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Plum trying to get over hump

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

Last year, the Plum boys basketball team was so close ... but yet so far.

Plum was 5-7 in Section 2-AAAA play, with six losses coming by 10 points or fewer. The Mustangs were 13-9 overall after starting the campaign at 6-0.

After the season, Ron Richards, who led Plum to its greatest basketball era with playoff appearance in four of the last seven years, resigned. Prior to 1999-2000, the school had never made the WPIAL playoffs outright, experiencing postseason play only in 1984 in an open tournament and twice in tiebreaker games.

Coming home to guide the program is Plum graduate Tom Demko, fresh off a successful, four-year stint at Quaker Valley. The new coach is still teaching at Quaker Valley, but he lives in Plum.

Demko has a quality player to build around in junior Andrew Cressler, one of the top performers in the section.

"He's a real good offensive player," Demko said. "We will be looking for him to show some leadership skills, and I think that'll happen."

Demko also will welcome back center Jon Sharp, a 6-foot-4 senior, and point guard Scott McGough. Also expected play significant roles are Anthony Della Salla, Matt Craemer, Sean Blattenberger and Anthony DeAngelo. Demko also is hoping for quick development of promising sophomores Adam Flood and Neil McKown.

The section hasn't changed much since Demko's playing days at Plum a little more than 20 years ago. There's still Penn Hills, Central Catholic and Fox Chapel battling for the top. Only McKeesport comes to Section 2-AAAA under recent realignments. Obviously, Woodland Hills, a school that didn't exist in Demko's era, is established as a section threat now.

"Even though I've been coaching in (Class) AA, I'm still familiar with the section, the coaches and the styles of play," Demko said. "I have a good feel for what each team brings."

The only question left is when exactly Demko will make his coaching debut with Plum. The Mustangs are slated to open the season at Serra Catholic, but the football Eagles are in the PIAA playoffs and the basketball games could be switched to Friday afternoon or be played in a Saturday-Sunday format.

An announcement is expected today.

While Plum has one of the WPIAL's best basketball facilities, Demko won't be seeing much of it for a while. Only two of Plum's first 13 games will be at home.

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