Borriello excited for run in final season
Angelena Borriello has seen it all in her four years on the Plum varsity girls basketball team.
The team has increased its win total in each of the past three seasons, and it is on its way to a fourth consecutive trip to the WPIAL playoffs.
Borriello, the lone senior to start or receive considerable varsity playing time, wants to have her final season be a memorable one for the entire squad.
“Somebody brought it to my attention that she might be the only Plum basketball player to make it to the playoffs all four years if we are able to qualify,” Plum head coach Bernie Pucka said.
“She has been a rock for this team. She's been very consistent for us.”
The Mustangs are very close to officially wrapping up a WPIAL playoff spot, its fourth in as many seasons.
Plum was scheduled to play at McKeesport on Tuesday in a game that was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition. The Mustangs were 5-2 in Section 2-AAAA heading into that game — third place behind Gateway (7-0) and Fox Chapel (6-1) — and three games ahead of Penn Hills (2-5) with five games remaining.
A win against McKeesport and a loss by Penn Hills against Franklin Regional on Friday would secure, at the very least, a tie for the fourth and final playoff spot from Section 2.
“Compared to last year and my sophomore year, practices have gotten a lot harder, and they push us more,” Borriello said.
“Our expectations are a lot higher, and we bring that to the game. We know what we have to get done.”
Borriello knows she's isn't always the go-to player as far as scoring — juniors Aly Weifenbaugh, Krista Pietropola and Jordan Seneca and sophomore Courtney Zezza have handled those duties most often — but distributing the ball from the point-guard position and playing lockdown defense, she said, is what makes a difference.
“I'm not a big scorer, but I try to do the little things to contribute to the team,” Borriello said. “I want to play good defense, because if my offense isn't there, my defense will bring me back and give me more confidence.”
But she has shown the ability to make the big shot when called upon.
Pucka sees Borriello's senior leadership as being a key for the team, especially in the eyes of the freshman players still getting up to speed in practices and games.
“She's almost the reflection of a coach in practice,” Pucka said.
Borriello said it was important to score a nonsection victory over Pine-Richland, 58-37, on Jan. 9 after the heartbreaking three-point loss to the Rams in the playoffs last year.
“Last year in the playoffs, it was an eye-opener,” Borriello said.
“We put up a fight and lost by only three points. It was a tough loss, but it gave us more confidence to know we are a good team and can make it further in the playoffs this year.”
Plum won three games in a row last week — Franklin Regional, 61-48; Shaler, 51-48; and Woodland Hills, 51-38; after a tough 50-38 loss to Fox Chapel at Plum High School on Jan. 11.
“Many of the losses that we've experienced, we know we could've played better,” Pucka said. “It's very irritating and frustrating, and the girls come in the next day and want to work harder. I like the way they respond.”
Shaler is two years removed from a WPIAL Quad-A title. Pucka said it was good to come away with a nice close victory over the Titans that went down to the wire.
“Shaler is a very well-coached team who is struggling in their section but beating some good nonsection teams,” Pucka said.
“They beat Hempfield, and Hempfield is 13-2 and undefeated in its section. That was a great win for us.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.