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Plum stumped by Shaler

Top-ranked Shaler used a big second quarter to pull away from Plum and post a 70-45 victory in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round playoff game Thursday night at North Hills.

Sophomore Geno Thorpe scored 10 of his 22 points in the quarter, and the Titans took control by outscoring the Mustangs, 23-8. Shaler (22-1) will play Butler in Saturday's quarterfinals. Plum, after winning a preliminary-round game against Latrobe, finished 10-13.

Less than three minutes in, Thorpe was charged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim while dunking. The basket was waved off and Plum gained momentum temporarily, holding the lead several times — including on Anthony Garofalo's 3-pointer with a minute to go in the quarter.

Thorpe's late basket tied the score at 14 at the end of the quarter, and the 6-foot-2 guard gave the Titans the lead for good 26 seconds into the second. A 3-pointer by J.T. Schwartz midway through the quarter started the Titans' 17-4 run.

"We knew, if we got into an up-tempo game with them, we were going to struggle," Plum coach Ron Richards said. "We thought we were in it to the middle of the second quarter, but we turned the ball over a couple of times and took a couple of bad shots, let a couple of leakouts for them. I thought we had that deer-in-the-headlights look after that."

Thorpe's steal and feed to Ryan Micher put the Titans up, 49-28, with 2:16 left in the third period.

"Geno Thorpe is a sophomore, but I call him a vintage sophomore," coach Paul Holzshu said. "By that I mean he's played a lot of basketball in the course of his career so far. But the thing about Geno is that he's so unselfish, he doesn't try to dominate."

Added Richards: "We never really recovered from that; you could see our inexperience come in. It was really the first time all year we gave up a run like that."

The Shaler defense was relentless, forcing a number of turnovers and not allowing Plum to get into any kind of offensive flow.

"Our defense has to be our staple," Holzshu said. "We gave up 42 points a game during the course of the regular season, and there was no reason we should change tonight."

Six of Plum's top seven are slated to return next season. That includes Nolan Cressler, who scored a game-high 23 points.

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