Despite rough going, Belle Vernon boys get past Southmoreland

Friday, January 27, 2023 | 10:39 PM

Feeling like his team got away with something in its latest win — the first of three straight games this weekend for Belle Vernon — boys basketball coach Joe Salvino showed more frustration than content as he emerged from the locker room on Friday night and climbed the stairs back to the gym floor.

Clearly, a tongue-lashing had just occurred for a team that is trying to sort out its differences.

“Until they realize who is at fault, until there is some accountability for themselves, things aren’t going to change,” Salvino said of his players. “We can have all the talent and athleticism in the world … it’s not going to matter.”

Imagine if the Leopards had lost.

Still looking to make talented pieces interlock and reach its full potential on both ends of the floor, Belle Vernon pulled past visiting Southmoreland, 59-52, in a Section 3-4A game.

The Leopards (8-7, 4-2) overcame a 26-point effort from the Scotties’ Ty Keffer, who hit his first seven shots and made six 3-pointers. The team’s 1,000-point man had trouble getting open in the second half as he was guarded by Quinton Martin and then Zion Moore.

Southmoreland (12-6, 2-4), which saw its four-game winning streak end, led late in the first half but could not put together a go-ahead run against what Salvino thought was a mostly porous defense.

With a game Saturday night against Franklin Regional in the Shootout at Seton Hill and another Sunday against North Hills at the PBC Hall of Fame Classic at Montour, the Leopards are looking for continuity, teamwork and trust.

Their perturbed, 71-year-old coach expects a lot more and doesn’t care who knows it.

Consider the Leopards critiqued.

“I am tired of the excuses. We’re not blaming ourselves. We’re blaming everyone else,” Salvino said. “The finger-pointing needs to stop, and they need to own up to it. It’s not all of them. We just have too any individuals and not enough team.

“We did a better job on Keffer, but we’re resting way too much on the defensive end.”

Still, Belle Vernon managed a win as it built a 44-34 lead after three quarters and held back the Scotties late for their third win this season against them.

Belle Vernon also won 87-69 and 73-56, one game during a holiday tournament, the other from section play.

The Scotties got to within 32-31 in the third, but a 12-3 run to close the quarter had the Leopards in front to stay.

Martin had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Alonzo Wade added 13 points, and Moore scored 10 for Belle Vernon.

Wade, who had nine rebounds and five assists, scored inside to push the lead to 52-43, but the Scotties made one last push, with Wyatt Richter scoring on a break and Keffer nailing a corner 3 to cut it to 52-48 with 3 minutes, 27 seconds remaining.

Southmoreland, though, went quiet from three as the Leopards scored seven straight, with Martin delivering a pair of putbacks to make it 59-48 with 1:28 to go.

“We had shots, we just didn’t knock them down,” said Southmoreland coach Frank Muccino, who doubles as an assistant football coach at Belle Vernon. “(Belle Vernon) did a nice job putting Q (Martin) on (Keffer) and making him run around. He did all he could. He was spent.”

Richter and Keffer scored again, but the Scotties were out of time, down seven with 30 seconds left.

“The thing about Belle Vernon is they’ll get punched in the mouth but punch right back,” Muccino said. “We had to do a better job of keeping them off the boards.”

Keffer, who said he was in a groove early, said the Leopards wore down the Scotties with second- and third-chance points around the rim, and defense that kept him moving.

“It was really hard to get open on screens,” Keffer said. “We tend to let up on the gas when we get up. We have to be better with the lead.”

Southmoreland scored 90, 78, 76, and 84 points during its winning streak. Keffer needed more help, Muccino said, for the scoring output to continue.

“I can’t fault our effort,” Muccino said. “We just didn’t make a couple plays here and there down the stretch. I am pleased with where we’re going.”

Trevor Kovatch had nine points, on three 3s, for the Leopards. Richter finished with 10 points.

In a back-and-forth first half, the lead switched sides five times.

Southmoreland led 22-16 on a layup from Noah Felentzer off a feed from Keffer.

But the Leopards reeled off 12 straight points, with Trevor Kovatch connecting on a pair of 3s, and Martin and Alonzo Wade finished layups on fast breaks.

Belle Vernon settled on a 28-24 edge at the break.

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

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