Southmoreland enjoys home-court advantage in Class 4A win over Highlands

Friday, February 25, 2022 | 10:15 PM

The Southmoreland girls basketball team continues to thrive on its home court.

The Scotties set a school record Friday night for consecutive home victories by any boys or girls basketball program with a dominating 50-24 rout of cold-shooting Highlands to secure their third trip in as many years to the WPIAL semifinals.

The Class 4A quarterfinal victory was No. 2 Southmoreland’s 44th in a row at home, surpassing a previous boys’ team streak of 43.

“I haven’t paid much attention to that, but the girls brought it up the other day,” Southmoreland coach Amber Cernuto said. “They love to play at home. Our atmosphere here is phenomenal with people coming out. The crowd tonight was great.”

Cernuto said her sights were on reaching the next round.

“Getting back to the semifinals was our next goal,” she said, “but they said this game is bigger than that. They said, ‘We can have the winningest record at home,’ and I said, ‘That’s right. You’ve got to win. One step at a time.’ ”

The Scotties complied with ease, jumping on No. 7 Highlands from the opening tip and dominating the Golden Rams, who didn’t make their first field goal until the 4-minute, 22-second mark of the second quarter.

Southmoreland (18-3), which advances to play No. 3 Knoch (20-2) in the semifinals Tuesday, carried the first quarter 14-1 and withstood Highlands’ only serious challenge: a 9-2 Highlands run, fueled by a pair of 3-point shots by Kate Myers, that cut the Southmoreland lead to 22-12.

“Towards halftime,” Cernuto said, “I started to think we have this, defensively. We don’t need any breakdowns. Early in the second quarter, we broke down, and so, we called timeout and regrouped and came back out on fire.”

The Scotties scored the final four points of the half, including a pair of free throws by Maddie Moore after Highlands coach Jason Kerr was whistled for a technical foul in the final minute.

“I don’t think that affected things,” Kerr said. “They made the two free throws, and that was it. If anyone wants to blame me for that, go ahead. I just wasn’t happy. But, clearly, Southmoreland is a very good defensive team, and the officials had no bearing on the outcome of the game.”

Gracie Spadaro scored 18 points to lead Southmoreland. Delaynie Morvosh added 11.

Highlands’ shooting woes continued into the second half. The Golden Rams managed just seven third-quarter points and didn’t score in the fourth until 1:27 remained.

“One of the things we talked about before the game was the need to rebound and score over 40 points,” Kerr said. “When you’re scoring and hanging around, you get more stops. We just couldn’t make any baskets.”

Highlands (19-5), which won just its fourth playoff game since 1974 by beating West Mifflin in the first round, would extend its season with a trip to the PIAA playoffs if Southmoreland prevails in the semifinals Tuesday.

“We’re very solid, defensively. We use our length,” Cernuto said. “We’d seen Highlands a couple times, and they do have several phenomenal shooters that can hit the 3s at any time. But they were a little off tonight, so that was in our favor.”

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