WHITE MARSH >> Trotting backwards down the field, Kaitlyn Flanagan looked to her right, pointed to Abby Sharpe and gave her teammate a thumbs up.
Flanagan had just given his eighth assist of the night to give Lainey Allen an easy peek inside, but that was only because Sharpe gave up the chance to shoot and returned the ball to Flanagan for a better look. It was a theme all evening for Plymouth Whitemarsh, with the Colonials racking up 21 assists from their 29 field goals as they took the floor for the first time since winning a District 1 championship.
PW’s unparalleled selflessness helped make short work of visiting Manheim Township as the Colonials won their first PIAA 6A women’s basketball tournament 63-32 on Tuesday night.
“It’s interesting because we never got to talk about it,” Flanagan said. “From the beginning, it’s always those who play well who are encouraged because they play well. There hasn’t been a single case in four years where someone has had a problem with that, it’s great as teammates to have that support from each other.
The Blue Streaks, the sixth seed in District 3, played tough and with good energy but were clearly undermatched in size, experience and of course the sharing ability of the Colonials. PW scored first, with Jordyn Thomas assisting Lainey Allen on a post-post score and while Manheim Township would briefly level the game, the Colonials rolled from there, taking a 22-4 lead after one with assists on eight of their 10 marks. .
Flanagan led with eight assists, with the Holy Cross rookie only having one shot in the game while five other PW players recorded at least one assist.
That selflessness has been a hallmark of the Colonials all season and a testament to the selfless nature of their top seven players. Instead of demanding shots or chase points, the base rotation has agreed to play its specific role on any given night and when they find a teammate who is having a good game or doing well, that’s when they try to get the ball.
“Everyone is really happy for each other when they play well, that’s how it is,” Flanagan said. “It’s never something we had to try to do.”
A further change to the format of the PIAA playoffs this year is that the first round is played in the middle of the week instead of the weekend, which allowed the top-ranked teams to host. This presented PW with the opportunity to secure 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 full house.
PW officials estimated the school had sold around 700 presale tickets and there was an excellent crowd to witness the final home appearance of Flanagan, Allen, Thomas and Fiona Gooneratne, who recorded their 94th win since entering the program. Coming into freshman year, the foursome had a high standard to maintain in the program and they only added to that with their three league titles and the district title over the weekend.
“We really worked to include everyone in everything we do,” said Gooneratne, who had two assists from the bench. “I think I can speak for everyone when we say we have complete confidence in continuing what we did and pursued years before we came here. But we are not done yet and we We’re going to cherish every moment we have left this season and make it last as long as possible.
Allen was at both ends, having seven of her eight baskets assisted, but also dishing out two assists to her. The eldest didn’t miss a shot from the floor, but once Abby Sharpe got going in the second quarter, she looked to set up screens to help her teammate continue to find open looks.
Sure, Colonials work on their offense and movement to develop an idea of what will work in a game, but they also have an innate connection that makes throwing that pass or extra pass to set up a pass feel second nature. .
“I think it’s a mix of both,” Allen said. “Off the pitch we have this bond where it’s become something we can bring onto the pitch. We’ve been together for so long, we’ve instilled each other in training and we’re arrived at the same thought “this is what we are going to do together”, it became 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 way in defense with six blocks and two interceptions.
PW will face District 11 runners-up Northampton, a 56-43 winner over Garnet Valley, in Friday’s second round at a venue and time to be determined.
On Tuesday, the PW community had the chance to give the four seniors a final start on their home turf. The seniors are hoping their support network is ready to take a few trips over the next few weeks as they work to maintain a special season.
“It’s soothing to see all the support and trust people have in us to put on a good show and make them proud,” Thomas said. “If we keep playing together, we think we’ll show them a good game.”
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 62, MANHEIM TOWNSHIP 32
PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH 22 24 13 4 – 63
CANTON OF MANHEIM 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.
Township of Manheim: 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 points: PW – Sharpe 3, Daley, Flanagan; MT-Byrne 3, Santiago 2, Welch.