Southmoreland’s Gracie Spadaro wins Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors

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Saturday, April 4, 2020 | 9:54 PM


Tribune-Review Girls Basketball Player of the Year

Gracie Spadaro

Southmoreland, 5-11, So., Forward

It was a good year to be a Southmoreland Scottie.

In the fall, the football team made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1979. In the winter, the girls basketball team had the best season in program history.

Sophomore Gracie Spadaro thinks the two aren’t completely unrelated.

“Our football team, I’m going to say they set the tone for us,” she said. “The community was on board with everything, and we just took off and continued the run.”

Spadaro continued the run in a big way. Averaging 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, she was the leading scorer for a team that ripped through a 22-0 regular season and advanced to the WPIAL Class 4A finals for the first time.

Spadaro is 5-foot-11, so she has the height to play with her back to the basket, but she’s also an excellent outside shooter. It was a combination that proved difficult to defend.

“I’m going to say I’m a hard matchup for other teams,” said Spadaro, who credited her high school teammates and coaches and Erudite AAU teammates and coaches Cathy Suman and Rick Thomas for much of her success. “I can play guard or forward and transition easily between them.”

It was no one-woman show. With freshman Olivia Cernuto sparking the backcourt, 6-foot senior Sarah Pisula leading the way in the frontcourt and a relentless defense giving opponents fits, the Scotties played solid team basketball all year long.

Spadaro, though, was the engine that made the offense go, earning Tribune-Review Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors.

Spadaro said the team owed a lot of its success to the support it received from the community. By the end of the season, the gym was packed for every Scotties home game.

“Especially our last four home games. It was full everywhere,” Spadaro said. “I never saw a high school game that full. I had many people who had been around the game a long time come up and say they never saw a gym that full.”

At the beginning of the season, your team started to make a name for itself because of its defense. How did you like being labeled as a defensive team?

We start off on defense because that’s going to translate into offense. Even if our shots aren’t falling, we can rely on our defense to not let the other team score.

By the end of the year, do you think you evolved into more than just a good defensive group?

We got into a rhythm. We got lots of chemistry going. We started running the floor well.

Was having an undefeated regular season something you looked at as a goal?

I would say so. For me personally, it was a goal. For the team, we had to look at each individual game. We couldn’t look ahead.

Your only two losses were against very strong opponents, North Catholic in the WPIAL finals and Lancaster Catholic in the second round of the state playoffs. Does that make the losses easier to deal with?

Our losses came from teams that we were picked to lose to. North Catholic, they were really good. You can’t really be mad or disappointed when you lost to a three-time or four-time defending champion in the WPIAL. This is our first time ever making state playoffs, and we won our first game. We can’t really be disappointed. We set so many records this year.

You have an outstanding group of young players returning next season, but you’re also losing important seniors such as Pisula, Charity Henderson and Erika Sherbondy. What is the future of Southmoreland basketball?

Coming off such a great season, everyone’s going to be expecting another good season next year. We’ve just got to keep it going. We’re hoping a lot of young girls stick with it and we’re hoping we get some more out for the future. We have a good in-house program going. We get lots of kids out for that.

Like a lot of teams, your starting lineup has a routine during introductions where each player greets teammates with a special handshake or gesture. Yours is particularly memorable. You pose for a teammate’s pretend camera. How did you come up with that?

I wanted to be unique. I was like, ‘How about we just take a selfie?’ They were like, ‘No, no, no. You’re in the spotlight.’ So they decided to take a picture of me, and I just struck a pose. To be honest, the first few away games, I was embarrassed to do it. I didn’t do it. They were like, ‘No, you’ve got to stick with it.’ So I was like, ‘OK.’

FIRST TEAM

Olivia Cernuto

Southmoreland

5-7, Fr., Guard

Armed with quickness and smarts, Cernuto was a difference maker for an undefeated team as a ninth grader. She averaged 11.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Olivia Gribble

Norwin

5-8, Sr., Guard

A Marietta recruit, Gribble punished opponents with her outside shot, making 80 3-pointers, and at the free-throw line, where she shot 83%. A three-year starter, she averaged 15.8 points and led the Knights to a 13-1 record in Section 1-6A.

Qitarah Hardison

Monessen

5-8, Sr., Forward

Recording a double-double more often that not, Hardison averaged 12.3 points and 12.6 rebounds and helped the Greyhounds go 15-7 and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Sarah Liberatore

Hempfield

5-10, Sr., Guard

A 1,000-point scorer, Liberatore has been a dynamic all-around player and a fixture in the Hempfield lineup for four years. She was among WPIAL scoring leaders with 19.7 points per game.

Bella Long

Penn-Trafford

5-11, Sr., Forward

An 1,100-point scorer headed to Slippery Rock, Long led the Warriors to a 15-7 regular season and a playoff berth. She averaged 14 points and was an 81% free-throw shooter this season.

Abby Mankins

Greensburg Salem

5-10, So., Guard

Routinely facing double teams, Mankins was among the WPIAL’s top scorers, averaging 19.2 points, doing damage in transition and in the half-court offense.

Sarah Pisula

Southmoreland

6-0, Sr., Forward

Pisula averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, providing a post presence, anchoring one of the WPIAL’s best defenses and making big plays during Southmoreland’s playoff run.

Jayla Wehner

Norwin

5-6, Sr. Guard

Part of one of the top backcourts in the WPIAL, Wehner, a three-year starter, averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 assists. She will play college ball for NAIA power Marian (Ind.).

Rachel Wobrak

Belle Vernon

5-11, Sr., Forward

Washington & Jefferson recruit led a young Belle Vernon team to a 16-6 regular season. A threat in the paint and on the perimeter, Wobrak averaged 14 points and 8.1 rebounds.

SECOND TEAM

Jenna Dawson, Belle Vernon, 5-6, Fr., G

Angel Kelly, Franklin Regional, 5-5, Jr., G

Tiana Moracco, Derry, 5-9, So., G

Kenzie Powell, Penn-Trafford, 5-9, Jr., F

Allie Prady, Penn-Trafford, 5-6, Jr., G

Anna Rafferty, Latrobe, 6-1, So., F

Rachel Ridilla, Latrobe, 5-9, Jr., G

Danielle Rosso, Norwin, 5-8, Jr., G

Gia Scala, Greensburg Central Catholic, 5-5, Sr., G

Maura Suman, Penn-Trafford, 5-6, So., G

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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