Plum hopes to continue increasing win total in 2012-13
The Plum varsity girls basketball team has increased its win total in each of the past four seasons.
The Mustangs won eight games overall in the 2009-10 season and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs out of Section 2-AAAA.
In the 2010-11 campaign, Plum, led by graduate Lindsay Deemer, returned to the playoffs and finished with a 12-10 mark.
Last year, the Mustangs again qualified for the playoffs and finished 14-9 overall.
Plum suffered a heartbreaking first-round loss to Pine-Richland, 46-43, to end the 2011-12 season, and head coach Bernie Pucka said the returning players on a still-young squad are motivated.
“We saw some good competition in our first scrimmage against Vincentian and Oakland Catholic,” Pucka said. “We saw some good things, and we were inconsistent at times. But we saw things we can work on.”
The injury bug bit the team last year, as starters and reserves missed some or all of the season.
“Knock on wood, we're pretty healthy right now, but going through a long tough season is a different thing,” Pucka said. “We want to maintain that and see how it goes.”
Last year's injuries began when senior starter and captain Karleigh Weichler was lost for the season with an ACL injury during Plum's opening section game.
At the end of the season, sophomore starter Jordan Seneca missed some time with a broken nose.
Senior Yasmin Kelly, Pucka said, is battling through shin splints.
She is one of only two seniors on this year's team, as returning starting guard Angelena Borriello is the other.
“For Angelena and Yasmin, this is their last chance, and they realize that,” Pucka said. “Angelena has watched the seniors come and go for several seasons, and now, she's there. They realize this is their opportunity.”
Pucka said the junior class also will take on big leadership roles, and among that class is returning guard Krista Pietropola, the team's leading scorer last season at 17.5 points per game.
“We all know what Krista can do on the court,” Pucka said.
“She's leading in drills and leading in running and has really become a leader for this team. She's also leading with more off-the-court things.”
Junior forward Aly Weifenbaugh joins Pietropola and Seneca as returning starters, and fellow juniors Justine Cipa (guard), Lindsey Herd (forward), Stephanie Nolan (guard) and Alexis Amato (guard) are hoping to make an impact.
Amato is back after an ACL injury suffered during the team's Christmas-break tournament last season.
She missed the rest of her freshman basketball season, but she was able to come back to play on the varsity soccer team this fall.
Sophomore 6-foot-3 forward Courtney Zezza, Pucka said, is expected to build on a strong first varsity season.
“She really put in a lot of time in the offseason,” Pucka said. “She played on (assistant coach) Jennifer Scott's AAU team. To watch her from last year to this year and the improvements she's made, we can't wait to see what she can do.”
Fellow sophomore Alyssa Zezza, a guard, has been competing for an opportunity for playing time this season.
“We have a lot of versatility on this team,” Pucka said. “We can go big in the half court or small with a full-court press.”
Four freshmen — Ashley Amato, Alexa Dudding, Mandy Majocha and Madison McDade — are hoping to contribute this season, Pucka said.
“This is a good group of freshmen,” he said. “They are really pushing the upperclassmen.”
Pucka said the section will be tough again, as Gateway, the defending section champion, returns several starters, while Woodland Hills will compete with experienced seniors in Delrika Jones-Carey and Desiree Garland.
Fox Chapel will have junior Duke recruit Erin Mathias, a 6-3 center, back after she missed last season with a knee injury. The Foxes had four starters out with injury in 2011-12, and the team struggled to a 2-10 record in section play and a 3-19 mark overall.
“The battle for the playoffs always seems to come down to the final couple of games,” he said. “On any given night, anybody can beat anybody else.”
Plum opens its season with four games in five days — including contests against Penn-Trafford on Friday and Norwin on Saturday at the Penn-Trafford Tip-Off Tournament.
The Mustangs play at Kiski Area on Monday at 7:45 p.m. and will size up with Tribune-Review Quad-A girls preseason player of the year Maddie Antone, a 5-9 senior guard who averaged 17 points last season.
Plum will play at Allderdice at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday before visiting Woodland Hills to open section play on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m.
The game against the Wolverines is the first of a varsity doubleheader.
Plum will play its first home game Dec. 18 when it faces section foe McKeesport at 7:30 p.m.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.