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Plum stymies host McKeesport in section battle

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Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport's Ed Tyson (3) and Demetrius Diggs (11) attempt to grab a rebound Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, at McKeesport.
Top high school sports
By Mark Emery
Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

Unbeaten but untested away from home, Plum entered its Tuesday night meeting with McKeesport unsure of how its young players would respond in a hostile road environment.

If the Mustangs were nervous, they did a good job of hiding it. Backed by big games from senior forward Austin Dedert and sophomore guard James Edwards, Plum came away with a 59-53 victory at McKeesport in a Section 2-AAAA contest.

“We have so much respect for McKeesport,” Plum coach Ron Richards said. “We told our kids that coming down here, it's just never an easy win. When you get one down here, especially early in the year — we're so young, we start three sophomores — it's a real confidence-builder for our kids.”

The Mustangs improved to 5-0, including 2-0 in the section. McKeesport fell to 2-3, 0-2 in section.

Plum outscored McKeesport in each of the first three quarters and stifled the Tigers' rally attempts in the fourth. The Mustangs made enough free throws and momentum-halting baskets to keep McKeesport from making things interesting in the final minutes.

That was accomplished largely by the efforts of Dedert and Edwards, who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively. Senior Nick Stotler contributed 10 points, including a key 3-pointer in the fourth period that answered a bucket from beyond the arc for McKeesport.

“It was, like, every time they made a little bit of a run, we had a run-stopping hoop, and that was big for us,” Richards said.

The Tigers were led by senior forward Khalil Perdue, who had 20 points.

“He shows up every night. Khalil is just that type of kid,” McKeesport coach Corey Gadson said. “We need him to play like that, but we've got to get our other guys [going, too].

“We're just not there yet. ... Right now, I think we're a middle-of-the-pack-type team.”

Junior guard Jordon Payne also had 10 points for McKeesport. He exited the game with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. Gadson said Payne tweaked the ankle about a month ago and that the injury has been an ongoing problem.

Gadson also said he thought his team was a little too riled up for its first home game of the year. The Mustangs, in their first road game, were not as hampered by their emotions.

“We knew we'd have our hands full,” Richards said, “but I was kind of interested to see how our kids would handle it. I felt our kids did a nice job of just handling the situation. We have so many inexperienced kids out there, for their first time in this type of environment, and I thought they responded the way we had hoped they would.”

Mark Emery is a freelance writer.

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