Plum boys bounce back with win over Hampton

Friday, January 22, 2021 | 9:18 PM

Two boys basketball teams accustomed to quicker starts met Friday night as Plum and Hampton matched single-victory records.

Plum took an early lead and had to hold off a late Hampton rally as the Mustangs defeated the Talbots on the road 46-37.

Connor Moss, one of the Alle-Kiski Valley’s leading scorers this season, led Plum with 21 points, including 4 of 4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Seth Koontz, Hampton’s lone returning starter, had 12 points to pace the Talbots.

Plum is 1-2 in Section 5A play, 2-2 overall. Hampton slipped to 1-5, 1-3.

“We came into this game struggling,” Mustangs coach Mark Marino said. “But I knew coming into Hampton, they have too much pride here and I knew that it was going to be a really, really tough battle.”

After dropping a 59-25 decision at Highlands on Tuesday, Marino was pleased not only with his three senior starters but with the production of underclassmen.

Said Marino: “Our guys responded and came out from the tip tonight with a sense of urgency. We talked after Tuesday (about) if we could get the loose balls, can we win rebounding fights, and I thought we did a real good job at that. We went deep into our bench tonight and played some freshmen and sophomores for some of their first legitimate varsity minutes.”

Hampton, which hasn’t had a losing season in 22 years, continued to battle inexperience.

“We’ve got a lot of things to figure out,” veteran Talbots coach Joe Lafko said. “When you’re not shooting well and getting beat on the boards, that’s usually two criteria that will cause an ‘L.’ ”

Plum led in rebounding 31-19, with 6-foot-5 junior Nick Killinger collecting nine.

Hampton stayed within striking distance, trailing 25-18 at the half.

But Moss made a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as Plum took its biggest lead, 36-22 with 1 minute, 41 seconds left to go in the third quarter.

Hampton, however, narrowed the gap as the Mustangs committed six turnovers in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Hampton came to within four points twice, including a 41-37 count with 49.6 seconds to go.

Plum converted its first seven free-throw attempts of the fourth quarter. Senior guard Alex Mitolo also hit three straight foul shots down the stretch.

“Give Plum credit: They closed it out by making their free throws after we made that run,” Lafko said. “We’ve got to fix some things, particularly shooting and rebounding.”

A missed shot by Koontz with 40 seconds to go was rebounded by Moss, who was fouled immediately, and the Talbots couldn’t get any closer.

“Our first five came out strong tonight,” second-year coach Marino said. “I was extremely proud of Nick Killinger tonight. The last couple of possessions, he really showed his defensive presence. We had Steve Evanchec, Seth Favero and Griff Oresic come off the bench and really helped us tonight.”

Matt Moser, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, led the Talbots in rebounding with eight.

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