A-K Valley girls basketball notebook: Plum closes in on return to WPIAL playoffs

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | 2:55 PM

Plum’s girls basketball team has been on a roller-coaster ride throughout the 2022-23 season as it seeks to return to the WPIAL playoffs after missing out a year ago.

After a tough 30-point loss to Section 1-5A Indiana (12-5, 8-0), the Mustangs responded by defeating Gateway, 42-29, before winning another close matchup with rival Franklin Regional.

The Mustangs, 5-3 in section play and 11-6 overall heading into Thursday’s section game at Woodland Hills (8-9, 5-2), held off the Panthers, 40-38, in the first meeting Dec. 19.

This time around, Plum had to fight from behind as it trailed by 11 at halftime and scored just eight first-half points.

Franklin Regional (5-10, 4-4) still had things in control, leading by 10 at the end of the third. But the Mustangs owned the fourth, outscoring the Panthers, 17-4, for a 38-35 victory.

Megan Marston, one of the Alle-Kiski Valley’s leading scorers this year at 18.3 ppg, tallied nine of her game-best 23 points in the fourth quarter. She hit four 3-pointers.

As a team, Plum helped themselves by going 12 of 16 from the line.

Neighborly meeting

Highlands made one of the shortest road trips — across the road to be exact — of any high school basketball team this season when it visited neighboring St. Joseph as both teams stepped away from section games Tuesday evening.

After a pair of tough losses to North Catholic and Knoch which featured third-quarter struggles, the Golden Rams got back in the win column and improved to 10-6 overall with a 57-48 victory over a Spartans (12-3) team having its own solid campaign.

Jocelyn Bielak led a trio of Highlands scorers in doubles figures with 15. Kate Myers tallied 13, and Kalleigh Nerone recorded 11 points. The Golden Rams scored 40 points in the first half and led by 17 at the break.

Julie Spinelli led St. Joseph and all scorers with 23 points, and she also produced six steals. Emma Swierczewski added 11 points.

Highlands remains away from section competition as it takes on Upper St. Clair on Saturday at Bethel Park. The Golden Rams host Freeport on Monday.

St. Joseph, which saw a 10-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday’s loss, hopes to maintain its control of Section 3-A as it plays at Hillel Academy on Thursday.

Freeport still has hope

Despite a 59-40 loss to North Catholic on Monday, Freeport still is within range of a playoff spot in Section 1-4A with four games left.

The Yellowjackets, at 3-5 and in fifth place behind Greensburg Salem (4-3), don’t have the easiest immediate path as they host Knoch (5-2) on Thursday and visit Highlands (5-3) on Monday.

A home matchup with Derry (2-6) precedes the section and regular-season finale Feb. 9 at Greensburg Salem.

Melaina DeZort scored 29 points in a 53-37 section victory over Valley last week and added a team-best 20 against North Catholic. She stands at 958 career points with at least the four section games remaining as she hopes to help her team reach its seventh straight playoff appearance while also shooting for 1,000 career points.

Burrell, Deer Lakes prepare for stretch run

While Freeport holds on to playoff contention in Class 4A, Burrell and Deer Lakes hope to do the same in Section 3-3A.

The Bucs and Lancers are 2-3 in the section, tied for third place with Mt. Pleasant behind Shady Side Academy (5-0) and Apollo-Ridge (4-1).

The top four teams from the section and ties make the playoffs.

A resolution to the three-way tie will begin Thursday as Mt. Pleasant visits Burrell in a rematch of a Vikings 15-point win on Jan. 2.

Deer Lakes hosts Mt. Pleasant on Monday, and the Lancers hope to repeat a 44-38 win from Jan. 5.

Deer Lakes visits Burrell to close out the section schedule Feb. 9. The teams met Jan. 16 with the Bucs prevailing 49-19.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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