Seton LaSalle boys eliminate Southmoreland at WPIALs

Saturday, February 16, 2019 | 6:46 PM

Seton LaSalle eliminated the hyphen from its name a while back.

A hot start Saturday afternoon helped the Rebels eliminate Southmoreland from the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs.

No. 4 seed Seton LaSalle hit 9 of its first 12 shots to build a double-digit lead, then held off a mild first-half rally by the Scotties and advanced with a 54-34 victory in a Class 3A first-round game at Gateway.

There was no music played during pregame warmups or between quarters, which created a different atmosphere and quiet spells in the gym. Seton LaSalle made noise from the opening tip.

“I was glad we came out with some energy there because we’re thinking, OK, it’s Saturday, not a huge crowd,” Seton LaSalle coach Mark Walsh said. “I was glad to see that. We hit some tough shots.”

The Rebels (18-4) advance to play the winner of No. 5 Washington (13-8) and No. 12 Keystone Oaks (12-10) on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

No. 13 Southmoreland showed significant improvement after winning four games last season and finished 12-10.

“Our kids fought hard and competed,” Scotties coach Frank Muccino said. “I think that was our best defensive effort all year, to be honest. (Seton LaSalle) is a very good team. They made contested shots, and we didn’t.”

Seton LaSalle lost all five starters from last year’s playoff team, but players looked like seasoned veterans in their playoff opener.

“We lost those starters, but several of our guys saw time in last year’s playoffs,” Walsh said. “A few of them started a game or two, and that was significant for them.”

Those players include juniors Dylan Preston (15 points) and Michael Bigley (12) and senior Trevor O’Donnell (11).

Southmoreland looked like it was about to reverse course in the second quarter.

After falling behind 25-11 early in the quarter, the Scotties went on a 9-0 run with senior Ronnie Robinson scoring off a steal and then connecting on a 3-pointer as the Scotties closed the gap to 25-20.

Seton LaSalle was outscored by Southmoreland, 11-6, in the quarter.

The Rebels, however, used a 16-6 third quarter to extend their lead to 44-26, holding the Scotties to three field goals while re-establishing the fast tempo.

Changing to a zone press allowed the Rebels to produce some transition hoops and regain a cushion.

“They slowed it down in the second (quarter), so we changed things up in the second half,” Walsh said. “We changed up who was guarding who.”

The lead never dipped below 18 in the fourth.

“They went to a trap, and we panicked,” Muccino said. “Like I said, I am ecstatic with how we played defensively. Our bugaboo got us again: We missed too many layups.”

Junior Riley Comforti led Southmoreland with 14 points, and Robinson finished with eight.

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