Plum girls pull away from Lincoln Park, earn program’s 2nd playoff win

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Monday, March 1, 2021 | 8:41 PM


For just the second time in program history, the Plum girls basketball team owns a WPIAL playoff victory.

Behind a game-high 19 points from senior Kennedie Montue, the Mustangs pulled away from Lincoln Park for a 44-31 WPIAL Class 5A preliminary-round victory Monday at Plum.

“We knew Lincoln Park was a scrappy team who plays hard for 32 minutes,” Plum coach Steve Elsier said “But to get this win, it is such a huge thing for our program.”

The Mustangs’ previous postseason victory came in 2002 with a last-second, 50-49 win over Ambridge in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA tournament. Plum lost to Hempfield in quarterfinals, and the 19-year playoff drought began.

Plum now turns its attention to the first round and a matchup with defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Chartiers Valley (19-3). The contest with the second-seeded Colts is at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“We have to get much sharper and much quicker with what we’re doing against Chartiers Valley,” Elsier said. “The girls revel in the challenge of going into an environment like that against a team that is very good and had broken the state record for most (consecutive) wins. It’s a great opportunity for us. That’s all we can ask for.”

Lincoln Park, playing in its first WPIAL playoff game in the program’s sixth year, concluded its season at 15-8.

“When we took over three years ago, I told the three seniors and some of the other girls that this is a process, and it still is a process,” Leopards coach Ryan Kacsur said.

“We are against the odds playing 5A basketball. It’s not easy, and it often becomes a numbers game for us. But it’s gotten better every year, from seven to 13 and now 15 wins this year. I told them in the locker room after the game that I couldn’t be any prouder of them. This team set the bar high for this program and for teams that come after it.”

Ahead by five at the break, Plum stretched the advantage to nine twice in the third quarter.

But Lincoln Park responded with a 9-2 run, and senior Paige Brown’s 3-pointer at the buzzer trimmed the Leopards’ deficit to 28-26. Brown ended up with eight points.

Sophomore Mikayla Newsome, who led Lincoln Park with 13 points, then converted a pair of free throws with 6 minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation to cut Plum’s lead to 30-28.

But it was all Mustangs the rest of the way.

Montue, who left the game for three minutes in the third quarter after receiving a bloody nose in a collision under the basket, started a 12-0 run for Plum with a layup at the 6:40 mark.

Freshman Megan Marston and senior Jamie Seneca made layups, and Montue sank four straight free throws, and Plum was up 40-28 with 2:53 left.

“I just think we realized just what we had to do at that point, and we made the play we needed,” said Seneca, who scored eight points. “We came out a little slow, but we got the lead and had the confidence to hold them off when they tried to come back. It was a great team effort.”

Sophomore Dannika Susko and junior Kai Johnson finished with seven and six points, respectively, for the Mustangs.

“We just wanted to get the ball inside with our flashers and cutters,” Elsier said of the late-game run. “We worked on that all week. They went to a 1-2-2 (defense), and we were confident we could get buckets on the inside. That’s what we were able to do. The girls were able to make adjustments throughout the game.”

Plum overcame some first-half scoring issues and earned extra opportunities by forcing 12 Lincoln Park turnovers by halftime. The Leopards committed 23 turnovers overall.

The Mustangs fell behind 5-0 early but rebounded to lead 9-7 after one.

“We called a timeout and told the girls we had to get moving,” Elsier said. “This is the playoffs. We couldn’t afford to fall behind too much more in our own place. But we were able get that first bucket and were soon back in it.”

With the help of six points from Sarah Scott, Lincoln Park took a 15-13 lead with 2:59 left in the second quarter. Scott, a freshman, finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

But Plum responded with a 9-2 run to close out the half.

Montue drained a 3-pointer with nine seconds on the clock to give the Mustangs their largest lead of the first half at 22-17.

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

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