Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)
WHITEMARSH — Kenna Winland has bailed Plymouth Whitemarsh out time and time again this winter, so it was about time she got to do so in a game.
For reasons that befuddle their coaches, the Colonials have not been a good free-throw shooting team this winter and often struggle just to win simple practice foul shooting games. But Winland, a freshman who was in the stands a year ago for the team’s dominant state title run, she’s different.
Winland (above, in December) set up Erin Daley's game-winning bucket with two clutch foul shots. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Tuesday, in the biggest moment of their biggest game of the season, the Colonials turned to Winland and she bailed them out again. Winland hit two colossal free throws with 16.9 seconds left, setting the stage for Erin Daley to be a hero on a night that already partially belonged to her.
The senior, who scored her 1,000th point earlier in the game, converted the game-winner with 3.8 left, sending the Colonials to a wild 49-48 win over Abington and into first place in the SOL Liberty standings.
“Well, it’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Winland, who had quite the fourth quarter, said. “I’ve been taught to take it as you have to know you’re going to make them and you can’t go up to that line saying that you’re going to miss.”
“It comes to the point a lot too in practice in our game where it’s 19-19 and I’m always that last free throw, so I’ve had a lot of practice.”
Daley, who became the 12th player in program history to go over 1,000 points, had the hero play with a shot she did not rate amongst her prettiest but was quick to point to that pair of foul shots as the game’s defining moment.
“When Kenna stepped up and made those two free throws for us, it showed that we were still here,” Daley said. “We’re a team that never backs down all the way until the end. Some people on the bleachers were saying ‘it’s over’ when it was 47-43 (Abington), but we weren’t done.”
Erin Daley (above) celebrates her 1,000th point on Tuesday night. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
Tuesday night’s game was a roller coaster, the kind that someone stepping off of definitely feels a little woozy after riding but also eager to run around and get right back in line for again. Abington, who won the teams’ first meeting 55-53 back on Dec. 8, blitzed the host Colonials out of the gate only for PW to rage back — Daley’s milestone hoop coming in the middle of a 13-0 run — to take the lead to halftime.
The third quarter saw another Ghosts charge, opening up a 10-point lead at one point before PW cut it to four going into the final quarter. If the first three quarters were the first hill and drop on the roller coaster, the fourth was the double-loop into a corkscrew some madman stuck on at the end to really bring the ride home.
“Those games will always be very intense and have a lot of emotion around them,” PW senior Abby Sharpe, who led all scorers with 20, said. “Being able to come out with this win the way we did it, it was a little ugly but I was just really proud of the win.”
Playing in front of a packed house, Abington gave its all. Senior Cire Worley hit her first shot, a three, to become the first girls’ player at the school to surpass 1,500 career points and finished with 16 points while playing great defense, rebounding and passing despite being saddled with foul trouble most of the game.
Worley fouled out of the game with 1:33 left, one of a couple questionable fouls against Abington’s do-it-all leader. With the UMass-Lowell recruit on the bench for much of the fourth quarter after picking up her fourth foul at the end of the third, the Ghosts’ other players rallied to the cause.
Freshman Mikiaya Durham was excellent, scoring 11 points including a big fourth quarter 3-pointer and the free throw that gave Abington a 48-47 lead before Daley’s game-winner. Senior Abril Bowser had eight points and was a menace on defense, making PW pay for any moment of indecision while Maya Johnson also made her mark on defense and Piper McGinely chipped in on defense and with six points, including a three at another pivotal moment earlier in the fourth.
“After the game, I pulled Cire aside and said if that was the last time we played them, it was a tough way to go out. I felt bad for her,” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “She’s such a great player, I don’t want to beat that team with her on the bench. She’s a great kid, a great player and we’ve enjoyed going against her.”
While Worley was on the floor and with the rest of the Ghosts making things mostly frustrating for the hosts, the Colonials were searching for that missing piece that would help them turn things around. Winland was a player the team identified preseason as someone who might be able to help them, but she started out playing JV and getting spot minutes on varsity.
A couple injuries in late December and early January elevated her role and while Winland is still figuring it out, she could do the one thing every PW player has to do in order to get minutes: defend.
“I thought she saved us tonight, Kenna Winland just saved us,” Dougherty said. “We needed a fifth kid who could go out and defend Abington and could handle the situation and pressure and she did.
“The moment wasn’t too big for her and we’ve been searching for a fifth kid who would be the difference.”
Winland passed the credit to her teammates for helping her feel comfortable playing in a varsity game then added she doesn’t see a mistake as a reason to get down on herself but instead, an opportunity to improve. It helped that she is a willing defender and if anything, it’s her offense that she needs to be more sure of.
