Abington storms back to take home another district crown

Abington players celebrate with the trophy after winning the District 1 Class 6A championship with a 75-73 victory over Plymouth Whitemarsh.

It was one of the most impressive and riveting turnarounds in recent district playoff history.

Abington awoke from its first-half slumber,  exploded in the third quarter against previously undefeated Plymouth Whitemarsh, and retained its PIAA District 1 Class 6A title with a thrilling 75-73 triumph at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

Trailing 38-28 early in the third quarter, the Ghosts went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. After the Colonials forged a tie, Abington mustered a 14-2 burst to enter the fourth quarter with a 54-42 lead.

Abington coach Charles Grasty’s halftime speech must have hit the mark.

“I said, ‘Hey, look, we’ve been in this situation before,’ ” Grasty said. “We went back out there, got some turnovers, and got our big fella [Eric Dixon] going. The guys started to play harder, stronger, and faster.”

Down, 60-48, with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, PW rallied down the stretch and closed the gap to 71-68 on Ish Horn’s three-pointer with 40 seconds to go.

Abington’s Robbie Heath made two free throws with six seconds left to make it 75-71 and end the Colonials’ comeback bid and quest for their first district crown since 2016 and seventh overall.

Dixon (16 third-quarter points) and Heath (11) sparked Abington with 25 points apiece. They combined for only 11 points in the first half.

“I think I wasn’t playing aggressive enough in the first half,” said Heath, a senior guard and native of Australia. “I had to step it up, and I think I did.”

Of PW’s late rally, Heath, who has been on three district championship squads, said, “I thought they were going to make a run. We made some dumb mistakes, which I’m mad about. But we gutted it out and did what we had to do to win.”

The Colonials (27-1) were ranked No. 19 in the country in USA Today’s most recent Super 25.

Heath, who was 9 for 9 from the line in the second half, and Dixon, a 6-7 junior forward and high-level Division I recruit, each grabbed four rebounds and had three assists.

Abington’s other standout, junior wing Lucas Monroe, contributed 12 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. He went 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

The Ghosts (22-5), who went 25 for 35 from the line, also received a boost off the bench from J.P. Nolan. The 6-3 senior drilled two first-quarter treys en route to 10 points.

“He made big plays when we needed it,” Grasty said. “He comes in, hits threes, makes shots. He’s a super-intelligent player.”

Horn, a lightning-quick senior guard, led the Colonials with 29 points, 10 rebounds (four on the offensive boards), three steals, and two assists.

PW’s Naheem McLeod, a 7-2 junior center, posted 20 points, nine rebounds, and two blocked shots.

“On offense, we wanted to bring the McLeod kid out and see if he could guard Eric [Dixon] on the perimeter,” Grasty said.

Abington captured its third district crown in four seasons and fifth overall. It also won in the large-school classification in 1982 and 1986.

Abington 14 11 29 21-75

Plymouth Whitemarsh 18 16 8 31-73

A: Lucas Monroe 12, Robbie Heath 25, Eric Dixon 25, Darious Brown 1, J.P. Nolan 10, Bryan Coffman 2.

PW: Ahmin Williams 15, Naheem McLeod 20, Alan Glover 4, Ish Horn 29, Danny Cooper 4, Caelin Peters 1.