Plum girls earn playoff spot with win over Franklin Regional

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Thursday, February 8, 2018 | 10:12 PM


In a game tied at halftime with a playoff berth on the line, Plum's young players showed how much they've grown since the start of the season.

Junior Kelsi Zik scored 19 points, freshman Kennedie Montue added 17 and the Mustangs — who lost their first seven games of the season — pulled away for a 46-36 win at Franklin Regional to clinch the final spot in the WPIAL Class 5A basketball playoffs out of Section 4.

With only one senior on the roster, freshmen and sophomores filling key roles and a first-year coach in Steve Elsier, Plum (6-15, 4-8) will see its name on the bracket when postseason pairings are released Tuesday.

“It's a great thing. It's a steppingstone, and it's moving in the right direction. I've had a blast this year,” said Plum coach Steve Elsier, who previously turned a struggling Biglerville boys program into a playoff team over eight years in central Pennsylvania.

“This was similar … but we're just so young. I don't think I've ever had a team this young. We've really grown a lot, and in the Indiana game (a 36-34 win Feb. 1), we were down most of the night and came back. That shows our maturity, and then the win tonight.”

Tied 23-23 at the break, Plum stayed aggressive going to the basket and on the offensive glass, repeatedly earning trips to the foul line in the second half. For the game, the Mustangs were 20 for 31 at the line, including 16 of 25 after halftime, and Franklin Regional (8-13, 3-9) was just 7 for 15 in the game.

Franklin Regional took a 26-25 lead after Kaitlyn Carr hit a 3-pointer, but that would be the Panthers' last basket for more than eight minutes. Plum cobbled together a 10-0 run that extended until just 4 minutes, 16 seconds remained in the final quarter, and Franklin Regional never got closer than 37-32 down the stretch.

“We said at halftime, ‘The team that executes and stays calm down the stretch will win the game,' ” Elsier said. “X's and O's, the only thing we did was move Kennedie in our matchup (zone) up off the baseline. They were scissor cutting to the inside, and we wanted to take away the freelancing they had. They had too many free opportunities, and we were fortunate, they missed some shots they usually hit.”

Franklin Regional's shooting struggles in the second half were evident, as the Panthers had multiple possessions with three or more attempts, only to come away with just three points for the third quarter. Junior Jordan Yaniga led the Panthers with 12 points, but both she and senior Isabel Palamone (eight points) fouled out late in a game that had 39 fouls.

“It felt like there was cellophane over the rim. They put the effort in out there, we just couldn't get a rhythm offensively,” Franklin Regional coach Courtney Callas said. “We got stops (on defense), but we just didn't have that discipline to turn it into baskets on the other end. That's what we were really missing.”

Montue showed discipline to stay in the game after three first-half fouls, and she, Zik and sophomore Mackenzie Lake combined in the fourth to go 10 of 16 at the line, where Plum scored its final nine points.

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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