Penn Hills girls pull away from Plum late to advance in Class 5A playoffs

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 8:33 PM

The Penn Hills and Plum girls basketball teams, longstanding section rivals in the old Class AAAA, hadn’t played in more than four years until the WPIAL brought them together Tuesday for a Class 5A first-round game at Fox Chapel.

Numerous games in the series between the Mustangs and Indians were close and competitive, and the latest matchup fit that mold.

Penn Hills, the No. 8 seed, broke open a tie score at the end of the third quarter with a 12-2 run over the first five minutes of the fourth and went on to a 43-35 victory.

“We decided to show up in the fourth quarter,” said Penn Hills coach Robert Cash, who saw his team improved to 12-11 overall. “We didn’t play well at all in the first three quarters, and with eight minutes left, it was go home or find a way to win.

“They just pushed through at the end and decided it was time to go, and they found that way to win.”

The Indians move into the quarterfinals and will take on No. 1 Chartiers Valley (22-0) on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“We’re used to being here. We’ve been the quarterfinals seven of the last eight years, or something like that,” Cash said. “It will be a tough matchup against the No. 1 team in the state. We just want to go out there, give it what we’ve got and leave it all there.”

Ninth-seeded Plum, in the playoffs for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons, sought to end a nine-game postseason losing streak and break through with a win in a WPIAL tournament for the first time since 2002.

“I told the girls that we’re at the peak of being a great program,” Mustangs coach Steve Elsier said. “We fell short of the section title and winning a playoff game, but we’re right there. We just have to correct some of the little things that can add up in games. That’s what happened (Tuesday). We just have to find a way to get over the hump.”

Plum (14-7) led 25-21 with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third quarter, but Jayla and Jasmyn Golden converted layups to send the game to the fourth tied at 25-25.

Jasmyn Golden scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, and Penn Hills led 39-29 with 2:39 left.

Plum, which committed 22 turnovers, tried to make a comeback as Kennedie Montue, who led all scorers with 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds, hit a layup and a free throw and then made a 3-pointer to bring the Mustangs to within 39-35 with 1:37 on the clock.

But Penn Hills hit 4 of 6 from the line over the final 1:26 and kept Plum off the board to set the final.

Amoni Blackwell, who came in averaging 16 points for the Indians, led her team with 15 points. Twelve of the 15 came in the first half.

Niya Moore added eight points for the winners, and Jayla Golden finished with seven.

Penn Hills opened a 10-4 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter, but Plum, despite seven turnovers in the opening quarter, kept it close and cut the Indians’ advantage to 12-10 at the end of one.

Neither team built more than a two-point lead throughout the second quarter.

A Montue 3-pointer with 55 seconds left before the break gave Plum its first lead of the game. She added a free throw 30 seconds later, and the Mustangs took a 21-19 lead into the break.

Mackenzie Lake scored seven of her nine points in the first quarter.

“The effort definitely was there from the girls tonight,” Elsier said. “They hustled, got a lot of loose balls and were diving all over the place. I thought we rebounded well against a good rebounding team. It just came down to executing some of the little things better.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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

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