Penn-Trafford girls again stymie Plum
By Bill Beckner Jr.
Published: Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 10:48 p.m.
The constricting grasp that the first round of the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs has on Plum keeps getting tighter.
And Penn-Trafford continues to be a thumping headache for the Mustangs.
Plum suffered its fifth straight first-round defeat — and its sixth straight overall loss to Penn-Trafford dating to 2008 — falling 46-43 in a Class AAAA opening-round game Friday night at Penn Hills' sleek gymnasium.
“It was a game of runs, and we finished on the short end of it,” Plum coach Bernie Pucka said. “I think when we got so far ahead, it kind of turned into a mental thing for us.”
No. 7 seed Penn-Trafford, which also defeated Plum, 50-40, in the first round last year, rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter. It also overcame a seven-plus minute stretch without a basket, to advance to the quarterfinals, where No. 2 seed Mt. Lebanon (16-5) awaits.
“Our defense fueled us and helped us come back,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “I don't know what it is about us and Plum, but I can tell you one thing, we don't want to see Plum anymore.
“Our kids had to fight, and they willed themselves to this win.”
No. 10 Plum (15-8) tied it 43-43 with 38.9 seconds left.
Athena Biondi hit a free throw with 23.3 to make it 44-43, and Plum had a chance, but Krista Pietropola's off-balance shot missed.
“We want the ball in her hands in that situation,” Pucka said. “She's the go-to.”
Casey Aunkst was fouled with 0.05 left and made both of her attempts for a 46-43 advantage. Maria Palarino stole the inbounds for Penn-Trafford.
Aunkst led the Warriors with 15 points, Palarino added 14, and Kaila Simcoviak had 11, including three 3-pointers.
Pietropola led Plum with 17, and 6-foot-4 Courtney Zezza had 12.
“I think we were playing not to lose (in the fourth quarter),” Pucka said. “We got hesitant, anxious and nervous and didn't take our time.”
Plum opened the second half on a roll, scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter to build a 32-20 lead.
It held Penn-Trafford (17-6) without a field goal for more than eight minutes.
But Aunkst's 3-pointer for Penn-Trafford at the third-quarter buzzer made it 36-28 and seemed to spark the Warriors.
“That helped us cut it to single digits; that was a big shot,” Giannikas said.
Plum went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter to brush off a slow start and take a 19-14 advantage.
But back-to-back 3-pointers by Simcoviak allowed the Warriors to tie it 20-20 at halftime.
The loss ends a quality run for Plum's core of seven seniors.
“They left their thumbprint on this program,” Pucka said.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Roundball roundup: Hooker leads Quad-A stars to win
- Hempfield’s Harrell, Burns named Greensburg Tribune-Review basketball players of the year
- Alle-Kiski Roundball Classic notebook: Luther twins playing last games together