Zezza enjoys bigger role in year two
Last season, Courtney Zezza stepped onto the court in a varsity game for the first time.
She knew that adjustments would be made after some of the things she experienced.
The 6-foot-3 Plum sophomore has taken those lessons and experiences to heart and has translated them into a strong second varsity campaign.
Zezza and the rest of the Mustangs varsity girls basketball team are looking forward to the WPIAL playoffs and were in position to officially clinch a spot in the postseason Tuesday evening if either Penn Hills or Franklin Regional lost their section matchups.
The games involving the Indians and Panthers, both 3-5, concluded past the deadline for this week's edition.
Plum, 6-2 in section, received a bye on Tuesday and resumes section action Friday at 6 p.m. at Penn Hills.
The Mustangs have won three in a row in section and four in a row overall after a 50-38 loss to section front runner Fox Chapel on Jan. 11.
Zezza, one of several key cogs in the Plum machine this season, has faced the usually physical battles in the paint both in and out of section, and she has turned in some strong performances.
She has several games this season where she has reached double figures in both scoring and rebounding.
“All of the other girls on the team are getting better, so that's helping me,” Zezza said. “It's a team effort. We try to make each other better. I knew games could be physical. I had to get better with that.”
Plum head coach Bernie Pucka said Zezza's improvement from her freshman to sophomore seasons was aided with hard work in the offseason.
“Courtney played a lot of basketball over the summer, and I have to give (Plum assistant coach) Jennifer Bruce Scott credit with coaching her and developing her as a player (in AAU basketball),” Pucka said.
“She worked on individual moves and overall aggressiveness like coming to the ball and stepping towards passes.”
Pucka said he saw the difference in Zezza in the first summer league games.
“It was an instant change,” Pucka said.
“Now, she's not afraid to catch the ball at half court and go to the basket. She's certainly a presence inside. I've watched her grow from a freshman just learning what it takes to play at the varsity level to being a confident player this year.”
Pucka said Zezza doesn't take anything for granted, even though she's one of the tallest players in the WPIAL.
“It can be frustrating at times,” Pucka said.
“People look at her and say that because she's 6-3, she's got it made. It takes a lot more than height to be a basketball player, and she's developed her overall game.”
Zezza also will be a big part of the game plan when Plum and Gateway meet on Saturday at noon at Plum High School.
Seniors Yasimin Kelly and Angelena Borriello will be honored in a ceremony after the game.
The contest between the Mustangs and Gators originally was to be played last Friday, but the snowstorm that hit western Pennsylvania caused the game's postponement.
Gateway suffered a 42-41 upset loss to Woodland Hills last week and dropped to 7-1 in section play. The setback snapped a 26-game section winning streak.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.