validate that potential.
Sharpe holds offers from Monmouth, Merrimack, American, Fairfield, Bryant and Lafayette and she's heard from a few Ivy League and CAA programs as well. She credits a lot of her interest as osmosis from coaches coming to see her AAU teammate Laine McGurk, the West Chester Rustin standout committed to Drexel, over the summer but she was still the one putting the work in too.
"The biggest thing that happened for me was having a great AAU season this past summer," Sharpe said. "My coach, Bill McDonough Jr., he just believed in me so much and put so much confidence in me that it helped expand my game and play the way I like to play. I was in the gym all summer working on different moves, ways to get to the basket more, my pull-up jumper is a big part of my game now, just all that work built up my confidence."
Players don't get on the floor in the Colonials' program if they don't defend. Sharpe was blunt that the defensive side was an area she also needed to improve on, another way to impact a game if she wasn't getting 3-point attempts or not shooting well on a given night.
"Another big thing for me was strength training, and I wanted to have that mindset of being a killer on defense," Sharpe said. "Defense pushes my offense in a sense, so when my coaches trust me with those big defensive jobs, it also pushes me offensively.
"Conditioning is a big part of it, I'm playing more minutes in a game, we play a fast-paced game and we're pressing constantly, we're running back and playing a fast offense. I just make sure to breathe during a game and use any chance I can to get a break but when I'm playing, I'm constantly saying in my head 'you can't get tired,' that's what motivates me, that's what keeps me from getting tired or taking a play off and to stay moving and giving 100 percent."
In PW's win over Archbishop Carroll at the Hoops for Hope Classic held at Cabrini, Sharpe didn't have a huge offensive day but her defense was terrific in a lights-out effort across the board. That night, Dougherty got a call from a college coach that was at the game who wanted to talk about Sharpe and lauded the way the junior has adapted herself to fit into the team's system.
"She's got the terrific 3-point shot with super-deep range but the other part is, can you handle playing under the bright lights? In some of our biggest games, she has stepped up," Dougherty said. "It's always been easy with her. She embraces it. She accepts it. Now, you're seeing it with a breakout season."
Plymouth Whitemarsh has another big test coming Sunday in a planned game with Cardinal O'Hara and the Colonials will have to deal with Abington again on Feb. 8, likely with the outcome of the SOL Liberty on the line. Beyond that, the Colonials feel there are a few trophies they're due to win and they'll need their breakout player to keep showing up and keep showing out.
It's all Sharpe wants to do too.
"I'm so grateful, it hasn't been easy but for this work to be paying off, it's a really great feeling," Sharpe said. "I'm still kind of speechless about the whole thing. It was always a dream of mine growing up and seeing all these coaches taking interest in me, it was like it hit me that 'wow, I really want this.' It's a cliche but definitely a dream coming true."
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 64, ABINGTON 57
Thursday's clash for the conference lead was certainly an entertaining one.
PW jumped out to a 10-0 lead but Abington's pressing defense soon got the visitors out of sorts and Cire Worley did not need long to get going. The Ghosts' outstanding junior wing had another huge outing, scoring 33 points but the third quarter would prove costly.
Kaitlyn Flanagan was stellar for Plymouth Whitemarsh in the second half, orchestrating the pace and facilitating the first three baskets of the game-changing run by slowing the game up and finding posts Lainey Allen (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Jordyn Thomas (eight points, 13 rebounds). Flanagan had eight points and six assists while Sharpe was 9-of-11 at the foul line to help the Colonials stay unbeaten.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: 19 | 14 | 13 | 18 || 64
Abington 15 | 18 | 4 | 20 || 57
PW: Abby Sharpe 21, Lainey Allen 18, Kaitlyn Flanagan 8, Jordyn Thomas 8, Erin Daley 7, Fiona Gooneratne 2.
A: Cire Worley 33, Jaida Helm 10, Abril Bowser 8, Dani Brusha 4, Maya Johnson 2.
Tag(s): Home Boys HS SOL Liberty (B) Abington Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Women's Andrew Robinson