Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)
WHITEMARSH — Plymouth Whitemarsh's undefeated record didn't just happen by accident.
There's a reason the Colonials put in hours and hours of work behind the scenes so that when they find themselves in situations like the one they faced Saturday evening, they don't panic. Yes, it was new territory as PW trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time all year but it wasn't enough to make the top seed in the District 1 6A tournament crumble.
Abby Sharpe (L) and Jordyn Thomas came up with clutch plays to help PW survive Haverford. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
"Being able to experience losing in the fourth, we really needed that and experiencing that intensity of a close game," Colonials guard Abby Sharpe said after a 36-28 win over Haverford High which got PW into Wednesday night’s semifinals. "That's not something we experienced yet this year so now being able to take away what was going through our minds and how we adjusted throughout the game is going to be really important for us going forward."
It was a physically tough game, with both teams playing excellent defense and the Fords bringing a physical edge to their effort and a mentally tough game, especially for Sharpe. The junior got beat up repeatedly going up around the rim and was scoreless for three quarters but came through when she was most needed, scoring all five of her points in the fourth including the go-ahead three off a drive and kick from Kaitlyn Flanagan with four minutes left.
"As we're getting further into this tournament, teams are going to be better and more physical and I noticed they were being more physical on me but I just looked at it as they were also leaving my teammates open," Sharpe said. "That shot, that's a shot we practice every day and I felt confident taking it. To be able to give us that lead in the fourth, it felt really good."
Colonials coach Dan Dougherty talked about his team doing the little things when shots weren't falling or whistles weren't sounding. PW had plenty of those moments on Saturday, from Sharpe confidently taking a shot she's worked on countless times, Erin Daley fighting through an off shooting game to force the tie up that got the possession leading to Sharpe's three, Jordyn Thomas' steal with 1:40 left and the important minutes Fiona Gooneratne gave with Lainey Allen sidelined in the second half with an injury.
Thomas, who was stellar on both ends with a game-high 14 points and five blocks, knew her team had a winner's mentality in it. That said, the senior was still encouraged to see it come through at a time it was really needed.
"Playing Haverford and teams like Haverford, it pushes us to be better than we are," Thomas said. "I think it helps us understand if we make a mistake here or a mistake there, we can get that back on defense or get it back on offense. It showed us we are this kind of team and we can make it as far as we want to."
No. 4 Pennsbury 50, No. 5 Abington 48
Sofia Vitucci (above) stepped up with 20 points as Pennsbury advanced to the semifinals. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
Sofia Vitucci's poise won out over Abington's perimeter shooting in a game that came down to the final few possessions.
With Abington taking Ava Sciolla mostly out of the equation, Vitucci more than capably filled the void. The sophomore scored a game-high 20 points, dealt with the Ghosts' pressure defense as the Falcons' lead ball-handler and was instrumental in third and fourth quarter runs that helped turn the tide of the game.
"I've always been a point guard growing up, but as you get older, it also gets harder," Vitucci said. "You don't look to dribble through them, you look for the open girl based on who's coming to help on you. I've been focusing on that and just protecting the ball."
Abington made 11 3-pointers in the game, four coming during a frantic fourth quarter that started with the Ghosts going almost five minutes without a point.
No sequence better summed up the day for Abington than Layla Matthias' trip to the foul line for Pennsbury with 17.3 seconds left. The Falcons forward missed both shots in the double bonus with her team leading 48-45, but outnumbered four-to-one, she still managed to get the offensive board off the second miss and find Sciolla before the Ghosts were able to foul again.
Sciolla would knock down both her free throws, rendering the ensuing three by Abington's Cire Worley moot as the final seconds ran off the clock.
"We didn't take care of the ball enough, to be frank," Abington coach Dan Marsh said. "You can't have the mistake, we're down three and they have one kid there. Cire hits a 30-footer, we should be going to overtime. She gets the rebound, then they didn't foul her again, they let her kick it out. We had to go through a number of situations to lose this."
Pennsbury trailed 24-16 at the half but opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run with Vitucci accounting for half of those points. In the fourth, the sophomore converted a three-point play on a drive and foul, giving her team a 34-32 lead and kicking off a 10-0 run that put the Falcons in front for good.
