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Saint Mark’s High School girls improve to 10-0 as Serena Pluta scores career-high 37

Serena Pluta scored a career-high 37 for the Spartans. The Dialog/Jason Winchell

MILLTOWN — Saint Mark’s got 37 points from its lone senior, Serena Pluta, and defeated Middletown, 59-49, in a Jan. 11 matinee. Pluta reached her career high for the second time in as many games, scoring 27 points in the second half, to help the Spartans to their 10th win in 10 games.

The Spartans grabbed an early lead thanks to a Pluta layup, and a three-pointer for McKenzie Beamer. With Pluta in early foul trouble and the Spartans ahead, 8-7, a few other players stepped up. Ally McGonigle hit a pair of free throws, and Alyssa Cresto nailed a deep two-point shot to give Saint Mark’s a 14-13 lead after one.

Ava Berardi of Saint Mark’s looks to get rid of the ball while guarded by Middletown’s Marlena Gordon (12) and Cha’Nyah Dunston-Mason. (The Dialog/Jason Winchell)

The Spartans extended their lead in the second stanza, with Pluta scoring five more before she picked up her third foul with 2:30 left in the half. It was 21-15 Saint Mark’s at that point. Cresto hit two field goals on jump shots, and McGonigle scored on a mid-range jumper for the 27-20 advantage at the break.

The Cavaliers scored four straight to start the third quarter before Pluta took over. She dominated the inside, scoring 14 of the Spartans’ 16 points in the quarter. Her bucket on a reverse would give Saint Mark’s a 33-26 lead. She then scored on a layup, and her two free throws with 1.8 second remaining in the third gave her team a 46-31 lead.

Middletown staged a fourth-quarter comeback thanks to the foul shooting of Alissa Crafton and a pair of great driving baskets by Cha’Nyah Dunston-Mason, the second of which cut the Spartans’ lead to 47-42 with 3:10 left. But Cresto gave the home team a big lift with a clutch three-pointer, and Pluta added two driving layups to give the Spartans some breathing room.

Cresto joined Pluta in double figures with 11 points. The Spartans (10-0) will head to Catholic Conference rival Padua on Tuesday night at 7:15.

Dunston-Mason led the Cavs (7-4) with 21. Middletown hosts MOT Charter on Monday at 6 p.m.

McKenzie Beamer dribbles for the Spartans.