Southmoreland girls dismiss Central Valley, earn program’s first trip to WPIAL finals

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Monday, February 24, 2020 | 10:17 PM


You might consider anything Southmoreland’s girls basketball team did after the quarterfinals a bonus. Gravy, as they say.

After reaching the WPIAL semifinals for the first time and earning their first PIAA playoff berth, the Scotties already had earned a prime spot in scrapbooks and a firm place in school history.

But it’s quite apparent they want more. Like, championship more.

Their perfect record remained intact and No. 2 Southmoreland shined in its semifinal debut, riding a red-hot start and keeping its poise late to turn back No. 3 Central Valley, 64-51, Monday night at Peters Township.

Southmoreland (24-0), which has not lost since last year’s WPIAL quarterfinals, will take on top-seeded North Catholic (23-1) for the WPIAL Class 4A title at 7 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center.

“Everything clicked and everything jelled for us tonight,” Scotties coach Brian Pritts said. “We did the little things and believed we could get it done. Our girls seemed loose and more relaxed tonight. We’re going to The Pete.”

Central Valley (18-4), which was making its third straight semifinal appearance, was looking to advance to the WPIAL finals for the second straight year.

But the Warriors were denied a rematch with North Catholic.

The Scotties made six first-half 3-pointers as six players found the scoring column, including senior Charity Henderson, who made a four-point play during a 28-8 surge that built a 36-18 lead at the half.

Central Valley was outscored, 16-4, in the second quarter.

“We knew we could take it to them,” Henderson said. “We were confident that we could come out and play well. We want to keep making history. It’s been amazing.”

A 9-0 run in the first quarter, started by a 3-pointer from freshman Olivia Cernuto, ignited the spurt. Cernuto scored eight in the 20-point first quarter.

She finished with a game-high 23 points, including 11 of 14 free throws.

“We knew we had to come out focused from the tip,” Cernuto said. “We kept hearing the talk about Central Valley and how they were bigger and better than us. We buckled down and made plays when we had to.”

Henderson had seven in the second and followed an off-balance 3-pointer with a free throw for the rare four-point play to push the margin to 19 at 33-14.

Senior Erika Sherbondy knocked down a three early in the second half to make it 39-18.

Senior Allyson Kirby scored 10 of her 22 points in the third for Central Valley, which closed the gap to 47-33. But Southmoreland was relentless in contesting shots and kept the Warriors from getting too close.

The Warriors used an 8-0 run to close the gap to 47-38 with 6:04 left in the fourth. Sophomore Gracie Spadaro converted a 3-point play off a steal by Cernuto — and assist by Henderson — to make it 50-38.

“Olivia didn’t force things and she played great defense,” Pritts said. “We played good, tough defense tonight like we’re used to doing.”

Central Valley cut it to 50-42 on a steal and score by Seton Hill commit Christiane Frye with 4:20 to play.

But Cernuto scored seven in the fourth, including 9 of 12 free throws, to help keep the Warriors back. Southmoreland made just two field goals in the fourth but sank 14 of 20 foul shots.

Frye, who fouled out with 19 points, hit a three with about 40 seconds left to cut it to 60-51.

Henderson and Cernuto put it away with free throws.

Henderson and Sherbondy finished with nine points each, while Spadaro and Pisula had eight apiece. Pisula had 11 rebounds, and Spadaro grabbed eight.

“With our girls, it’s like the bigger the challenge, the more they rise to the occasion,” Pritts said. “We’re going to settle down and enjoy this one and then get ready for Friday.”

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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