Plum girls basketball has chance to add to school’s growing trophy collection
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 | 7:13 PM
Last spring, the Plum softball team claimed a section championship, sharing the Section 2-5A title with Hampton.
In the fall, the Mustangs girls soccer team split Section 3-3A gold with Oakland Catholic before finishing as the WPIAL 5A runner-up and qualifying for the state playoffs.
The Plum girls basketball team has the chance Friday to add to the recent section-title haul as it plays host to Section 2-5A rival Gateway.
The winner claims the outright championship. For the Mustangs, it would be the first section crown in program history.
“It’s crazy to come off a historic season in soccer and possibly have the same thing happen in basketball,” said junior guard Jamie Seneca, who scored Plum’s lone goal in the soccer team’s state-playoff heartbreaker against Manheim Central.
“This is something we’ve been working hard for since even before the start of the season. It is our senior night, and there will be a lot of people here. It should be an amazing atmosphere. We will be prepared.”
The Gators and Mustangs, tied at the top of the section standings at 9-2, will tip off at 6 p.m. It is the first game of a Mustangs senior-night doubleheader. The Plum boys host Shaler at 7:30 p.m.
Part of what has the Mustangs in position for a section title is their 41-27 victory over the Gators on Jan. 13. Plum held Gateway more than 20 points under its season average at the time and snapped a six-game losing streak in the series.
Junior Kennedie Montue led the Mustangs with 14 points, while senior Mackenzie Lake added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Gateway senior Lexi Jackson, a 6-foot-3 Kent State commit, had a team-best 13 points in the first meeting. She surpassed 1,000 points for her varsity career in a win over Mars on Jan. 20.
Four days earlier, Montue, who leads Plum in scoring at 20.1 points a game, scored her 1,000th point in a victory at Franklin Regional.
“We were able to shut (Gateway) down the first time. We know it will be a big challenge to do it again, but we’ll be ready,” said freshman Dannika Susko, also a member of Plum’s soccer team in the fall.
“We have to make sure their big girls don’t get the ball inside, and we have to be quick on our feet and get out on their shooters. We also have to value every possession and make our points count.”
Plum’s win over Gateway was in the midst of an eight-game overall winning streak and six section victories in a row.
The Mustangs defeated Mars, 47-43, on Jan. 24, avenging a 22-point loss to the Planets in December. But four days later, Plum saw its win streak dashed, 41-29, at the hands of playoff-bound Armstrong (12-8, 7-5).
“We were very upset about the Armstrong game, but looking back at it, it was kind of a wake-up call for us,” Seneca said. “It showed us what we needed to get done. We know we can’t take anything lightly.”
Plum bounced back with wins over Hampton, 48-36, last Thursday and Kiski Area, 51-31, on Tuesday.
“The girls realize you have to come ready to play every night, no matter who you are playing,” Plum coach Steve Elsier said. “Against Hampton, we limited their shooters and played better help defense. We really valued the basketball and were able to make adjustments. I told the girls that in the playoffs, the importance of a lot of those things are magnified.”
Elsier said his girls did a good job of focusing their attention on taking care of business against Kiski and not looking ahead to Gateway. Montue scored a game-best 26 points, and Plum used a 30-8 run over the second and third quarters to pull away.
Gateway has won five of six since the loss to Plum. The only defeat came by three points to City League champion Allderdice on Jan. 28. In wins over Armstrong and Hampton, the Gators held the River Hawks and Talbots to 16 and 19 points, respectively.
“The loss (to Plum) was kind of a turning points for the girls,” Gateway coach Curtis Williams said. “It showed them just how hard they have to play. The girls have been learning more and more about what it takes to compete at the level to get wins. We started the season a little inexperienced at certain key positions, but the seeds we’ve sowed, we’re seeing those benefits now.”
Gateway owns the top scoring defense in Section 2 at 36.1 a game, while Plum is second to Mars in scoring offense at 48.4 points a contest.
“The girls are excited to have earned this opportunity to play for a section championship,” Elsier said.
“We have to go out, play the way we know we can and take care of business.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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