She has been on this type of stage before, standing smack in the middle of Holy Redeemer’s run to the state volleyball quarterfinals during the fall.
But this time it’s different for Alyssa Platko.
This time, in the PIAA Class 3A girls basketball playoffs, it could be the difference between playing again or not.
“Basketball’s definitely my first love,” Platko said. “I really want to make the season last.”
Maybe that’s why Platko — the only senior in the Royals’ starting lineup — has made such an impact for Holy Redeemer lately.
She scored a combined 30 points over her last two playoff games, helping to boost the 22-5 Royals into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. second-round state showdown with Fleetwood at Pottsville’s Martz Hall.
To get there, the daughter of George and Jo Ann Platko of Hanover Township had to endure a final season of struggles that turned into smiles.
She averaged just 8.7 points during the regular season. She had six games where she didn’t even score five points. She was shut out in Holy Redeemer’s two-point, double-overtime loss to Abington Heights in the District 2 Class 3A semifinals.
She was even benched for a bit during a short midseason stretch.
“I think every player has ups and downs,” Platko said. “I definitely had mine during the season.”
That’s not exactly what the Royals were expecting for their talented 6-foot forward.
This is: a 16-point day that helped Holy Redeemer put away Pittston Area in the District 2 Class 3A third-place game that sent the Royals to the state tournament. That was followed by Platko’s 14-point night Saturday that provided a nice complement to Redeemer scoring star Alexis Lewis in a dominant PIAA first-round victory.
“She knows this is her last opportunity, in reference to a state playoff tournament,” Holy Redeemer coach Chris Parker said of Platko. “She’s had some games where she has struggled. The positive is, she’s playing well at the right moment.”
Platko has had some bright moments on the volleyball court, pounding home 105 kills and registering 11 blocks for a Redeemer team that reached the PIAA Class 3A quartefinal round in the fall. She was also a key starter on a Redeemer girls basketball team that reached this same second state round last season before falling to Villa Maria in the final minutes.
It all only drives her to go even further during the next two weeks.
“I want to make it past the second round of states,” Platko said, “since we haven’t done that my whole career here. And who knows, maybe even make it to the Final Four, or even to the championship.”
It seems there have always been big expectations for Platko.
She’s been a steady rebounder — pulling down more than seven per game — but fails to draw raves when her point production falls down.
Is that fair?
“There is pressure,” Platko said, “especially to rebound. Being 6-foot tall, everyone assumes you’re going to rebound every single ball.”
Yet, she has done enough good work underneath, teaming with fellow 6-foot forward Rebecca Prociak, to help Holy Redeemer get through the Wyoming Valley Conference season unbeaten and go wire-to-wire with some of the best teams in the eastern and central parts of the state.
The benching of Platko, Parker insists, was more of a motivation tactic than a punishment.
“She’s a great kid, has a lot of potential,” Parker said. “The expectations are high. I expect a lot out of Alyssa Platko. I know what she’s capable of. When she doesn’t have that pep in her step, and she doesn’t come ready to play, as a coach, you have to make a change.”
Platko’s game has changed drastically over the past week or so.
She followed a string of five games where she accumulated a total of 20 points with 30 points over the past two games.
Talk about pepping it up.
Part of that scoring came by design, as Redeemer’s been running plays to free her up recently.
“People underestimate my ability to drive the ball to the basket and take the outside shot,” Platko said.
But a bigger part can be found in her heart.
“I think things are starting to fall into place for me,” Platko said. “I’m definitely peaking at this part of the season. I’m starting to get back in the flow of things.
“I want to leave something behind.”