STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn Wood, coming in with 24 straight victories and oozing confidence, was looking to prove that it was indeed the best Class AAAA basketball team in Pennsylvania. Plymouth Whitemarsh was aiming for a mind-changing, final-statement victory.
The latter happened last night at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, as the Colonials, behind an inspired performance on both ends from C.J. Aiken, pinned a 58-51 defeat on the favored Patriots in a rematch of the District 1 final and earned their first PIAA championship since 1997.
Aiken, a 6-foot-10 senior center bound for St. Joseph’s, racked up 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocked blocks shots as Plymouth Whitemarsh, ranked No. 3 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, avenged a 54-49 overtime loss to No. 2 Penn Wood in the district championship game.
Of Aiken’s many highlight moments, arguably his best came in the fourth quarter, with the surging Colonials ahead by 50-42. He rejected a dunk attempt by Penn Wood 6-5 junior standout Aaron Brown.
A little over a minute later, Aiken’s alley-oop slam off a Marcus Badger pass made it 53-44. That all but sent the defending state champions packing.
Senior guard Whis Grant also played a key role, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 defensive rebounds.
Plymouth Whitemarsh claimed the program’s third state crown. It topped District 7’s Franklin Regional in 1997, and knocked off Norwin, also from District 7, in 1963. The first title was at the Class AAA level.
Aiken’s follow slam of a Grant miss brought the red-shirted Plymouth Whitemarsh faithful to its feet and evened things at 34-34 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds left in the third quarter. At the 1:04 mark, his follow gave the Suburban One League American Conference champs a 36-34 advantage, their first of the game.
For Penn Wood, which held a 30-26 advantage at intermission, Aaron Brown and senior point guard Tyree Johnson each netted 15 points. Senior wing guard Will Brown had 11.
In the second quarter, Aaron Brown upped the Patriots’ advantage to 25-18 on a three-point play and a pair of free throws. After Aiken was whistled for an offensive foul while driving to the hoop, sixth man Dequan Pelzer, with the squad’s fifth first-half bomb, made it 28-18 with 2:50 left before intermission.
The Colonials (30-2) closed the first half with an 8-2 spurt. Julian Bond and Badger both went 2 for 2 at the line, Grant drove for a layup, and Badger hit a right-wing jumper.
Receiving a pair of treys from Johnson and five points from Will Brown, including a shot from beyond the arc, the Patriots led, 15-9, at the end of the first quarter. The Colonials’ first two buckets came on slams by Aiken.
After the game, Plymouth Whitemarsh 6-foot-7 junior Jaylen Bond (five points) said Connecticut of the Big East called last week, adding the Huskies to a list of schools with interest in the forward that includes West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Temple, St. Joseph's, LaSalle, Seton Hall and Florida State.
Plymouth Whitemarsh 9 17 10 22 - 58
Penn Wood 15 15 6 15 - 51
PWhite: Whis Grant 17, Brandon Dixon 4, C.J. Aiken 19, Jaylen Bond 5, Sam Pygatt 6, Marcus Badger 5, Julian Bond 2.
PWood: Tyree Johnson 15, Will Brown 14, Shawn Oakman 4, Aaron Brown 15, Dequan Pelzer 3.