Southmoreland girls will forge ahead rather than dwell on early section loss

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 | 6:01 PM

For Southmoreland, it’s not as much about the loss as it is what happens after it.

The Scotties, who were ranked No. 1 in WPIAL Class 4A, were upset Monday at Belle Vernon, 52-40.

Belle Vernon (6-2) is no slouch. Everything went the Leopards’ way, and they seemingly couldn’t miss from 3-point range. They have talent and are beginning to form an identity, but many expected Southmoreland to be a strong frontrunner in Section 3-4A.

It still might be.

But the loss set off alarm bells, at least initially, as the Scotties fell behind by 18 in the third quarter and never mounted a run at the Leopards.

Southmoreland (6-2, 1-1) hasn’t lost much in section over its current three-plus-year run. In fact, the team was 37-3 in section during that stretch before Monday’s game.

But there is a trend here.

The team’s three previous section losses also came early in the season. In 2018, they lost to West Mifflin on Dec. 13.

They were 14-0 in section in ‘19, and fell to West Mifflin last year on Jan. 19 in their fourth section game.

“Hopefully, this was our West Mifflin game,” Scotties coach Amber Cernuto said of the Belle Vernon loss. “We have to regroup and be ready to go after this. We missed some shots early and got down on ourselves. We have to put that behind us and move on.”

Southmoreland had not allowed more than 51 points in a section game since the 2017-18 season.

With its collectively lengthy wingspan, the team has a reputation for playing sound defense and often holds opponents under 40 points. They still had the fifth-best scoring defense in 4A after the loss (39.4 points per game).

The team held back previously unbeaten Greensburg Salem, 30-27, on Tuesday night for a nice bounce-back victory.

The Scotties return to section play Thursday night at home against West Mifflin.

“We have played some tough games so far,” Cernuto said. “We played well against Thomas Jefferson and Upper St. Clair, but we weren’t as good against Plum. We’re trying to get ready to play our best later in the year.”

After a 4-0 start, Southmoreland nearly upset 6A No. 2 Upper St. Clair (8-0), falling 47-45.

A nondescript 45-34 win over Plum followed, then came the loss to Belle Vernon.

Consistency is high on coach Cernuto’s priority list.

She knows she has the players to get it done. That surely has not been an issue since she took over last season. She has one of the more talented lineups in the WPIAL, led by senior forward Gracie Spadaro, an IUP commit, and junior point guard Olivia Cernuto.

The pair, along with senior Delaney Morvosh, bring big-game experience and have never showed panic.

They aren’t about to this time, either.

“We just have to bounce back … and move on,” Spadaro said. “We can’t look behind us and dwell on it.

“The same thing happened last year at West Mifflin, and we bounced back.”

Amber Cernuto said the team’s offense needs a charge.

“We need more girls to score,” she said. “We need more girls to take shots. We’re a defensive team to start, but some nights we wonder what we’re going to do offensively.”

Cernuto said the No. 1 ranking to start the season didn’t seem to rattle her team.

“Teams will be gunning for us,” she said. “We know that. We didn’t need a letdown. (The ranking) is a double-edged sword. It’s nice to see, but you still have to work on the basic things to be good. You can’t look too far ahead.”

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


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