Plum starts second half of section play with win over Armstrong

Friday, January 17, 2020 | 9:46 PM

A balanced offensive attack is something every coach hopes for, and on Friday night, it helped the Plum Mustangs kick off the second half of their Section 3-5A schedule on the right note.

Nine Mustangs found a way to score and junior Connor Moss led the way with 11 points as Plum built an early lead and never looked back on the way to a 46-36 section victory over the Armstrong River Hawks.

“It doesn’t matter what conference you’re in, if you want to be in the hunt for a playoff berth, you have to win at home and you have to steal some road wins,” Plum coach Mark Marino said. “So it was nice to get a home win tonight.”

Early on, the Mustangs (4-10, 4-4) built a lead with a fast-paced, breakout type offense. They were getting looks at the hoop as Connor Moss had five first-quarter points and Max Matolcsy added another six with some early touches around the rim.

By the end of the first quarter, the Mustangs led 14-7. A 7-0 run to start the second extended that lead to 14.

“We knew that we had to out-rebound them and get in a good position,” Matolcsy said. “We did that at the beginning of the game and got to start off with a little lead.”

But as the game wore on, the tempo of the game started to swing in favor of the River Hawks (2-5, 2-10). Plum’s early second-quarter run was quickly erased as Armstrong answered with an 8-1 run of its own and cut the lead back to seven points partway through the second quarter.

“They were just winning all of the loose balls. They won the loose-ball fight the entire first half,” Marino said. “If we don’t have the ball, we can’t get out and run.”

So, after taking a 24-17 lead into the break, the Mustangs came out with an adjusted game plan in the second half.

Plum started to be more controlled with the ball. Their offensive possessions were methodical and filled with multiple passes until an open shot or lane cut opened. They didn’t run away with the contest from the switch in gameplan, but it allowed them to slow the pace and determine the outcome.

“When we slowed it down, we started being smarter with our passes and we were able to run some time off the clock because we had that lead,” Matolcsy said. “It definitely helped us keep that lead throughout the game.”

Early in the fourth quarter, the River Hawks cut the lead down to six, but a 3-pointer and a layup from Luke Pupilli on back-to-back possessions extended the advantage back to double digits. It was never threatened again.

While Moss was the only Mustang in double-digits, Plum got contributions from everywhere. Seven players registered at least one field goal and two scored from the free throw line. As the Mustangs enter the second half of section play, Marino believes that will be a crucial part to their success.

“We had nine guys score and we only scored 46 points,” Marino said. “So, on one hand, you’re disappointed we only scored 46 points, but on the other hand, it’s really nice to have that many guys in the box score. It spreads out the distribution and helps us understand we need to move the ball more.”

Plum continues section play Tuesday with a crucial game at Kiski Area. The Cavaliers won the last matchup on a pair of free throws in the waning seconds of the game. Armstrong will host Franklin Regional.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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