“I know if I’m going to step on the court, then I’m going to have to step up my game and not make mistakes,” Winland said. “It’s definitely something I think about but again, it’s just the mentality of, you just have to go for it and you can’t think twice.”
Winland had a game’s worth of twists in the fourth quarter. The kid everyone wants on the free throw line in practice when a make means it’s over and a miss means running started with two blanked foul shots with 3:25 to play and Abington feeling good after McGinley’s three put the Ghosts up 43-37.
A possession later, after an Abington turnover, the ball was again in Winland’s hands only this time it was after Sharpe passed to her just inside the arc. The freshman buried the jumper, with every point critical especially when Durham answered with her three-ball on the other end 20 seconds later.
The Colonials got new uniforms for this season, but it still feels predestined that Winland is wearing the No. 12 jersey as it was Sharpe’s number her first two years with the program before switching to No. 20. As an underclassman who sometimes struggled with her own confidence, PW’s other current 1,000-point scorer didn’t think twice about passing to Winland on that key late possession.
“She’s been really impressive lately and to be a freshman and able to play like that at this level against a team like that in an environment like this, it shows a lot of her potential and what she’s going to be,” Sharpe said. “She’s going to be a big part of the future of PW but she was really, really impressive tonight.”
Abington took a 47-41 lead with 53.6 seconds left in a final minute-plus that was fraught with turnovers and whistles. Sharpe scored the next four, the latter two coming on a putback of a Daley miss at the foul line with 38.5 left then after Abington missed the front of a one-and-one, another whistle sent Winland to the stripe with 16.9 on the clock.
“It just feels like when I know I’m stepping up to the line, that’s when I have to have confidence and I can’t get down on myself,” Winland. “I feel like that’s something everyone needs to know but not a lot of people are taught that.”
The Colonials as a team were 3-of-11 at the line as Winland took her spot, with two of those to her name.
“It doesn’t surprise me, we’re a terrible free throw shooting team, even in practice. We play a free throw shooting game, and if you just shoot 50 percent, you win and we don’t even win half of the time,” Dougherty said.
She’s also the kid everyone else wants at the line when there are sprints riding on the outcome.
“She shows no fear, she will not back down from a fight at all and it happens all the time in practice, she’s the last one up and she somehow, for some reason gets it every time where if she makes it, it’s done and we win and if she misses, we have to run and play all over again,” Daley said. “Kenna has that confidence and as she stepped up to the free throw line, she was about to make both of them.”
Winland tied the game, then in peak fashion for this game, she was called for a foul on the ensuing inbound, giving Abington a chance to shoot free throws.
“I accidentally pushed her,” Winland said. “It’s a mentality again of you have to know you’re playing a good team and not thinking even if I’m winning by two or winning by six that they can’t come back.”
PW called its last timeout with 14.4 left needing to go the length of the court and down by a point. The play was designed for Sharpe to go and attack the basket and if Abington’s defense collapsed on her, she could give up the ball to Daley or Angelina Balcer coming out of the corners.
That’s exactly how it went, Daley coming off a curl in the wake of Sharpe’s drive and calling for the ball. She put up a pretty tough shot, a runner in the lane that Dougherty even chided for being a bit lucky to catch a good bounce, but it went in with 3.8 left in the game.
“My shots weren’t going in all night so to have that lucky bounce at the end, it couldn’t have made it any better for me,” Daley said.
Given a chance to watch a video of her make, Daley did give a little fist pump and felt it didn’t look quite as bad as she feared.
“I looked up and I threw it up and I really didn’t think it was going in but I got the bounce,” Daley said. “I had the confidence to drive to the rim and I wanted it. I wanted this win tonight, we all did.
“We’re just still not there 100 percent, we still gotta pick each other up, talk more, we’re figuring it out and tonight’s win is really going to help us.”
The win puts PW a game up in the SOL Liberty standings with four left to play for both the Colonials and Ghosts, including a rematch with an Upper Dublin team that now has Amy Ngo back for each of them.
While the night may have belonged to Daley, who was just relieved to finally get her 1,000th point out of the way, it was all thanks to a freshman who wasn’t afraid to make a couple foul shots that she had that opportunity.
“I’ve never been this proud of my team and this proud of myself,” Winland said. “Hitting those two free throws, it was just something that helped boost my confidence.”
PW: 8 | 18 | 10 | 13 || 49
A: 15 | 7 | 18 | 8 || 48
PW: Abby Sharpe 20, Erin Daley 14, AJ Avery 7, Kenna Winland 4, Angelina Balcer 2, Azzy Crumpton 2
A: Cire Worley 16, Mikiaya Durham 11, Abril Bowser 8, Piper McGinley 6, Maya Johnson 4, Jordyn Reynolds 3