Lancaster Catholic ends Southmoreland’s dream season in PIAA second round

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 9:27 PM


BEDFORD — The party is over for Southmoreland.

Perennial power Lancaster Catholic raced to a commanding lead, held off a late flurry and bounced the Scotties from the state playoffs, 64-56, ending the high-wire act that had reached the PIAA Class 4A second round.

The Scotties made it respectable by scoring the last nine points after falling behind by 20 in the third quarter against the District 3 champion Crusaders (27-3) on Wednesday night at Bedford High School.

But a historic season is finished at 25-2.

“It was too big a hole,” Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts said of the early deficit. “The way (Lancaster) shot the ball, it was like playing North Catholic after they shot it like that against us (in the WPIAL final). Film doesn’t do them justice. They are really quick.”

Southmoreland, which had never made the state tournament before this season, had trouble getting around the Crusaders’ longer players and could not negotiate the size disadvantage.

To compound the problem, the WPIAL runner-up Scotties managed just one field goal in the second quarter, instead settling on 8 of 12 free throws to try to keep it close.

“We like to get out and put pressure on teams,” Lancaster coach Charlie Detz said. “We talk about poise. Whether we’re up 10 or down 10, we need to make sure we do what we need to do. (Southmoreland) is a good team and our focus was to keep the ball out of (Olivia Cernuto’s) hands.”

Lancaster Catholic built on an early 14-2 advantage with a variety pack of offense: layups, 3-pointers and aggressive drives. Senior Katie Haefner scored 10 points in the opening eight minutes for the Crusaders.

After falling behind 27-13 after the first quarter, Southmoreland could only cut it to 10 in the second. Despite drawing contact, the Scotties couldn’t get good looks around the rim.

After a 5-0 run by the Scotties to open the quarter, the Crusaders answered with six straight points from senior Zaniah Banks to make it 33-18.

The lead reached 20 four times in the third, with sophomore Naomi Gonzalez completing a three-point play with 3:28 left in the period to make it 49-29. Gonzalez had all eight of her points in the second half.

“When you’re down to the last 16 teams in 4A, all teams are good,” Pritts said. “Lancaster came out and played well. They have been on this stage. It was a great atmosphere here tonight.”

The Scotties cut the margin to 57-42 in the fourth on a long jumper by senior Carlie Collins, and Cernuto squeezed in for a three-point play, and later made two free throws, and it was a 59-47 game with 3:28 remaining.

The 8-2 run closed the gap with plenty of time left. Lancaster Catholic looked fidgety while trying to run off some time.

Granted, there were backups in the game against Southmoreland’s starters, but the Scotties still managed to finally erase the double-digit deficit with a 21-point fourth.

Senior Charity Henderson hit the Scotties’ only 3-pointer and made a two-pointer before senior Sarah Pisula and freshman Maddie Moore made baskets in the closing seconds for the 64-56 final.

“In the fourth quarter, we kind of lost our heads a little bit,” Detz said. “They sped us up, which we didn’t want to see happen.”

Lancaster’s deep bench outscored Southmoreland’s, 19-8.

Despite the late surge, the Crusaders stayed present and preserved the victory. With it comes a clash with section rival Northern Lebanon (24-4) in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Lancaster Catholic has four state titles, the last coming in 2018.

Haefner led Lancaster Catholic with 16 points, while senior Cassie Peris and Banks had 10 apiece. Senior Sommer Reeser had eight of her nine points in the opening quarter, while senior Bryanna Hicks also netted nine.

Cernuto led the Scotties with 14 points. Henderson and Pisula added 12 each, and sophomore Gracie Spadaro scored 10. Pisula grabbed 12 rebounds.

“I am so grateful,” Pritts said. “Every night when I kneel by my bed, I think about how grateful I am to be a part of this team, this season and the community. I’m blessed to have been a part of (the four seniors’) careers. They gave it all they had.”

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

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