Plum girls basketball aims to take next step in WPIAL playoffs
The Plum girls basketball team hopes to snap a drought this season.
The Mustangs have suffered eight straight WPIAL first-round losses since 2010.
Before that, Plum squads went seven years without making it to the postseason. The last playoff victory was a 50-49 win over Ambridge in the 2002 Quad-A first round.
Second-year coach Steve Elsier said the experienced pieces are in place to make another run to the playoffs and get back into the postseason win column.
“The girls have come out this year pretty sharp compared to last year,” said Elsier, who welcomes back all five starters from last year’s team that went 6-17 overall, 4-8 in Section 4-5A and suffered a 54-31 loss to Trinity in the WPIAL first round.
“They are comfortable with everything systematically and are playing well together, especially on defense. We don’t do some traditional things on defense. Some of the philosophies and strategies are different from what they are used to growing up. It probably took until Christmas or a little after that (last year) to fully understand what we were doing on defense.”
Only one player was lost to graduation, and this year’s team still is young, with only two seniors in returning starters Alexa Seigh (guard) and Kelsi Zik (forward).
“We know we have the potential to get back to the playoffs this year,” Zik said. “It’s made us work harder and push ourselves and each other. Gaining more knowledge in the system has helped us become better and more confident players.”
Junior guard Mackenzie Lake also returns as a starter, as do sophomores Jamie Seneca (guard) and Kennedie Montue (center).
Montue, at 5-foot-11, broke out as a freshman and led the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game.
“Kennedie’s growth this year will be seen in multiple facets,” Elsier said. “We know her ability to score points, but she is also doing a nice job of helping make her teammates better with her rebounding and defending. She still has work to do, but she has great potential to reach her new goals and expectations.”
For her efforts last year, Montue was named a section all-star and was selected to the Valley News Dispatch second team.
“My confidence has built up a lot since last year,” she said. “I was pretty nervous stepping on the court in my first varsity game. But my teammates really brought me up and helped me understand I could do well (at the varsity level).”
Junior guard Gianna Trombetta brings varsity experience to the rotation, and Kai Johnson, a freshman guard, is expected to challenge for varsity playing time.
Elsier said he expected to get a good idea of where his team was at with Thursday’s scrimmage against Burrell.
Plum will scrimmage at Class 6A Butler on Saturday in what Elsier said will be a good challenge for his team.
“We scrimmaged (Butler) last year,” Elsier said. “They have a lot of good kids. I think we’ll get some good physicality out of it. It will be interesting to see how we progress from Thursday to Saturday.”
The only changes in the section from last year to now are that last-place Indiana departed, and defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Gateway has joined the group.
Mars and Hampton return as defending co-champions in the section. Armstrong finished third last year, and Plum edged Kiski Area and Franklin Regional for the fourth and final playoff spot.
“I think the section will be competitive with multiple teams that can win double-digit games,” Elsier said. “Mars is back after winning a state championship, and they are going to be a team with the target on their backs, so to speak.”
Plum kicks off its season next Friday against McKeesport at the McKeesport tournament. It will face District 3’s Cumberland Valley on Saturday.
The Mustangs hope to get off to a better start than last year. They began the 2017-18 campaign 0-7 as the players got more and more used to the new system in place. The team broke through for its first two wins and captured the Penn-Trafford holiday tournament title.
Plum will play nonsection games against Allderdice and Steel Valley before beginning section play Dec. 17 at Franklin Regional.
“We talk about, with the girls, not just getting to the playoffs but winning some games there,” Elsier said. “Early last year, we were learning how to win and be competitive in games. We were competitive consistently down the stretch. Now, I think they will win more games because of that experience.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.