Plum boys look to rebound after disappointing 2017-18 season
The Plum varsity boys basketball team took its lumps in uncharacteristic fashion last year.
The consistent playoff qualifier and section-title contender dipped to 6-16 overall and 1-13 in Section 3-6A.
The youthful Mustangs finished the season without a senior in the varsity rotation. They spent the campaign getting used to a new system under first-year coach Hart Coleman in a challenging Class 6A section that produced the WPIAL champion, Penn Hills.
Coleman said while last season was rough at times, the returning players are ready to use the lessons learned to turn around their fortunes and make a run at the playoffs.
“We’re very excited about this season,” Coleman said. “A lot of the guys have varsity minutes under their belts. There is a lot of good understanding with what we want to do in the system. I believe that going into a different section and (classification) will help us a lot, as well.”
Plum, along with Shaler, moved down to Class 5A in the offseason and landed in Section 3.
The section features defending Section 3 champion Franklin Regional, defending WPIAL Class 5A champion and PIAA runner-up Mars and playoff qualifier Hampton.
Indiana moves up and into the section after winning the Section 1-4A title last year. Armstrong and Kiski Area also will play in the section.
“It’s going to be a very competitive section,” Coleman said. “The teams are pretty evenly matched. I am very confident in the product we are going to put on the floor this year that we can be in the top three in the section.”
A core of five seniors who logged significant minutes last year will help lead the way: guard/forward Lamar Whiting, point guard Matt Carroll, shooting guard Chase Fink and forwards Ian Dryburgh and Brady Hereda.
“We all got better in the offseason, and we’re just trying to win this year,” Whiting said. “We want to start the season off right and win every game we can.
Whiting led Plum in scoring last season at 20.3 points per game and earned Section 3-6A all-star honors. He added a team-best 21 3-point field goals.
“Lamar is a tough player, and I believe he is the engine to our team,” Coleman said. “As he goes, we go. But he doesn’t have to do it all, as we have a lot of good experience on this team.”
Fink averaged 11.5 points.
Sophomore Connor Moss enjoyed a breakout first varsity season for the Mustangs. The 6-foot-2 forward tallied 9.9 points per game and shot 85 percent (28 of 33) from the foul line.
Moss is ranked one of the top sophomores in the state, according to PAPreps.com.
“It’s nice to come back knowing what to expect as far as the speed and physicality at the varsity level,” Moss said. “I think the team overall is coming into the season with a lot of confidence. We just want to carry that into the games.”
Coleman said newcomers in senior center Spencer Wilson and junior forward Walter Holyfield will have the chance to make an impact alongside the returning group.
“It is a very competitive environment in practices,” Coleman said. “The seniors have been pushing the younger guys because they want to go out in style, and the younger guys have been pushing the seniors because they want to do their part in helping the seniors have a great season.”
Coleman said he liked what he saw from a preseason shootout at Penn Hills earlier this month.
The Mustangs defeated Vincentian, Cathedral Prep and the host Indians, as balanced scoring and defense helped in the three-game sweep.
“We played against some very stiff competition,” Coleman said. “The thing that stood out was how we played against Penn Hills. They beat us pretty handily last year and hung 100 points on us in our gym. It was just a shootout, but we didn’t see it that way. It was our chance to put ourselves on the map and let people know that Plum is going to make some things happen.”
Plum opens its season Nov. 7 with its annual tip-off event at the high school. The Mustangs will take on Fox Chapel on Friday before facing Gateway on Saturday.
Pine-Richland will play Fox Chapel on Saturday.
“It’s a nice start for the guys to go up against two good teams,” Coleman said. “It will be a nice way to test themselves.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.