Plum girls are not satisfied with season result
The Plum varsity girls basketball team wanted to take that next step this season after a close loss in the first round of the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs last year.
After a strong regular season that produced a 17-5 overall record and a third-place finish in Section 2-AAAA at 9-3, the Mustangs hoped to make waves in the WPIAL playoffs.
However, Penn-Trafford had different ideas and sent Plum to its fourth first-round loss in as many seasons, 50-40, on Feb. 19 at Woodland Hills High School.
“The girls should be proud of what they accomplished this season, but there is a little bit of unrest and disappointment that goes along with the 17-6 record,” Pucka said.
“Everyone believes that we could've done so much better. Actually, that's a good thing, because the girls aren't satisfied and they didn't meet some of their goals, even though we had a nice season. That shows their focus and maturity, their tenacity to want to be better and the direction this program is going. We're looking to do even better next year.”
Plum fell behind Penn-Trafford, 17-8, after the first quarter. The Mustangs tried to rally in the second quarter and trailed 27-18 at the break.
“Penn-Trafford came out on fire against our matchup 2-3 zone, and that turned the tide right away,” Pucka said.
“In the second quarter, we were forced to go man and cut the lead a little bit. There was a four-point swing right before halftime that didn't go our way. We didn't get a couple calls.”
Plum held Penn-Trafford to seven third-quarter points, but the Mustangs couldn't gain any ground because they tallied only three points.
“The ball started to roll our way a little bit in the third quarter, but we weren't able to take advantage of the things that were happening,” Pucka said.
“We just couldn't get past the five- to seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter. We were going to big and small lineups. Penn-Trafford goes with somewhat of a five-guard lineup, and it is a tough matchup for us. My hat's off to them. They played a great game.”
Junior Krista Pietropola, who led Plum in scoring this season at more than 16 points per game, scored a team-best 13 points against Penn-Trafford.
Sophomore Courtney Zezza added 11 points, and senior Angelena Borriello closed out her career with eight points.
Penn-Trafford lost to Bethel Park, 43-34, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
The game marked the final one in a Plum uniform for Borriello and fellow senior Yasimin Kelly.
Borriello became a big part of the Mustangs varsity game plan as a freshman, and she was a multiyear starter in her four years.
“It will be strange to not see her on the court next year,” Pucka said.
“It will be big shoes to fill for whoever takes that jersey and steps into that role next season. She was a player I loved to see mature and grow on and off the court. The older she got, the more of a well-rounded player she became, from her defense to her ball- handling, passing and shooting on offense.”
Kelly didn't see a lot of varsity time this season, but, Pucka said, he appreciated her dedication to the team. She played as a freshman, and after a hiatus her sophomore year, she returned to the team for the past two seasons.
“Yasimin is busy off the court, and to come back and play the past two seasons says a lot about her, and she meant a lot to the team,” Pucka said.
“She brought a great personality that united the team.”
Pucka said he's excited to have Pietropola and Zezza, as well as junior starters Aly Weifenbaugh and Jordan Seneca, return to fuel the core of next year's squad.
“The team has some unfinished business,” Pucka said. “We have a lot of talent back, and they will go into next season with a lot of big goals.”
Borriello and boys senior guard Griffin Myers will represent Plum at the 17th annual Cager Classic all-star games on March 22 and 23 at Highlands High School.
The Mustangs duo will share the court with other standout senior players from Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ford City, Fox Chapel, Freeport, Hampton, Highlands, Kiski Area, Kittanning, Knoch, Leechburg, Mars, Riverview, Springdale, St. Joseph, Valley and West Shamokin.
“It's a great atmosphere,” Pucka said. “They always pack the place. They have music and turn out the lights for the introductions. The skills competitions are always fun. It's a first-class event.”
The skills competitions, with the hot-shot and 3-point contests, will be March 22.
Last year, Plum graduates Regan Donatelli, Kelsey Robertson, Tarique Ellis and Nolan Cressler took part in the Cager Classic celebration of basketball in the AK Valley.
Cressler earned team-MVP honors after he scored a game-best 38 points, with five 3-pointers, for the East team in a 118-95 loss to the West.
Ellis added 10 points.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.