Southmoreland girls seeking 1st trip to PIAA quarterfinals

Friday, March 11, 2022 | 5:15 PM

For the better part of three seasons, the Southmoreland girls rarely have been viewed as an underdog.

But come Saturday, the Scotties (19-4) will face the top dog in WPIAL Class 4A in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.

Blackhawk (25-0) awaits them for a 3:30 p.m. tip at North Allegheny.

The Scotties are taking the longshot label and running with it as they try to move another step to the right in the bracket.

“Yes, we have not been the underdog in many games,” Southmoreland coach Amber Cernuto said. “I think a lot of people are counting us out in this game, but I think we will definitely make this a game.”

Southmoreland, which lost to Lancaster Catholic in the second round two years ago, scored an impressive 45-39 victory in the first round Wednesday at District 6 champion Tyrone.

The Scotties never have been to the state quarterfinals. Their first PIAA berth came in 2019-20.

Blackhawk continued its state title march with a 54-48 victory over Eastern York of District 3.

The Cougars have four state titles, all in 3A. They won in 1999, 2000, ’14, and ’15.

Saturday’s game sets the table for the convergence of clashing styles.

Southmoreland is methodical and disciplined on defense, while Blackhawk is full-on fifth gear from the tip.

“Blackhawk is a tough team,” Cernuto said. “They are quick, aggressive, very disciplined and well-coached.”

Getting the Cougars to slow it down, especially early, could hold the key to an “upset.”

“The thing that jumps out about Southmoreland is their size,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “They are big at every position and also very skilled. Olivia (Cernuto) is a very good point guard that controls the offense for them. You can tell she is the daughter of a coach. They are very sound on the defensive end and very rarely make mistakes. (Senior Gracie) Spadaro is skilled and can score in a variety of ways. We will have to do a great job in controlling those two.”

Which means others may need to step up. For instance, junior Reagan Carson came off the bench to hit a late 3-pointer Wednesday at Tyrone.

Role players often come up big in postseason stunners.

But the standouts have to do what they do best.

Junior point guard Olivia Cernuto had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the first-round win, while Spadaro added 15 points.

“I think we will have to continue to play our game as we have most of the season,” Amber Cernuto said. “We will have to contain their guards from penetrating to the hoop and close out on their shooters.”

While the Scotties have a size advantage over the Cougars, coach Cernuto said her girls still have to get in position and win battles for loose balls.

They have one of the lowest points allowed averages in the state tournament at 35.3.

Senior Casey Nixon and junior Quinn Borroni scored 13 points Wednesday for the Cougars, who average 65.9 points and give up 33.6.

They will want to push the pace and won’t have it any other way, using their pressure and depth to wear down the Scotties.

“We will press 94 feet for four quarters,” Lodovico said. “We are a very unselfish group that only cares about winning. Any player in our starting rotation can lead us in points on any given day. It’s hard to focus on one or two players.”

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

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