With three top starters returning, Plum girls planning banner season

Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 4:48 PM

In his opening remarks at the first practice of the season, Plum girls basketball coach Steve Elsier challenged his team.

“One of the first things out of my mouth was that the goal for us is to put up a section championship banner in this gym,” he said.

The Mustangs never have won a section title, and there are some open spots along the gym walls where a banner would fit.

With three experienced starters — Kennedie Montue, Mackenzie Lake and Jamie Seneca — and some talented bench contributors stepping into bigger roles, the Mustangs believe with hard work and attention to detail, they can capture that first section crown.

“This year, we’re going to get that banner that we don’t have,” Montue said. “That’s really all we’ve been thinking about. Coach (Elsier) told us that we have to want it and that we’ve been building up each year, and this is your year to do it. As long as we play our game, we should be able to get that banner.”

The Mustangs were 11-12 overall last year and finished fourth in Section 2-5A at 6-6 behind Gateway, Franklin Regional and Mars. They lost to WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson in the first round of the playoffs. Leap-frogging all three teams that finished ahead of them in the section will not be easy, but the experience gained the last two seasons gives Plum a solid foundation.

Montue and Seneca, both juniors, have started since they were freshmen, and Lake, a senior, has started since her sophomore year. Montue is a forward, Lake is the point guard and Seneca is a shooting guard.

“It’s a good core for us to have,” Elsier said. “All three players bring something unique to our program. Jamie is a really good defender. Kennedie can, obviously, score, and Mackenzie is one of our leaders on the team and is going to have the responsibility of bringing the ball up the floor.”

Montue was named first-team all-section last season and is one of the top scorers in the section. But prior to her first varsity game two years ago, she admitted she was really nervous until Lake gave her a pep talk.

“Mac looked at me and said, ‘You know you’re the best player on the court, so just go out there and play your game and you’ll be fine,’ and that meant a lot,” Montue said.

That was the start of what has blossomed into good chemistry on the court between Montue, Lake and Seneca.

Lake is looking forward to dishing out more assists to Montue this winter.

“She’s so reliable,” Lake said. “I always know I can go to her. I know she’ll get a bucket for us when we need one. We have a good relationship. I can hit her in the post, and she’ll score, or I can drive in and kick it out, and she’ll hit the 3-pointer. She’s a great player. She’s going to do big things this year and throughout her career.”

Chloe Fabio, a senior, returns after missing last season because of an injury and will slot into the lineup. Sophomore guard Kai Johnson and senior guard Gianna Trombetta were contributors off the bench last season and will see more prominent roles. Elsier said freshman forward Dannika Susko has done some good things and could see playing time.

The Mustangs open Dec. 5 at the Moon tournament.

Aside from winning a section title, the Mustangs would like to break an 18-year postseason victory drought. Plum has lost in the first round the last two seasons.

“We’re established enough now that I think that making playoffs is a nice thing, but we want more out of it,” Elsier said. “That’s one of our goals that we have this season.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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