Cinderella season continues for Quaker Valley girls basketball

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | 8:34 PM


Remember all that talk about Southmoreland being the darlings of the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs a year ago?

Well, the spotlight might have shifted to the Scotties’ latest opponent.

It is Quaker Valley’s turn to wear Cinderella’s slipper in Class 4A.

A semifinal team for the second time in school history — the team’s first appearance since 1998 — the No. 2 Quakers are headed to the WPIAL finals for the first time after holding back visiting Southmoreland, 60-50, on Tuesday night.

That is six straight wins and 11 victories in 12 games for the second-seeded Quakers (15-4), who advance to meet No. 1 Beaver (19-0) — for the third time this season — in the championship at 5 p.m. Friday at Peters Township’s AHN Arena.

Quaker Valley’s program has come a long way to join the postseason conversation. The team had four losing seasons in five years from 2013-18 before returning to WPIAL contention.

Now, it will play for a title.

“Hopefully, people know who we are now,” Quaker coach Tom Demko said. “A lot of the ink and publicity has gone to a lot of other programs. Maybe now it will come to us. It would be nice to add a 2021 to that banner (in the gymnasium). Our girls deserve it.”

Third-seeded Southmoreland (16-5), the WPIAL runner-up last year, came in allowing 32 points per game. The Scotties played their first road playoff game since last year’s PIAA second round and, despite a valiant comeback, surrendered a season-high 60 to the Quakers, who were powered by their Division I combo of 5-foot-11 seniors Bailey Garbee and Corinne Washington.

Garbee scored 23 and Washington 22 in the victory.

Stopped short in the quarterfinals last year by eventual champion North Catholic — the Trojanettes toppled Southmoreland in the title game at Pitt — the Quakers took another big step forward with their latest win.

A 1-3-1 defense, which Southmoreland thought was its best chance to match up with the Quakers, did little to slow the host team. The Quakers built an 18-point cushion late in the third quarter before the Scotties trimmed it to five with just under a minute to play.

“Our girls fought until the end,” Scotties coach Amber Cernuto said. “We tried something different to try and match up with their size, and it didn’t work out. That is on me. We were focused more on defense this game. (Garbee and Washington) were really good, with their size and skill. They have probably played 100 more games (year-round) than any of our girls. Give credit to Quaker Valley.”

As more players got involved offensively for Southmoreland, the lead began to shrink.

“They’re a great team,” Demko said of the Scotties. “They kept creeping back, but I like the way our girls responded. We jumped out quick and shared the ball well. It was a team effort.”

Washington, a Boston U commit, scored on an array of drives, leaners and floaters. Her 12 in the second half, and her free throws, allowed the Quakers to stay on top.

The team made 11 of 12 free throws.

Garbee, an American recruit, had eight in the fourth. She made three 3-pointers.

She and Washington each came up with a steal inside the final 30 seconds. Both had an answer for just about every Scotties’ push.

Garbee scored her 1,000th career point with 6:57 to go in the second quarter. Washington hit the 1,000-point mark earlier in the season.

“It’s great for them to each get (1,000 points) and to do it now,” Demko said. “They mean so much to this program but it’s not always those two. Other girls stepped up too.”

Senior Claire Kuzma added eight points for Quaker Valley.

Southmoreland planned to lean on its big-game experience in the girls basketball semifinals, but the Quakers didn’t give them much time to get situated. It was 16-4 early as the Quakers moved the ball around the perimeter and scored on drives.

Southmoreland junior Gracie Spadaro was the offense for the Scotties, as she scored 16 of her 21 points in the first half. But the Scotties, who cut the margin to five after one quarter, trailed 33-20 at halftime.

Sophomore point guard Olivia Cernuto had 12 points for the Scotties, nine in the second half. Sophomore Maddie Moore added nine and junior Delaynie Morvosh chipped in eight, including two 3s in the second half.

“We were fortunate to get all of our games in and make it this far,” Amber Cernuto said. “We knew any day the hammer could drop. I was proud of the way our girls fought tonight.”

The Scotties were 7 of 12 at the foul line.

“I think our legs got a little tired toward the end,” Demko said. “We missed some layups and didn’t box out. We needed to burn some clock.”

It was 46-39 heading to the fourth before the Scotties chipped away. Olivia Cernuto scored off a steal and made two free throws before Morvosh’s 3 made it 56-50 with 52 seconds remaining.

Quaker Valley lost both section games to Beaver, 40-37 and 48-42.

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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