Southmoreland girls stop West Mifflin, continue promising start to season

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Thursday, December 12, 2019 | 10:46 PM


With long arms and long legs, Southmoreland is not the longshot it once was in WPIAL girls basketball.

One of the tallest teams in Class 4A from guard to forward and head to toe, the budding Scotties used their size and athleticism to take care of visiting West Mifflin, 63-34, in the Section 3 opener Thursday night.

Defensive-minded Southmoreland led buzzer-to-buzzer to stay perfect at 4-0 (1-0 section).

The teams split their section series last year, with West Mifflin winning at home.

In their latest matchup, the sophomore frontcourt duo of Gracie Spadaro and Bailey Kuhns combined for 36 points and 22 rebounds as the Scotties held their fourth straight opponent under 35 points.

They are allowing 25.8 points in the early going of what looks to be a promising season.

Spadaro scored 19 points and Kuhns finished with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

Length plus defense equals wins for this group. The mix allowed the Scotties to bear down on West Mifflin and its perimeter shooters.

“They attack and they finish,” Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts said of his players. “They play hard on both ends. A lot of those points we are getting are because of their efforts on the defensive end, and that’s what we stress. And we are sharing the ball. That’s what you like to see as a coach.”

The 5-foot-11 Spadaro scored seven in each of the second and fourth quarters, while the 6-foot Kuhns, who has a college offer from IUP, had nine in the second half when the Scotties broke things open.

They scored the first 12 points out of the break to take a 41-20 lead. Kuhns and Spadaro each had a traditional 3-point play and sophomore Delaynie Morvosh buried a 3-pointer from the wing.

It was a 17-7 surge in the quarter and it flattened the Titans, who struggled to shoot over the outstretched arms of defenders and get around bodies in the lane.

“Our length put us to an advantage tonight,” Kuhns said. “We did an amazing job getting the boards and it really allowed us to push the ball up the floor, set up what we wanted to do. We communicated well … When we don’t, you can tell. We shut them down.”

Freshman point guard Olivia Cernuto added 10 points and six assists for Southmoreland.

West Mifflin (2-1, 0-1) could only cut it to 19 (46-27) the rest of the way and saw the deficit swell to 30 late in the fourth.

“We came out and showed everybody what we can do,” Kuhns said. “It was a great start to our (section) season. We have a bright season ahead of us if we continue to work together as a team.”

The Scotties used a 10-2 run late in the second quarter to take a 31-20 lead into halftime.

Spadaro scored seven points in the second quarter.

Two free throws by 6-foot senior forward Sarah Pisula stretched the margin to 13, at 31-18, just before the half.

Pisula had eight points.

West Mifflin cut a seven-point deficit to two (13-11) after Lauren Yuhas connected on a 3-pointer to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

“It was a good first quarter because we hadn’t had one like that, so I was interested to see how the girls would respond and they did a nice job,” Pritts said. “We kept our poise and composure and we focused on us. The girls are very athletic and smart, so that helps.”

Southmoreland, which is averaging 64.3 points, limited the Titans to two field goals in the fourth and both came with under six minutes to play.

Each quarter started slow for the Titans.

Junior guard Lauren Yuhas led West Mifflin with 12 points, including a pair of 3s, and junior Shelby Genes added eight.

Southmoreland, a team that seems destined to be ranked, made 18 of 24 free throws.

“I like where we are,” Pritts said. “We have a ways to go yet. We’ll see. Tuesday (at McKeesport) is going to be a great game, a great atmosphere and a great test.

“It’s a long season — a marathon with a bunch of boxing matches in between. That’s how we’re preparing.”

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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