New-look Plum boys basketball team taking shape

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Sunday, November 28, 2021 | 11:01 AM


When the final buzzer sounded to conclude Plum’s WPIAL Class 5A first-round loss to New Castle in March, Plum boys basketball coach Mark Marino could take stock of what his veteran team was able to accomplish during a season filled with covid-related uncertainties.

He also began to look to the future and a transition to a new-look squad after five seniors — four starters — graduated.

As a new season approaches, Marino, now in his third year at the helm of the Mustangs, is starting to see a new team take shape with veteran returnees and newcomers set to make their mark.

“A number of the guys really took advantage of work in the summer and the fall,” Marino said. “We’re really excited to see the growth in the guys this year. The one thing is when you lose five seniors, the next year, it runs the risk that you will be extremely young. But we have a pretty good group of juniors and seniors who have been figuring things out as far as competing for varsity playing time.

“We had a great group of sophomores and a freshman who was with us all summer, so they were able to get introduced to that varsity level of basketball. They are not going to be shocked by the physicality and speed of the varsity game.”

Marino said the players got in close to 30 combined games over the summer and fall.

Plum, led by Valley News Dispatch third-team all-star Connor Moss (19.4 points, 5.8 rebounds per game), as well as Ta’Rasi Means (9.7 ppg.), finished the 2020-21 season 9-6 overall and 5-5 in Section 4-5A.

While the WPIAL playoffs were an open-tournament format, the Mustangs earned a berth based on merit after finishing fourth in the section.

Plum defeated West Allegheny, 57-53, in a preliminary-round game before the loss to New Castle.

The lone starter back is 6-foot-3 senior Cam Moss, the younger brother of Connor who now plays on the men’s team at Division III Kenyon. Cam Moss averaged 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds last year.

“When we’re looking to feed him in the post and get him touches, we know he’s going to be at the top of the other team’s scouting report,” Marino said.

“We’re excited to see how he’s going to respond to that challenge. As far as leadership, he’s one of our captains, so he’s been there with his experience as someone for the younger players to look to.”

Moss said he’s excited for both his increased role on and off the court and the team’s potential.

“Coach Marino has definitely created a competitive environment, and there are a ton of new opportunities that a lot of guys want to take advantage of,” Moss said.

“Our potential is pretty untapped. We have a lot of good shooters and good big guys. If we can come together and keep getting better, I think we can surprise some people.”

Joining Moss in a captain’s role is 5-8 senior guard Rocco Schneiderlocher.

“Because of covid last year, he had to step away from the program, but he is back and ready to go for us,” Marino said.

“He is just such a good teammate and a really strong player for us. He does so many things right, both on and off the court. He’s absolutely earned that right to be a captain.”

Marino also said sophomores Brendan Getlak and Aiden Stalnaker have been making a push for possible playing time.

“They were two of the guys who really bought in when the offseason work was starting,” Marino said. “They understood what the commitment needed to look like.”

Marino said there is competition across the board for starting spots and other minutes in the rotation.

“This is probably my biggest roster since I’ve been here with 18 guys, including three freshmen,” Marino said. “Now, when we tell someone that they are going to have to compete hard in practice to earn a spot, he sees it because there are teammates who are going after the same exact goal. That has been very helpful in terms of pushing kids to reach their full potential.”

Plum will do battle again in Section 4 with Armstrong, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Mars and Shaler. The Planets made it to last year’s WPIAL semifinals before losing to Chartiers Valley.

“Shaler has a lot back, Mars has a ton of experience and Highlands is Highlands with a strong mentality and culture of winning,” Marino said. “Hampton was young last year, and we had two great battles with Armstrong. Every single night in our conference is going to be a real challenge.”

Plum players were scheduled to test their mettle Saturday with a home scrimmage against North Allegheny and Latrobe.

The Mustangs also were to host a scrimmage Monday against Perry Traditional Academy.

“The scrimmages are crucial to see where we are against competition other than ourselves,” Marino said. “We are able to see who is ready and who isn’t.”

Plum is slated to kick off its season with Southmoreland, Valley and Riverview at the Plum Tip-Off Tournament Dec. 10-11.

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

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