Plum basketball teams enjoy playoff success before bowing out
Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 10:01 AM
For the Plum girls basketball team, joy at winning the program’s first playoff game since 2002 on March 1 turned to disappointment the next day as covid issues forced the Mustangs to bow out of the WPIAL Class 5A tournament ahead of a first-round matchup against No. 2 Chartiers Valley.
“It’s tough to end the season this way, but we accomplished a lot being able to play 14 games and getting that first playoff win in almost two decades,” Plum coach Steve Elsier said
“At the first practice, I told the girls that our biggest opponent has nothing to do with basketball. At least we were able to play the season, and there are a lot of good things to focus on from that.”
Plum capped its season at 7-8. The forfeit counts toward the final overall mark. The Mustangs closed out the season at home with a 44-31 victory over Lincoln Park to snap a long playoff skid. The win also was only the second playoff triumph in the history of the program.
“We were better as the season went on, a very important thing in any season. We played very competitively in a competitive section,” Elsier said.
Plum, led by the efforts of senior starters Kennedie Montue and Jamie Seneca, went 6-6 in Section 2 where several games went down to the wire. The Mustangs were 2-2 in section games decided by three points or less.
Montue finished the season averaging 23.3 points a game. She capped her career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,473 points.
“It’s a huge thing to have a player like Kennedie come through our program,” Elsier said. “Her performances, her ability and what she did for the program are things for younger girls coming through to aspire to in terms of putting in the work, getting better and becoming a great player.”
Elsier said he appreciated the strong play of Seneca, who, along with Montue, was a four-year starter.
“Jamie was so consistent for us for those four years,” Elsier said. “She’s another girl that others were able to look up to as far as effort on the court.”
Elsier said there is optimism for a full offseason of workouts to help the returning players, including junior Kai Johnson, sophomores Dannika Susko and Cam Rogers, and freshmen Megan Marston and Rayla Smith, meld with a crop of young talent hoping to crack that varsity lineup next season.
“We want to keep building to where we don’t just get into the playoffs and it’s one-and-done,” Elsier said. “We are working to change that culture of expectations and compete for the section title every year and make strong runs in the playoffs. It is a great group of girls coming back with younger players coming up that could make a difference, too.”
Red Hurricanes storm Plum’s playoff run
Plum boys basketball coach Mark Marino knew his team faced a tall task going up against No. 2 New Castle on March 3 in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.
The task was made more challenging as leading scorer, senior Connor Moss, missed the game with an ankle injury suffered late in the Feb. 27 preliminary round win over West Allegheny.
The Red Hurricanes flexed their muscles from 3-point range and on defense in a 68-38 victory.
“Going into the game, we were going to have to contest their 3-point attempts and hope they would be off a little bit,” Marino said. “But they had seven in the first half and 10 total.
“We also felt we would have to handle their press and minimize turnovers, but we weren’t able to do that consistently, either. All that, plus not having Connor; we needed to have several things break our way, but they didn’t.
“But all the credit in the world goes to New Castle. That is a really good team. I told the guys, that the deeper you go into the playoffs, teams take advantage of mistakes a little more consistently than what might have already been seen.”
Senior Tarasi Means and junior Cameron Moss led Plum with 12 and 10 points, respectively, against New Castle. Marino said the game with the Red Hurricanes doesn’t take away from what the team accomplished this season, including a five-game winning streak capped with the 57-53 playoff triumph over the Indians.
The Mustangs won their final four games in section and closed the regular season with a win over Burrell. A close 53-50 loss to Highlands at home before the streak started, Marino said, jumpstarted the team, including Moss, Means and fellow seniors Will Brewer, Alex Mitolo and Max Matolcsy.
“Highlands was up 11 to 14 (points) with about three and a half to four minutes to go. We had a couple of our starters foul out, but we were still able to push to where we had a look from 3 when time expired,” Marino said.
“To play like that against a team who ended up winning the section gave the guys confidence going forward. I was really happy with the way the kids finished the year.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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