Southmoreland boys change approach, lean on defense to defeat Yough

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022 | 9:59 PM


High-scoring Southmoreland let its defense take the wheel in its latest boys basketball victory.

The Scotties, who came into Yough Tuesday night averaging 77.7 points, did their best to slow the host Cougars, keeping what was expected to be a fast-paced matchup in the halfcourt with a 2-3 zone.

The result was a 44-36 victory that moved the Scotties’ record to 4-0.

“We’re more of a defensive team,” said the Scotties’ Ty Keffer, who had a team-high 14 points. He had 45 points in an 83-80 win over Derry on Saturday and was averaging 34.4 a game. “We knew Yough only had five guys, so we wanted to make them work. You could see their bench guys were tired.”

The nonsection game was lulled into the halfcourt from the start, which Yough expected.

But the Cougars (3-3), who dropped their third straight, struggled to make shots and fell behind by 17 in the third quarter.

“We knew they were going to play a 2-3 on us,” Yough coach Jim Nesser said. “We were prepared for it. We just didn’t shoot well. Our offense was terrible.”

Southmoreland hasn’t started 4-0 since 2014-15. That team went 10-0 before losing.

Scotties coach Frank Muccino said he went to the zone because starter Wyatt Richter is out with an ankle injury. That opened the door for freshman Noah Felentzer, who had 12 points.

“The first three games, we pressed full court,” Muccino said. “With Wyatt out, we didn’t have enough depth to do that tonight. We marked their shooter (Terek Crosby) and didn’t give him clean looks.”

Crosby, who came in with a 24.8-point average, tied a team high of 14 points with Austin Matthews.

But the rest of Yough’s team combined for eight points, and those came from Parker Rost and Zander Aird.

Rost returned after a two-game suspension.

The Scotties, who led by double figures for most the second half, took a 40-27 lead into the final quarter.

In the third, Felentzer finished a three-point play to increase the lead to 37-20 with 3 minutes, 26 seconds left.

Yough looked to get a spark from Crosby, who delivered a thunderous dunk off a steal earlier in the quarter. But the Cougars could not sustain a run.

They did make a push in the fourth, with Crosby hitting a 3 and Matthews scoring twice inside to trim the margin to 42-34 with 4:12 remaining.

It was 43-36 after a Matthews putback.

“We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” Muccino said. “We’re still learning how to close out games. It’s a process.”

But the Scotties, despite just four points in the fourth, held back the Cougars.

“We give up 44 points, 14 in the second half, and lose,” Nesser said. “We looked fatigued and our execution was poor. If you’re not making baskets, you had better defend. We didn’t do that enough.”

Southmoreland outscored the Cougars, 15-4, in the second quarter to take a 30-16 lead into halftime.

The Scotties, taking away a number of lob passes, ended the half on a 9-0 run.

Felentzer completed a three-point play, Keffer scored on the baseline, Kelvin Lin hit a pull-up jumper in the lane and Ronnie Collins scored inside to push the margin to 14.

Collins finished with nine points.

“Yough is a good team,” Muccino said. “We grinded it out.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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