Southmoreland gets in tune, beats Mt. Pleasant in ‘backyard brawl’

Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 6:03 PM

The Southmoreland girls began the day by singing the national anthem together.

Like the game that followed, they were a little off-key early. But they were just building toward a big finish.

And there was something to that “home of the brave” part.

The third-ranked Scotties finally found their touch early in the fourth quarter and locked down Mt. Pleasant on the way to a 50-26 girls basketball victory — their 40th in a row on their home floor — Saturday afternoon in Alverton.

Southmoreland (11-2, 5-1) held Mt. Pleasant (6-7, 1-4) without a field goal for the final nine-plus minutes — zero in the fourth when it outscored the Vikings, 19-3.

It was a 28-23 game with two minutes to play in the third before the Scotties shifted gears.

“The first three quarters weren’t very good,” Scotties junior point guard Olivia Cernuto said. “We let it get in our heads, and we had to regroup. Shots started falling, and we had to stop them from scoring.”

Cernuto scored a game-high 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, picked off seven steals and dished five assists.

Senior forward Gracie Spadaro, the program’s most recent 1,000-point scorer, added 15 points for the Scotties, who had runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in the third and into the fourth.

Cernuto and Spadaro each had 10 in the second half.

“We got some shots to fall,” Scotties coach Amber Cernuto said. “The emotions of a backyard brawl kind of game got the best of us early.”

It was the sixth victory in a row for the Scotties, and they trail Elizabeth Forward (12-2, 6-1) and Belle Vernon (11-3, 6-1) by a half-game in Section 3-4A.

Elizabeth Forward toppled No. 2 Belle Vernon , 57-39, on Saturday.

“There is a reason they have been one of the top teams in 4A for the past several years,” Giacobbi said of Southmoreland.

Junior forward Tiffany Zelmore led Mt. Pleasant with 14 points. The Vikings never led but only trailed 18-12 at halftime.

After the Scotties stretched the lead to 28-18 with 3 minutes, 10 seconds to go in the third, junior forward Carly Smith scored three straight points and Zelmore hit from inside to trim the margin to five (28-23).

“Mt. Pleasant played great defense,” Amber Cernuto said.

But Spadaro, an IUP commit who made a nifty up-and-under layup earlier in the third, sparked a 10-point surge with a three-point play to close out the quarter.

She added a 3-pointer early in the fourth, Olivia Cernuto scooped in a layup and senior Delaynie Morvosh connected on a 3. Suddenly, it was 41-23 and the Vikings had no response.

“When they needed a run, they went and made a run,” Giacobbi said. “I thought we played a super defensive game. We got a little tired in the fourth quarter and were a step slow. We let them get to the offensive glass.”

Junior forward Maddie Moore converted a three-point play with 3:34 remaining, and Olivia Cernuto’s two free throws made it 46-25.

Mt. Pleasant played a chunk of the fourth quarter without senior point guard Hannah Gesinski, who fouled out.

Morvosh added eight points, and Moore chipped in seven.

As for playing at home, where the Scotties have not lost since Feb. 5, 2018 — a 52-40 setback against South Park — coach Cernuto said her team steps into a comfort zone.

“I think they’re more relaxed at home,” she said. “We had a nice crowd here today — and last Saturday at McKeesport.”

Olivia Cernuto was more succinct: “You don’t want to lose anywhere.”

Southmoreland hosts Belle Vernon on Thursday. The Leopards beat the Scotties, 52-40, on Jan. 3.

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

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