Alle-Kiski Valley girls basketball notebook: Plum faces old foe Penn Hills

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | 6:47 PM


The last time the Plum and Penn Hills girls basketball teams met was Jan. 29, 2016, when the Indians stymied the Mustangs, 45-23, in Section 2-AAAA.

For Plum, it was the most recent season it missed the WPIAL playoffs. Penn Hills went undefeated that season to win the section title before making the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.

The squads went their separate ways, Plum to Class 5A and Penn Hills to Class 6A. The Indians returned to Class 5A last year, but the teams weren’t in the same section. No nonsection games were scheduled the past three seasons.

But Plum, the Section 2 runner-up to Gateway, and Penn Hills, the third-place team from Section 3, will renew their neighboring rivalry at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Fox Chapel in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

“A second goal coming into the season, after winning the section title, was to win some playoff games,” Plum coach Steve Elsier said. “We told the girls that to just make the playoffs was not good enough. Now, we want to make some noise.”

The Mustangs (14-6) are hoping to win their first playoff game since 2002 and end a nine-game postseason losing streak.

The Indians, winners of four straight, are 11-11. They went 2-2 in playoff games last season and qualified for states.

The winner of Tuesday’s matchup will have a stiff challenge in the quarterfinals against No. 1 Chartiers Valley. The Colts, at 22-0, are one of three WPIAL teams – Southmoreland and West Greene the others – to finish the regular season undefeated.

Leading the pack

Of the seven Alle-Kiski Valley girls teams to make the WPIAL playoffs, Riverview, the fourth-place team from Section 2-2A, has the earliest first-round contest.

The Raiders (14-8) own the No. 10 seed in the Class 2A tournament and open at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Northgate against Section 3 runner-up Burgettstown (16-6).

Riverview made its first WPIAL playoff appearance in 1976, and its 29th postseason trip this season is an A-K Valley record. It’s one more than Apollo-Ridge’s 28 trips from 1978 through last year.

Ford City made the WPIAL playoffs 25 times from 1982 until its final season in 2015 before merging with Kittanning to form Armstrong.

Deer Lakes is in the playoffs for the 23rd time, its first coming in 1972. Freeport makes its 22nd trip since first appearing in 1984 and ties Burrell, which first went in 1978 and most recently played in the postseason in 2017.

Charging to the playoffs

As the WPIAL tournaments get started this weekend, Cheswick Christian Academy wraps up Southwest Christian Athletic Conference divisional play with the start of the league tournament Monday.

The Chargers are 15-5 overall and 6-1 in the Greater Pittsburgh Division with the division finale against Harvest Baptist set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Penn State New Kensington. They are tied with Cornerstone Prep for the division lead.

Cheswick fell to Portersville Christian on Tuesday, snapping an eight-game winning streak that started after a loss to the WPIAL’s Aquinas Academy on Jan. 15.

The SWCAC quarterfinals are Monday at Neighborhood Academy with the semifinals next Wednesday at Cornerstone. The championship game is Feb. 22 at Geneva College.

Junior Daisy Hamilton and sophomore Olivia Rochkind lead Cheswick in scoring at 10 points a game.

Getting a shot

St. Joseph took its lumps more often than not through a 3-19 regular season, but it did what was required to make the playoffs in Section 3-1A.

The Spartans finished tied for fourth with Propel Andrew Street at 3-7. Coach Dennis Jones said his youthful team will benefit from the postseason.

St. Joseph, the No. 11 seed, will face No. 6 Sewickley Academy (12-10) in the first round Tuesday at Northgate. The winner faces No. 3 Vincentian (17-5) in the quarterfinals Feb. 21.

“This season has been a maturation process for all of the young kids we have,” Jones said. “We’re still rebuilding the team. With losing that many games, I give the girls credit that they kept coming back, wanting to practice and wanting to play games where they were, in most cases, the decided underdog. The girls never quit. There were some games where the score got away from them, but in many of the games, they were competitive. I saw a lot of improvement over the course of the season.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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