Plum edges Strong Vincent at Seneca Valley Tourney
The Plum varsity boys basketball team is 4-5 overall as it begins the January portion of its schedule, and the Mustangs have been in their share of close games so far this season.
All five of their losses came down to one-possession games with less than a minute to play.
At the Seneca Valley Tournament on Dec. 27, the Mustangs lost to the host Raiders after holding an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and a one-point advantage in the waning seconds of regulation.
Seneca Valley sent the game into overtime and completed a 60-55 win in the extra session.
But Plum bounced back the next night against Erie Strong Vincent, although the Mustangs had to overcome a massive deficit in the third quarter to do so.
This time, a down-to-the-wire game went the way of the Mustangs, 48-47, in the tournament's consolation game.
“We've struggled to finish off games, and we've had opportunities to win every single game that we've lost,” Richards said.
“But we were able to close the game out under pressure against Strong Vincent and get a nice win.”
Plum led Strong Vincent by one, 46-45 with less than a minute on the clock.
Senior Griffin Myers was fouled and went to the line, but he missed the foul shot.
Junior Nick Stotler pulled down the rebound and was fouled.
He hit two from the line to make it 48-45.
Strong Vincent quickly answered, but Plum was able to run out the clock to preserve the one-point win.
The Mustangs trailed Strong Vincent by 12 at halftime and by as much as 16 in the third quarter.
Plum outscored Strong Vincent, 15-5, in the third to begin the rally.
“It didn't look good for us,” Richards said.
“Give all the credit to the kids. They rallied. They could've folded, but they didn't. We fought like crazy and turned that game around quickly in a five-minute stretch in that third quarter. We played with more intensity and got after it defensively. We created turnovers and converted them into points when we had to have them.”
Stotler had a career-high 24 points against Seneca Valley, and then, he tallied 25 of Plum's 48 points against Strong Vincent.
“Nick was the best player on the floor both nights,” Richards said.
“That's what we expect out of him. If he continues to play to that level, it makes us a much more dangerous team.”
Myers also reached double figures against Strong Vincent with 13 points.
Plum returns to Section 2-AAAA action Friday against Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Plum High School. The matchup against the Vikings is set for 7:30 p.m.
“We certainly didn't want to have a week off after back-to-back losses,” Richards said.
“Hopefully, we can carry that momentum over (against Central Catholic).”
Plum is 1-2 in what is shaping up to be another tight race for the four section playoff spots. Central Catholic is 2-1, one game behind section leaders Fox Chapel (3-0) and Gateway (3-0).
“This game (against Central Catholic) is going to be big,” Stotler said.
“We've been in every game this season. We have to come out strong and avoid mistakes. One or two mistakes can be the difference in a close game.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.