SOUDERTON — The Panthers couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arch in the first half.
But the magic ran dry in the final 16 minutes.
Caroline Weirich and Taliyah Malone each scored nine points and Paige Knecht added eight, but Pocono Mountain West lost 68-52 to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball tournament Friday night at Souderton High School.
The Panthers (15-11) shot an astounding 10 3-point field goals in the first half alone – three from Malone, two apiece from Weirich, Knecht and Azahni Simmons and one from Jada Bowen – for a 40-37 halftime lead.
That success couldn’t be duplicated in the second half as Weirich’s 3 a minute into the third quarter was the last West would score. In all, Plymouth Whitemarsh limited the Panthers to just 12 points in the final two quarters.
“We didn’t shoot the second half,” West coach Chrissy Campos said. “We put up probably about 5,000 shots in the first half and we had like 20 the second half. We just didn’t get into a rhythm where we could actually – we weren’t even looking really to shoot it. You’re not going to win if you don’t put the ball in the hole, and you’re not going to put the ball in the hole if you don’t shoot it.”
The Colonials (24-3) advance to the Round of 16 on Tuesday thanks in large part to junior forward Anna McTamney, who lit up the Panthers for 32 points, almost exclusively in the paint.
“I just didn’t think we played her the way we talked about playing her,” Campos said. “We didn’t see a lot of film on them, but we saw enough film to say, ’Hey, she’s going to get to the basket. We’ve got to either help, we’ve got to switch on picks, but we cannot let her get in front of us.’ And we just let her get in front of us.”
McTamney’s performance was not a surprise for Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Dan Dougherty.
“She’s just absolutely incredible,” Dougherty said. “I had a really nice conversation with a college coach about her today, and he paid her the compliment of, ’She’s a Swiss army knife.’ I said, ’You’re absolutely right.’ Whatever the team needs, that’s what she’ll do.”
Defensively, though, Dougherty blamed himself for not allowing his players to work properly during Pocono West’s first-half barrage.
“Bad coaching by me,” Dougherty said. “I get a little stubborn about the press and wanting to press, and sometimes I don’t trust our kids enough. I need to trust them more. I was a little overprotective in terms of worrying about their speed and our youth.
“So the adjustment for the second half was to stop pressing because we’re not matching up and just guard, just defend because I have to trust our kids. Our kids are good defenders.”
The Colonials have been able to use their speed as a strength most of the season but admitted before the game West’s starting guards may be the quickest they’ll see all year.
“We always try to think that we are the best team at playing fast,” Dougherty said. “Well, not tonight. That team is better at playing fast than we were.”
With the loss, Pocono Mountain West’s fantastic, emotional season is over. The roller-coaster ride peaked with a trip to the state tournament. The well-documented low came mid-January when head coach Stacy Perryman lost her battle with cancer.
“There’s no give up in this team. I watched them go through a lot of stuff this year,” Campos, Perryman’s sister, said with an emotional pause. “Now we’ll get a break from it and come back and we’ll come back. We’ll lose a lot, but we’ve got some young talent that’s coming up.”
Seniors Weirich, Malone, Knecht and AiyannaLee Owens will graduate this spring. But returning will be key players Azahni Simmons, Jada Bowen, Vatijah Darby and Tiera Hudson, all of whom scored in Friday’s contest.
PIAA Class 6A Tournament First Round
Plymouth Whitemarsh 68, PM West 52
PM West 13 27 5 7 - 52
PW 18 19 17 14 - 68
PM West 52
Weirich 3 0-0 9, Knecht 3 0-0 8, Malone 3 0-0 9, Bowen 1 2-2 5, Simmons 2 0-0 6, Darby 3 0-2 6, Hudson 2 0-0 4, Owens 2 1-4 5. Totals: 19 3-8 52.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 68
Flanagan 2 4-7 8, Sharpe 5 4-9 15, Cooper 2 0-0 4, McTamney 11 10-12 32, Thomas 2 1-3 5, Evans 2 0-0 4. Totals: 24 19-31 68.