Southmoreland girls rout Mt. Pleasant in Class 4A quarterfinals

Friday, March 5, 2021 | 9:25 PM

Southmoreland reached the WPIAL semifinals in girls basketball for a second consecutive season by overwhelming visiting Mt. Pleasant, 54-23, in a Class 4A quarterfinal-round game Friday night.

Maddie Moore scored 17 points, and Olivia Cernuto added 15 to lead No. 3 seed Southmoreland (15-4), which beat No. 11 Mt. Pleasant (11-8) for a third time this season.

Mt. Pleasant was playing in the quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.

Southmoreland, after winning by 22 points in each of the two regular-season meetings against Mt. Pleasant, shut out the Vikings in the third quarter and built a 38-point lead midway through the fourth.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Southmoreland coach Amber Cernuto said of holding an opponent without a point for an entire quarter.

“I know we have done it a couple of times ourselves,” she said, laughing. “It’s not fun because you can’t get anything started when that happens.”

Gracie Spadaro added 11 points for Southmoreland, which advances to play No. 2 Quaker Valley in the semifinals Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.

Southmoreland has beaten its first two playoff opponents by an average of 30 points, and Amber Cernuto thinks she knows why.

“This group likes to push the ball and pressure a team,” she said. “They like to be aggressive and trap and go after the ball. We focus on the defensive end, and then our shooting follows.”

Mt. Pleasant was led by Tiffany Zelmore’s 14 points, but the Vikings’ leading scorer and rebounder was held in check for most of the game until scoring all of her team’s nine points in the fourth quarter.

Zelmore was coming off a 25-point performance in a first-round overtime victory over Freeport.

“You’ve got to hand it to them,” Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. “Part of what we did this year was run the floor pretty well. But you can’t run the floor if there are no rebounds. They owned the glass, and that was one of our keys to the game. We were not successful.

“I maybe could have prepared us a little better for the offensive onslaught on the glass.”

Southmoreland built a 23-8 lead early in the second quarter and settled for a 30-14 halftime advantage.

The Scotties doubled down on the defense in the third and outscored the Vikings 18-0 to go up 48-14.

“There was a point in the second quarter where we got closer,” Giacobbi said, “but we missed an opportunity. If we get it down to around 10 and start sniffing around and getting into single digits, then it’s a different ballgame. We just couldn’t deliver.”

Southmoreland had a plan and stuck to it all night, Amber Cernuto said.

“We came out and jumped on them quickly. The idea was to not let up. That was our gameplan the whole time. Just never let go.”

It worked to perfection. Mt. Pleasant had no answer.

“It’s hard to get that energy once they get rolling,” Giacobbi said. “They just came out and were the aggressor tonight. They’re a great team and they’ll be successful. There’s a reason they’re one of the leaders in Quad-A.”

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