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Girls basketball: Panthers shake off rust


Beating an All-American is a tall order. Especially after a long layoff.

The Plumstead Christian Panthers faced both on Monday – they hosted defending ACCAC champ Coventry Christian (9-3) and its NCSAA Small School All-American forward Lydie Mwamba. The Panthers contained Mwamba at times but her 24 points helped Coventry pull away in a 42-32 win.

Plumstead, playing its first game since Dec. 20 against Coventry, immediately turned around and defeated Bicentennial rival Delco Christian 48-41 on Tuesday to up its record to 4-4 (2-2 BAL).

“We had team meetings (during break) so we were on the same page,” shared Plumstead’s Anya Link. “We had practices over break. Connecting with each other throughout the day helps us during the game.”

Monday’s first quarter ended in a 10-10 tie. When Link’s two free throws put Plumstead up 16-11 with 2:09 left in the half, it was the first time either team had a two-possession lead.

“When we get fired up on defense, it affects our offense and vice versa,” noted Olivia Mott. “When Caroline (Taylor) started hitting those outside shots, our defense picked up and got more aggressive.” The Panthers won the tempo battle for most of the first half, playing half court when the Eagles wanted to run.

Mwamba got into foul trouble in the second quarter. But her run outs couldn’t be contained forever. She scored seven late points in the second and tallied several layups after halftime to help put Coventry up 31-22 after three quarters.

“We put Caroline on her man-to-man so we did contain her,” Plumstead coach Jen Mott pointed out. “It was the turnovers that turned into fast breaks that we couldn’t stop.”

Plumstead clawed back. Taylor nailed a jumper, Olivia Mott sank an Enajai McNair assisted layup and Link added another layup to complete a 6-0 run and cut Coventry’s lead to 34-30 with two minutes left in the game.

All five starters made meaningful contributions for Plumstead. “The starting five is very well-rounded, which makes changing positions easy,” Coach Mott observed.

Taylor’s 18 points led the Panthers. “I don’t usually shoot outside that much. I normally shoot more from the inside,” admitted Taylor, who connected on several mid-range jumpers. “But today I was left open.”

Link scored six and hauled in a dozen rebounds. McNair grabbed six boards and added three steals. Olivia Mott snagged eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Point guard Karis Zaskoda had two assists.

Plumstead Christian’s program made a significant stride last year, going 11-12 and narrowly missing the District One playoffs. The Panthers more than doubled their win total from 2017-2018.

“Our team devotional is about commitments: to each other, to God and how through that, we can encourage each other,” explained Jen Mott, who is in her first year at Plumstead’s helm. “I really want them to enjoy the game and to enjoy each other.”

Plumstead opened this season as champion of its first PCS Tip-Off Tournament via two 10-point wins. “We have a small roster so we have a strong bond outside of the court,” Link offered. “That is noticeable on the court. Our drive to play for God too really unifies and gives us an overarching goal.”

“There are eight of us total,” reminded Olivia Mott. “We’ve been playing together for so long now and we know each other really well. It’s fun to play with a group that’s unified under the one purpose Anya talked about.”

A winning culture in women’s sports is permeating “The Mill.” In their inaugural year, the Panthers stunned the area volleyball community this fall by finishing second in the Bicentennial.

“Volleyball is very much of a team sport,” said Taylor, who was second team all-conference in volleyball. “You need the setter, passer and hitter to get a good hit. That carries into basketball and working well together.”

Working together and winning may start to be contagious at Plumstead.