Back in 1998, Matt Carroll and the Hatboro-Horsham Hatters battled John Salmons and the Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials in the PIAA Class AAAA District 1 championship game. The Colonials won their fifth district title by defeating Hatboro-Horsham, 73-58. Both Carroll and Salmons went on to the National Basketball Association- Carroll played from 2003-2012 while Salmons has been active since 2002 but hasn’t appeared on the court since 2015 with New Orleans.
Since then, PW’s district championship banner in Colonial Elementary School Gymnasium still had those five years without any new ones. For a program known for carrying a tradition of excellence, PW couldn’t get over the hump, even with the talent Jim Donofrio had coached that span.
The 2005-06 Colonials finished the regular season unbeaten. As the district’s top seed, PW earned victories in the first three rounds before falling to Lower Merion in the semifinals. After the first blemish, the Colonials dropped the district third place game to Cheltenham, defeated Pocono Mountain East in the opening round of the state playoffs, then bowed out of states against Harrisburg.
At least the Colonials reached the district final in 2007. However, PW lost to Chester, 70-62. The Clippers were champions for the sixth season in a row.
In 2010, Donofrio guided PW to a national ranking at 30-2 (20th in the final USA Today Top 25 Poll) and its third state championship (the others were 1963 and 1997). The team included C.J. Aiken (Saint Joseph’s), Jaylen Bond (Texas and Temple), Sam Pygatt (Shippensburg), and Whis Grant (East Stroudsburg). It’s hard to believe the Colonials had been the district’s top seed and lost to two seed Penn Wood in the final, 54-49, in overtime; however, the Colonials defeated the Patriots, 58-51, three weeks later in the state title contest.
It looked like PW would earn district gold in 2015, even with Mike Lotito out for the postseason (the Colonials advanced into the state quarterfinals and finished 26-4). Donofrio fielded a team with the likes of Andre Mitchell, Jimmy Murray, and Xzavier Malone. The Colonials reached the district final as the four seed, but six seed Abington walloped PW, 53-35.
Finally, the Colonials would take care of unfinished business in the 2016 District 1 AAAA championship. As the district’s two seed, PW defeated nine Chester, 68-57, at Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Feb. 26 for the Colonials’ sixth district crown. The Clippers were outscored by 15 points (24-9) in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over 30 times.
Malone and Lotito, along with Oakley Spencer, Kevin Ashenfelter, Ahmin Williams, Ahmad Williams, Naheem McLeod, Davon Burrell, Matt Walker, and Cheo Houston among others were part of the Colonials to beat out the other 31 teams in this season’s district tournament. Spencer grabbed 11 rebounds and chipped-in 11 points while Malone deposited 29 points, including three dunks, in the triumph against the Clippers.
PW secured its third straight Suburban One League American Conference crown with a 13-1 conference record; the Colonials were unbeaten at CES for the second consecutive season. The conference blemish was on the road against Upper Merion, 57-43, on Jan. 19. Central Bucks West handed the Colonials a 53-46 overtime loss in the SOL tournament semifinals on Feb. 6 at Council Rock North (the Bucks defeated Abington to capture the league championship).
Moreover, the Colonials defeated conference foe Cheltenham by two points twice and rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to nip Pennridge (50-48 on Jan. 16). PW even had Friends Central and Pope John Sparta (N.J.) on the docket, squads with players heading to NCAA Division 1 power conference programs, and beat both. Oh yeah, the Colonials were also scheduled to visit eventual District 3 AAAA champion Reading in Jan., but the game was canceled due to inclement weather.
With Coatesville as the district’s top seed, the Colonials didn’t have an easy path to five wins (Coatesville lost to 17 Central Bucks East in the second round and was eliminated by 25 Hatboro-Horsham in a playback game). PW defeated 31 Radnor in the first round (49-36), 18 Academy Park in the second round (60-56; the Knights missed 13 of 20 free throws), seven Central Bucks West in the quarterfinals (43-41; Spencer posted a game-winning two with less than a second remaining), and 11 Lower Merion in the semifinals (53-42). Chester had been winners of its last 12 games and won its other four district contests by an average of 19 points.
Now, the 25-2 Colonials are five wins away from their fourth state championship (the final is March 19 in Hershey). The quest continues with a PIAA Class AAAA first-round state tournament contest against Lebanon, District 3’s eighth-place squad, on March 5. If the Colonials win it all, they’d be the second team in program history to win districts and states in one season (the only time was 1963).