North Hills girls beat Plum to end 45-year playoff win drought

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 | 10:05 PM

Every player who took the floor for North Hills on Tuesday night was playing in her first playoff game.

They were also carrying the burden of breaking a postseason victory drought that dated to 1979.

That could understandably lead to some nerves, but this group had ice water flowing through its veins.

The eighth-seeded Indians came out determined, nailed five 3-pointers in the first quarter, built a double-digit lead and cruised to a 69-40 victory over No. 9 Plum in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A girls basketball playoffs.

With the win, the Indians broke a 45-year streak without a playoff win. The last time the program won a WPIAL playoff game was a semifinal in 1979, which punched their ticket to the championship at the old Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. That is the only other season North Hills has won a playoff game.

Gianna Sturdivant, a Seton Hill recruit, was happy to be a part of the team to bring the streak to a close.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Sturdivant said. “I mean 45 years is a long time, so to be a part of that team that broke it feels good.”

North Hills (14-8) advanced to play No. 1 Oakland Catholic in the quarterfinals Friday. Plum finished 13-10.

The Indians came out on fire, opening up a 21-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Olivia Waters hit a trio of 3-pointers in the frame. Gia Minton and Delaney Amato had one each.

“Once we get into a rhythm, we use that momentum and follow each other,” Sturdivant said.

“Delaney, our freshman, started hitting 3s and our point guard Gia was banging them too and so was Olivia. When we see that happening, we all feed off the energy.”

Indians coach Tony Grenek was pleased to see the girls come through. He said he was 8 when North Hills last won a playoff game and remembered the Pirates winning the World Series and the Steelers winning the Super Bowl that year.

“That was Super Bowl XIII, so that’ll tell you how long ago that was,” Grenek said with a laugh.

He was impressed with how his girls started the night. He was expecting some jitters given it was the first playoff game, but did not see any.

“I’m so impressed with them, because I was thinking the first four minutes we’d have shots hitting off the top of the backboard and balls going out of bounds,” Grenek said. “Once you see the first hoop go through, things usually start going our way. I’m super impressed with their perseverance. We thought we would be nervous and out of sync, but it was the total opposite. That’s all on them. It had nothing to do with the coaching staff.”

North Hills put the game away with a 12-2 run to begin the second half.

Minton had a game-high 17 points. Sturdivant scored 16, Waters had 15 and Amato finished with 14.

Megan Marston led Plum with 14 and Pascale Olczak had 10. They played their final game for Plum along with fellow senior starter Rayla Smith.

“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. “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.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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