Undefeated Southmoreland girls making noise, clamping down on opponents

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | 6:51 PM

The locker room at Southmoreland used to be a quiet place, all the ambiance of a library.

These days, though, it’s like a heavy metal concert mosh pit before games.

“It gets rowdy,” Scotties sophomore guard/forward Gracie Spadaro said. “We all jump around and bang on lockers. Last year, it was different.”

Of course, there is a reason to be boisterous in Alverton.

The Scotties are undefeated, ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class 4A and looking more each game like they’re the real deal.

One opposing coach called them “the U.S. national team.” Another said they’re as advertised and “worth the price of a ticket.” A third just shook his head and said, “Wow.”

The best start in school history keeps growing for Southmoreland, which is 16-0 and sitting pretty atop Section 3-4A at 9-0.

“We’re not done,” coach Brian Pritts said after Monday’s 53-48 victory over No. 5 McKeesport. “The community came out and gave us a great atmosphere, but I don’t want the girls to become complacent and relax. We talk about having a telescopic view and looking at the big picture, but after we enjoy a win, it’s back to a microscopic view.”

The season sweep of McKeesport was impressive because the athletic Tigers are such a tough out, led by senior forward Jhayla Bray, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds Monday. The Scotties won despite some late turnovers, missed 14 of 37 free throws and had two key players foul out inside the final two minutes.

On that night, they were imperfectly perfect.

“They don’t make it easy for you with the way they play defense,” McKeesport coach Eric Smith said of the Scotties. “There is a reason they’re undefeated.”

Said Spadaro: “If something bad happens, we pick up each other’s spirits. And we stay humble.”

The second McKeesport win, before a packed gym, was the 18th straight home win for the Scotties, who have formidable opponents in Elizabeth Forward and Belle Vernon left on the home schedule.

Earlier in the season, Southmoreland won at Elizabeth Forward for the first time and escaped Belle Vernon with a 58-50 win, its first in Rostraver in 12 years.

“We came out with an intensity we hadn’t yet brought to the table,” Spadaro said about Monday’s win. “We’re known for our defense, and we wanted to show it. We bust our butts to get back (on defense) and we all push each other.”

With a tall frontcourt lineup that includes the 5-foot-11 Spadaro (16 ppg), 6-foot senior forward Sarah Pisula (7.2 ppg/7.6 rpg), 6-foot sophomore forward Delaynie Morvash (7.6 ppg) and 5-11 freshman forward Maddie Moore, the Scotties are long and athletic and create shadows in the paint.

Teams have trouble getting around the long-armed defense, of which the Scotties take great pride.

Southmoreland has the third-best scoring defense in the WPIAL (30.8 points per game). The defense-infused victories have varied in point differential — blowouts to nail-biters — but it’s been 16 up, 16 down nonetheless.

“We’ve been able to adapt to teams,” senior guard Erika Sherbondy said. “Our coaches do a great job of keeping us up to date on (opponents) and what teams are doing. We’re always prepared for whoever we play.”

The “bigs” are a fine complement to a budding backcourt group — some nights it’s the other way around — in freshman point guard Olivia Cernuto (10.3 ppg, 3.0 apg), Sherbondy, and seniors Carlie Collins and Charity Henderson.

Pritts knows his team is talented but he wants it to have the proper perspective and the understanding that no game comes with guarantees.

“You want to be able to uphold that standard of excellence,” Pritts said. “And you also want to be able to handle everything that comes with it. The girls see, hear and read about what they’ve done, which is fine, but they have to quickly forget about it and get back to business. They have to block that stuff out.”

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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