Nevaeh Dash added 13 for Pennsbury and Nicole Pompili notched nine, with both guards scoring timely fourth quarter baskets. Sciolla finished with five points but had eight rebounds.
"Everyone steps up in some way," Vitucci said. "It means I'm going to handle the ball a lot. We knew it was coming, we worked on it Thursday and Friday, so we came into it prepared, knew our roles and knew what we had to do."
No. 2 Souderton 47, No. 7 Perkiomen Valley 41
Souderton's formula is pretty simple.
When Soudy wins, which it’s done a lot of this season, it's usually because Lynn Carroll’s squad starts well, plays good defense and makes free throws late. They're not often going to run away from a team, but when it gets to those last handful of possessions late in the fourth quarter, they tend to find a way.
Perk Valley wouldn't go away, fighting back to tie the game 41-41 with two minutes left. Casey Harter, who led Souderton with 14 points, hit a pair of free throws with 1:10 on the clock and after a potential Vikings' go-ahead three rimmed out, Erin Bohmueller and Grace McDonough combined for four more free throws to put the game away.
Mikayla McGillan, McDonough and Bohmueller all had key defensive plays as Souderton put on a shutout over the final two minutes. Teya McConnaha added 12 for the Indians.
Quinn Boettinger led PV with 11 points.
No. 11 Spring-Ford 40, No. 14 Garnet Valley 30
For a half, the Jaguars looked like they were on their way to another upset win and a spot in the final four.
Then, the Rams' Katie Tiffan got rolling and Spring-Ford flipped the script. Tiffan - part of the Rams' sophomore core - scored 12 straight points for her team to open the third quarter, including the first 10 of the half for either team, erasing a 20-12 GV halftime leads as the Rams went in front 28-26.
Anna Azzara added 12 points for Spring-Ford, which limited the Jags to just 10 points after halftime.
Tiffan ended the day with 19 points and the Rams ended up in familiar territory, making the semifinal round for a fifth straight season.
No. 13 Upper Dublin 47, No. 12 CB West 42 (OT)
Down their leading scorer in sophomore Amy Ngo, the Cardinals still found a way to make it back to states.
Sophomore Aditi Foster stepped up again, scoring 13 points while senior Geena Sarnoski had 17 including a key 3-pointer late in regulation as the Cardinals rallied from a 22-15 halftime deficit. Senior Bliss Brenner added 11 for UD, which gave up a late score to force overtime but outscored the Bucks 10-5 in the extra session.
Emily Spratt scored 15 in her final high school game for CB West.
No. 10 Neshaminy 44, No. 15 CB South 30
A big second quarter was the margin Neshaminy needed to lock up a state bid.
After a close first period, the hosts went on a 12-2 spree in the second to build a 21-9 halftime lead thanks to a strong defensive effort that held Titans' leading scorer Taylor Hinkle to just three points on the afternoon. Reese Zemitis led Neshaminy with 17 points including a trio of 3-pointers, Lola Ibarrondo added 14 and Taylor Gurysh chipped in nine.
Yoyo Samayoa led South with 13 points.
No. 3 Methacton 45, No. 6 West Chester Rustin 43
The Warriors had to survive a fourth quarter charge, but a key basket by center Mairi Smith helped avenge a regular season loss to the Golden Knights with a pass to the state tournament.
Methacton led 36-26 after three quarters, but Rustin went on a 17-7 run to tie things up. With 17 seconds left, Smith converted a putback for the lead and the Warriors survived a final possession to pick up the win.
Smith led Methacton with 19 points and 10 rebounds while senior Nicole Timko stuffed the stats with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, moving her nine points away from breaking the program scoring record.
Riley Stackhouse had 13 points and Laine McGurk chipped in 11 for Rustin, which saw its season end with a 20-6 mark.
No. 16 Great Valley 38, No. 8 Downingtown East 25 (Friday)
The Patriots rebounded pretty well from their lopsided loss to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the second round and earned a trip to the state tournament with a win on the road Friday night.
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