Plum limits section rival Gateway to win battle for first place

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 12:14 AM


The Plum girls basketball team got defensive Monday against rival Gateway in a battle for first place in Section 2-5A.

The Mustangs held the Gators 24 points under their season scoring average in a 41-27 victory at Gateway’s Furrie Sports Complex.

“We knew this was a huge game, and we had to come in and give 100% effort,” said senior guard Mackenzie Lake, who scored 12 points and added seven rebounds. “We had to execute our gameplan, Xs and Os. This is big momentum for us moving forward.”

Plum led by six at halftime, eight at the end of the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth for its fifth straight win to start 2020. The Mustangs have held their opponents to 30.2 points a game during this stretch.

Plum improved to 8-4 overall and moved into sole possession of first place in the section at 5-1.

Gateway (9-3, 4-2) had its five-game winning streak snapped, and it fell into a three-way tie for second place with Mars and Armstrong.

“We knew that to get anywhere in the section, we had to get by Gateway,” Lake said. “We were really looking forward to it, and it was a great team effort.”

Gateway 6-foot-4 senior forward Lexi Jackson, a Kent State recruit, got the first points of the game with a layup. She went on to score five of the Gators’ six points in the first quarter and finished with a team-best 13 to go along with seven rebounds and three blocks.

Plum, behind a pair of field goals from Lake and buckets from Kennedie Montue, Dannika Susko and Gianna Trombetta, led 10-6 after the first quarter.

The Mustangs defense made life tough for the Gators, who missed numerous shot opportunities. Plum also limited Gateway to one shot on multiple possessions.

“We put a big emphasis on player personnel and what their tendencies were, if a girl goes left a lot or if she tries to finish with her right (hand) at the basket,” Plum coach Steve Elsier said. “I thought we played their personnel well, not just running plays defensively.”

Junior forward Kennedie Montue led Plum with 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

Trombetta and Kai Johnson added six points apiece for the Mustangs, who ended a six-game losing streak to the Gators.

Dynasty Shegog finished with 10 points and six rebounds for Gateway. She scored seven points in the second quarter as Gateway stayed close.

The Gators got back-to-back layups from Marina Grado and Shegog midway through the third quarter to trim Plum’s lead to four at 23-19, but Plum answered with a layup from Montue and a jumper from Lake to push the advantage to eight at the end of the frame.

The Mustangs put the game away with a 9-2 run over a four-minute stretch in the fourth. Johnson started the run with four successful free throws on a pair of trips to the foul line.

“We got outworked, bottom line,” Gateway coach Curtis Williams said. “Plum wanted it. I think we took things for granted. We weren’t able to match their intensity, and the shots weren’t falling for us tonight. If the shots aren’t falling, you have to ramp up the intensity on the defensive end and rebound. I think we gave up five offensive rebounds in the first quarter that they converted into points. That essentially was the game.”

Plum hopes to keep its winning streak alive when it travels to Franklin Regional next Monday to begin the second half of section play.

Gateway host Franklin Regional on Thursday.

“It was important to get a win in this situation, obviously,” Elsier said. “We play every team twice, and I know Gateway will come back and play us tough at our place. That will be an important game, just as this one was. We still have another round with them and a lot of big things in between.”

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

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