Beaver Falls powers past Southmoreland in boys opening-round matchup

Friday, February 14, 2020 | 9:39 PM

Momentum is an interesting aspect of sports. It’s hard to acquire, and it can be lost in a split second.

Or in the case of Southmoreland on Friday night, it can be lost in a painful eight minutes of basketball.

The Scotties had won nine of their final 10 games in the regular season, but they looked like a deer in the headlights in a five-point first quarter as Beaver Falls never trailed in a 70-59 win in a Class 3A first-round playoff game at Mt. Lebanon.

The Tigers had little momentum coming into the postseason after struggling down the stretch.

“We needed it after losing three of the last four,” Beaver Falls coach Carliss Jeter said. “We had some injuries that messed up our chemistry a little bit. Kids came out, first playoff game, a lot of our guys don’t have any experience doing this. We’re still a young team.”

The sixth-seeded Tigers (14-7) fought through their nerves and led 10-5 after one quarter.

The offense finally started to kick in during the second quarter as Beaver Falls built a 12-point lead before settling for a seven-point advantage, 28-21, at halftime.

The No. 11 Scotties (11-12) came out in the third quarter and cut the deficit to four points and had two possessions to make it closer but could not. The Tigers’ power inside game took over and went on a 23-11 run to end the quarter.

“That was our plan, to try to get it down to our big fellas,” Jeter said.

Noah Vaughn, a 6-foot-3 senior, led Beaver Falls with 23 points while 6-4 junior Kai Hauser added 13 points.

“They are physical,” Southmoreland coach Frank Muccino said. “You don’t see it much on tape. I wish I could have had a bird’s eye view. They are big. They are strong. They are physical.”

As they have been all year, the Scotties were led by senior Riley Comforti. He led all scorers with 33 points, including 23 in the second half and 16 in a desperate fourth quarter where Southmoreland could never pull to within single digits.

Muccino believes nerves played a part in his team’s slow start.

“We had our opportunities early with eight or nine layups in the first quarter that we bricked,” he said. “We played well enough defensively in the first half, but offensively, it was a struggle. Only two of these kids played significant minutes last year, so this was their first time on the floor (for the postseason).”

While Jeter said similar things about his young Beaver Falls squad, he feels his section prepared the Tigers for the nerves of the postseason.

“I really don’t know their league, but we play in a tough league,” Jeter said. “We play Aliquippa and Lincoln Park and Neshannock, and those guys can all play basketball. It’s a really tough section.”

Click to watch archive broadcast of Beaver Falls vs. Southmoreland on Trib HSSN

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