Southmoreland girls use size advantage to topple No. 5 Belle Vernon
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Thursday, January 10, 2019 | 9:57 PM
With a size advantage around the rim and a defensive tenacity to complement it, Southmoreland has the look of a top-five girls basketball team.
After beating the fifth-ranked team in WPIAL Class 4A on Thursday night, the Scotties look poised to take their place among the classification’s best.
Senior 6-foot-2 forward Maggie Moore scored a game-high 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, and 6-foot junior forward Sarah Pisula added 10 points, four rebounds and four assists to pace Southmoreland to its fifth straight win, 45-27 over visiting Belle Vernon in a rather anticlimactic first-place showdown in Section 3.
“Our length has been helping us out,” Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts said. “We did a nice job defensively; we frustrated them and took away some of the things they like to do.”
Southmoreland (11-2, 5-1) owns the top defensive scoring average in 4A, at 34.2 points per game. It showed the Leopards (7-5, 4-2) why that is, keeping them out of rhythm on offense, altering shots and forcing turnovers. Belle Vernon seemed harried and could not establish offensive sets.
Despite some miscues on offense — open-floor turnovers and missed layups, which contributed to single-digit second and fourth quarters — the Scotties more than compensated on the other end of the court.
“It’s a work in progress offensively, but the kids’ defensive effort tonight was amazing,” Pritts said. “They came out in the second half and built the lead back up after we were kind of stagnant in the second quarter. I am really proud of the kids tonight.”
Belle Vernon, which had won seven of its last eight, managed just two field goals in the second quarter. Its leading scorer, senior guard Lindsay Steeber, battled foul trouble and was held to six points.
“We never had that energy tonight,” Belle Vernon first-year coach Ronnie Drennen said. “It was a game of runs. Getting down 10-0 was tough to overcome. They play a great defensive game, and their size was difficult for us.”
Freshman 5-11 guard Bailey Kuhns came off the bench to score nine points, seven in the first half when the Scotties built a 22-13 advantage.
They started the game on a 10-0 run and led 16-5 after the first quarter.
“Coming off the Elizabeth Forward win, we were more hungry for the win,” Moore said. “We want to prove ourselves now. We know we can win the section. (Not being ranked) is a big motivator.”
Belle Vernon cut the margin to six early in the third, but the Scotties ran off 15 of the next 17 points and took a 38-22 lead into the fourth.
Pisula lobbed a pass inside to Kuhns for a lay-in to make it 29-19.
In the closing seconds of the third, junior Erika Sherbondy hit a corner 3-pointer for Southmoreland, but junior guard Rachel Wobrak, who led the Leopards with nine points, all on 3s, beat the buzzer with a 3 from the wing.
The lead swelled to 20 in the fourth on three straight baskets by Pisula.
Moore, a Navy recruit and the only senior on the team, assisted a score by Pisula as the Scotties extended their lead.
“They bring different things to the table,” Pritts said of Moore and Pisula. “Mags, on defense, we try to keep her around the basket as much as we can. Sarah is so athletic we try to put her on the perimeter and let her go. We have a lot of other girls who help with that length.”
Southmoreland held a 31-13 rebounding advantage.
“They didn’t let us get into the paint,” Drennen said. “And we didn’t do a good enough job on offensive rebounding. I love the way their big girls play. They did a good job tonight.”
Another freshman, Gracie Spadaro, scored seven for Southmoreland.
“The back of our shirts say effort and attitude,” Pritts said. “Defense is all about effort and having a good attitude, and trusting each other.”
The Scotties’ losses are to Class 6A Seneca Valley, 53-42, and West Mifflin in section, 46-42.
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.