East Xtra: Plum plans to spread the wealth in boys basketball

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Nolan Cressler gained lots of publicity in the past two years for the Plum High School boys basketball team as he averaged more than 25 points a game for the Mustangs.

Last spring Cressler graduated from Plum and took his potent scoring potential to Cornell University of the Ivy League.

Plum coach Ron Richards said the loss of Cressler and two other starters, Tarique Ellis and Anthony Garofalo, will force him and his team to refine their approach to the game.

"I don't think you can replace a player like Nolan Cressler because a player like that doesn't come along very often," Richards said.

The Mustangs will adjust by bringing a more balanced approach. The results have been reasonably good so far. The Mustangs (1-2) opened the season by routing Highlands, 56-21, then lost a tough 42-40 decision to Shaler Area in the championship game of the Mustangs' tipoff tournament.

They lost to Kiski Area, 57-50, Tuesday and open Section 2-AAAA play Friday at Woodland Hills.

"We do have five seniors, and all of them will contribute," the coach said. "So we're going to be more balanced."

Two Plum starters -- Griffin Myers and Austin Dedert -- are returning.

Myers, a 6-0, 170-pound senior guard, is a two-year starter who averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds a game a year ago. Dedert, a 6-6, 200-pound junior forward, averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds last year.

"Griffin is a very smart kid, and he fits into the role we've expected from our guards," Richards said. "His role is going to change this year, and we're expecting more out of him. We think he will step up to the challenge, and we know he is capable of doing it."

Richards believes Dedert will play a significant role for the Mustangs this season.

"He's grown about 2 inches and put on about 20 to 25 pounds [since last season]," he said. "We need him to play with his back to the basket, and he's comfortable doing that. He's gotten bigger, and he's a lot stronger."

Nick Stotler, a 6-1, 190-pound junior guard, will join Myers and Dedert in the starting lineup.

"[Stotler] is a very athletic kid who has a chance to be a very good high school basketball player," Richards said. "He averaged about 4 points a game in a reserve role as a sophomore. He is a scorer. He shoots the ball well in traffic, and he is effective going to the basket and with the outside game."

Four other players are vying for the team's other two starting jobs. Richards said that regardless of who the starters are, all four will play significant roles with the team.

Those four are: Andrew Dawson, a 5-9, 150-pound senior point guard; Dylan Kondis, a 6-1, 190-pound senior guard/forward; Matt Dombrowski, a 6-2, 210-pound senior forward; and Tanner Yocca, a 6-2, 175-pound senior guard/forward.

"Dombrowski has started on and off for us the past two years," Richards said of the forward who averaged about 2.5 points and 4 rebounds a game a year ago. "He's a physical kid who has played a lot for us. He's a good rebounder, and he's gained a lot of experience."

Dawson is an asset with his defense, Richards said.

"He's a great off-the-ball defender," the coach said. "I think he has a chance to start for us this year."

Kondis' versatility could be a strength, Richards noted.

"He's never started a varsity game, but he's gained a lot of experience," he said. "He does a lot of things well, and can play on the perimeter or go inside. He rebounds well and he's a solid, smart player."

Like Kondis, Yocca can take the ball to the basket and also hit the pull-up jumper.

"He can play both on the perimeter and in the post," Richards said. "He's a good rebounder, and he shoots well. As he gets game experience, he's going to get better. By the time we get through the first few games, he could be competing for a starting job."

The Mustangs once again will play in a competitive section, Richards said.

"Gateway should be the favorite, but I think Central Catholic will make what already has been a good section better," he said. "Our goal is to win the section [title]."

Then the Mustangs will find out if balance is an effective antidote to life without Cressler.



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