After WPIAL playoff exit, Plum says goodbye to senior quartet

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


In 2021, the Plum girls basketball team defeated Lincoln Park to snap a two-­decade-long win drought in the WPIAL playoffs.

Last year, the Mustangs topped Montour in the WPIAL first round before bowing out to No. 2 Oakland Catholic, the eventual WPIAL runner-up, in the quarterfinals.

Plum hoped to make it three first-round wins in four years as they faced North Hills in a matchup of the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in the Class 5A bracket.

The Indians, hoping to get rid of a 44-year victory drought in the WPIAL playoffs, however, had something to say about Plum’s winning chances.

The No. 8-seed Indians came out strong against the No. 9 Mustangs on Feb. 20 at North Hills Middle School and hit five 3-point field goals in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead.

Plum tried to rally, but, in the end, it didn’t have enough to come back as North Hills finished off a 69-40 victory in the Class 5A first-round matchup.

North Hills (14-8) advanced to play No. 1 Oakland Catholic in the quarterfinals.

Suddenly, the Mustangs’ season was over, as were the varsity careers of seniors Megan Marston, Pascale Olczak, Rayla Smith and Aiyana Adams.

Marston, Olczak and Smith started the game for the Mustangs.

Marston had 14 points to lead Plum against North Hills, while Olczak added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“I can’t say enough about the seniors, particularly Pascale, Megan and Rayla (Smith) and the time they put in,” Plum coach Rich Mull said after the game. “It’s been enjoyable coaching them. They’re all great kids and great students. They are all going to do well in life. They’ll be very successful.”

The four seniors were celebrated before a section victory over Kiski Area on Feb. 5.

All four will continue their athletic pursuits at the college level.

Marston, who reached the 1,000-point milestone against Woodland Hills on Jan. 2 and averaged more than 17 points per game this season, has signed to play for the women’s basketball team at Division III Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

Olczak will continue in basketball at Division III Allegheny.

Smith, also a standout lacrosse player and Plum’s leading scorer the past several seasons, will join the women’s lacrosse team at Washington & Jefferson.

Adams, a versatile track and field athlete, will ply her trade on the women’s team at Division II Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del.

The seniors helped lead Plum to the playoffs for the second year in a row after a one-year hiatus in 2021-22.

The Mustangs had hoped for better fortunes in the postseason after losing four of five to end the regular season.

Plum, which finished 13-10 overall, was near the top of Section 1 all season and kept pace with Indiana until the end of section play.

Indiana won the first meeting between the teams at Plum when both were 5-0 in the section.

Penn Hills had a say in how the section title chase would play out as it defeated both Indiana and Plum in back-to-back games.

The Mustangs were still alive for at least a share of the program’s first section title when they headed to Indiana on Feb. 8.

But the host Indians weren’t in the mood to share anything and handed Plum a 49-34 defeat.

It was an uncharacteristic offensive output for the Mustangs, who averaged 52 points a game for the season.

Plum sophomore sharpshooter and defender Riley Stephans suffered an ankle injury against Kiski Area on Feb. 5 and battled back from that over the final two weeks.

She came off the bench against North Hills.

Stephans will help form the core of next year’s Plum team with junior guard/forward Serena Carnahan and freshman guard Tamia West.

Jerin Steele contributed.

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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