Undefeated Southmoreland fights off Belle Vernon upset bid

Thursday, January 9, 2020 | 10:32 PM

Belle Vernon Area gave Southmoreland its best shot Thursday, but the Scotties were the team delivering the knockout blow to avoid the Leopards’ upset bid.

Southmoreland (12-0, 6-0) outscored the Leopards, 13-2, over a span of six minutes in the fourth quarter and Gracie Spadaro scored a game-high 26 points to help push the Scotties to a 58-50 road win in Section 3-4A play.

The Leopards gave the Scotties fits, not allowing them to pull away throughout the game. The game was tied 29-29 at the half and 43-43 at the end of the third quarter.

“I really think it’s this floor,” Southmoreland coach Brian Pritts said with a laugh. “Every time we come here, it’s a battle.

“But they play with passion, and they came out and attacked us. But I’m really proud of our girls and the way they buckled down.”

The teams exchanged baskets throughout the first quarter until Sarah Pisula hit a layup with nine seconds to go to give her team a 14-12 advantage through one.

The Scotties used a 7-0 run to take a 23-16 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Leopards countered and refused to let them pull away.

Taylor Rodriguez hit 1 of 2 from the line and Jenna Dawson got down the lane for a layup.

After Spadaro hit 1 of 2 from the stripe, BVA freshman Farrah Reader hit a pair of her own from the line followed by a Rachel Wobrak basket to make it 24-23 Scotties.

Spadaro scored three more points to make it 27-23, but Dawson nailed a 3-pointer and Wobrak converted after a turnover to give BVA a 28-27 lead.

Spadaro answered with a layup of her own and Dawson hit a free throw in the waning seconds to tie it up at the half.

Dawson, a freshman, went on to finish with a team-high 21 points for the Leopards.

“We wanted to get downhill on them, and we did a good job of that,” Pritts said. “But I wasn’t pleased with the defensive effort. It wasn’t where it’s been. We were doing it to them, but they were doing the same thing to us.”

Back and forth the scoring went in the third, as the Leopards’ prowess on the outside took over. Three-pointers from Rodriguez, Dawson, Presleigh Colditz and Wobrak offset 2-pointers from the Scotties to give BVA a 41-39 lead on Wobrak’s shot.

Pisula, who finished with 10 points despite fighting through foul trouble, scored on an inbound play and Spadaro added another hoop a minute later to make it 43-41.

But Wobrak finished off a nice baseline spin move to tie it up at the end of the third.

“I’m very proud of the way we battled back. Every time we were down, we answered,” BVA coach Ronnie Drennen said. “We did a good job of pressuring them and we wanted to keep the ball out of (Olivia) Cernuto’s hands. Once they got the ball inside the 3-point line, though, we had some trouble.”

The trouble was evident in the fourth quarter.

A Dawson layup gave the Leopards a 45-43 lead, but it lasted all of 15 seconds.

Seven straight points made it 50-45 with 4:12 to go before Viva Kreis broke the streak with two free throws for BVA.

But the Leopards didn’t stop Spadaro, as the talented sophomore scored four of the next six Scotties’ points to make it 56-47.

Dawson hit another trey with 14 seconds to go, but that was all the Leopards could muster in the final seconds.

“I love playing in this section,” Pritts said. “It’s so tough with the quality teams, and they all have great coaches.

“I chalk this one up to those battles we’ve had earlier this season. The Cal U tournament, seeing teams like Baldwin and Mercyhurst Prep. Those games really helped us. Our schedule is favorable in the second half. We just have to protect our home floor and continue to focus on every game.”

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