Boys basketball preview: Southmoreland steps up in class with young roster

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Sunday, December 6, 2020 | 5:59 PM


With a quiet demeanor, the Southmoreland boys basketball team practices with masks on while the coach looks on wearing a face shield.

The facial coverings are a sign of the times, but the Scotties are getting used to them. And the shield has not changed the way coach Frank Muccino does his job.

The players can still hear him just fine, and, admittedly, he has not had to fog up the plastic safeguard much.

“I haven’t had to raise my voice one time,” said Muccino, who begins his 12th season leading the Scotties. “This group works hard and plays hard. They’re very teachable.”

The Scotties, as receptive as they are, are young and somewhat raw, as evidenced by a roster breakdown of two seniors, one junior, five sophomores and eight freshmen.

“Is isn’t the first time we’ve had a young team,” Muccino said. “This team is different. We’re young, yes, but it’s not all doom and gloom.”

Two starters return: senior guard Zach Cernuto and junior guard Isaac Trout, who has started since he was a freshman.

Cernuto also has been a staple in the lineup.

“I couldn’t ask for two better leaders,” Muccino said. “They lead in the way they play. They’re a coach’s dream. They do everything right, and the younger kids see that.”

The crop of freshmen, who showed promised as seventh- and eighth-graders, won’t just use this year to learn the varsity game. They will see the floor. Ty Keffer, a 6-2 guard and one of the better freshmen prospects to come into the program, is expected to make an impact.

“Talent-wise, you could see what he had (in junior high),” Muccino said. “He had some ability, and then he shot up. I think he was 5-8 or 5-9 last year. As he grew, his skill level increased.”

Other freshmen who could contribute include guards Wyatt Richter and Ronnie Collins, and forward Kadin Keefer.

“A lot of kids have the ability,” Muccino said. “But it’s going to be more about the mental aspect and how they adapt to the varsity.”

Southmoreland went 11-12 last season but finished 8-4 in section to tie for third place. The Scotties gave sixth-seeded Beaver Falls a game before losing 70-59 in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

“We started 2-10 but finished 9-2,” Muccino said. “We gradually improved. This year it’s not all about wins and losses. It’s about possession by possession and getting better.”

The Scotties make the jump to Class 4A and will play in a section with Belle Vernon, South Park, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, Uniontown and Yough.

Muccino is an assistant football coach at Belle Vernon. The Leopards basketball team reached the WPIAL final and PIAA second round last season and should be a high-end team again.

“We’re familiar with those teams,” the coach said. “We’ve been in a section with a lot of them before.”

Scoring could be an issue for the Scotties, who averaged 54.3 points but allowed 56.4.

Leading scorer Riley Comforti is gone, and so are three other seniors who helped make up a deep rotation, so Cernuto, Trout and others will try to make up his 23.1 points.

Muccino said last year’s team had to “muck it up” to get victories, and that might have to be the case again.

The Scotties hope to take advantage when better teams slip up.

“I think we can shock some people here or there,” Muccino said. “I can tell you one thing: We’ll compete.”

Additional players looking for playing time include sophomore guard Kelvin Lin and sophomore forward Nick Dzambo, the tallest player at 6-3.

Tyler Dunn, a 6-foot forward, is the other senior.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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