Moss scores 29, Plum boys hold off West Allegheny to advance in WPIAL playoffs

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Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 3:59 PM


In what is likely to be their final home game, Plum’s Connor Moss and his fellow seniors came up big in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s WPIAL Class 5A preliminary-round playoff game.

Moss scored 11 of his 29 points in the final quarter, and Plum went 9 of 10 from the free-throw line late to pull out a 57-53 victory over West Allegheny.

With 3 minutes, 36 seconds to go, Moss drove for the hoop, collided with Anthony Rossi and made the basket. Rossi was called for a foul, Moss made the free throw and Plum took the lead for good 43-41.

With 2.5 seconds left, an Indians basket cut the Plum lead to 55-51. After a timeout, the Mustangs were called for a baseline violation on the throw-in, and West Allegheny gained possession. Junior Scott Bilovus scored the final of his 29 points a second later to make it 55-53 with 1.5 left.

A fast-break inbounds pass found Ta’ Rasi Means, and the Mustangs had a 57-53 decision at the buzzer.

No. 15 Plum (9-5) will face No. 2 New Castle at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the first round. It was the Mustangs’ first playoff win since a 53-50 overtime decision against Gateway in 2016.

“I thought we really got some big rebounds and run-outs that we either scored on or got fouled,” Plum coach Mark Marino said. “I thought that was really beneficial because West Allegheny’s zone defense was much, much tougher today than we had seen on film.”

For a few fleeting moments at the end, it looked as if No. 18 West Allegheny might pull out a thriller like the Indians did last year against McKeesport.

“It was a good game and a good atmosphere, and a great high school basketball game; I don’t think you could ask for anything more,” West Allegheny coach Andrew Tsangaris said. “They pulled out a play or two more than we did, and that’s how it usually goes in the playoffs.”

Plum never led until Means took a pass from Alex Mitolo and scored two minutes into the second half to make it 28-27. Just when it looked like the Mustangs would take control, Bilovus scored nine points in 65 seconds, the first three coming on a shooting foul outside the arc.

Said Tsangaris of Bilovus: “He’s a veteran and a three-year starter for us. This is his third playoff game; he’s not afraid of the venue, and he came out ready to go today.”

The Indians kept it close in the final quarter. A 3-pointer by Bilovus off a backcourt steal cut the Plum advantage to 45-44 with 2:37 remaining. Moss scored a big basket on a drive while being fouled. The 6-foot-1 senior was called for a technical foul for taunting but made his free throw. Bilovus responded with a pair of free throws to come within 48-46.

But Mitolo, the shortest player on the floor at 5-9, collected three big rebounds in the fourth quarter. He took a charge with 1:59 to go, and it resulted in another key field goal by Means.

“I’m really happy for our seniors the way they bought in to what we, as a staff, are trying to accomplish,” Marino said.

Moss made all five fourth-quarter free throws and was 11 of 13 on the day.

“We’ve been battling all year. It’s been a common theme to just turn it on in the second half, get the ball to the post and it worked out well,” Moss said as he was being treated for a sore ankle after the game.

He said he landed awkwardly after a rebound and left the gym on crutches.

West Allegheny finished the season with a 7-7 mark.

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