Westmoreland high school basketball notebook: Southmoreland girls should contend again

Sunday, March 14, 2021 | 4:39 PM

The Roundball Classic committee couldn’t pick any girls basketball seniors from Southmoreland to play in its event in May. It’s not because the Scotties are lacking worthy players. They just don’t have any seniors to offer.

Southmoreland had one of the youngest semifinal-qualifying teams in the WPIAL this season, with a roster that had three juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen playing for first-year coach Amber Cernuto.

So with everyone expected to come back, Southmoreland, which finished 16-5 a year after going 25-2 and reaching the WPIAL finals, will be a favorite to contend again in 2021-22.

Juniors Gracie Spadaro and Delaynie Morvosh and sophomores Olivia Cernuto and Maddie Moore will be the core around which the team will build.

Coach Cernuto said she learned a lot in her first season guiding the Scotties. She used to be an assistant with the program.

“I think this year we learned how important it is to play together and that everyone on the team plays an important role in the success of the program,” Cernuto said. “We also saw the importance of a good offseason.”

Cernuto said her coaching staff — Susan Spadaro and Rick Thomas — helped her and the team overcome obstacles throughout the season.

“Just as the girls need to be on the same page, so do the coaches,” she said. “I am fortunate to have a great staff.”

The program is resting on a strong foundation, and Cernuto expects the Scotties to again be among the top teams next season.

“I hope that we are a favorite and can play for our third section title and get back to the WPIAL finals,” she said. “We will gain some new freshmen that should be able to help in that journey. We have more girls who have gained some valuable playing experience.

“We will give the girls a couple weeks off and then we will get back in the gym to prepare for next season.”

Others to watch

The Greensburg Central Catholic boys will have high hopes again next season after reaching the WPIAL finals for the third time in program history.

The Centurions (16-4), who lost to powerhouse Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Saturday’s WPIAL Class 2A title game, 71-52, will lose five seniors, including standout guard Christian McGowan. But they will bring back three starters — juniors Brevan Williams, Dylan Parsons and Ryan Appleby — and key reserve Tyree Turner, a freshman.

“They battled until the clock hit zero,” GCC second-year coach Christian Hyland said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them, on or off the court. I told them to be ready for this again next year. We’re going to work really hard in the spring and in the fall and get back here.”

Also count Latrobe’s girls among the teams with an abundance of talent returning. The Wildcats, who lost to two-time defending Class 5A champion Chartiers Valley in the semifinals, will lose four seniors from a 14-3 team.

The frontcourt pair of junior Anna Rafferty (6-foot-2) and sophomore Emma Blair (6-1), will return, along with freshman guard Elle Snyder, junior guard Bailey Watson and sophomore forward Camille Domenick, among others.

“We took a big step and the girls want to make it back,” coach Mark Burkhardt said. “It’s tough to see it end but they made a great run. The girls has a lot of fun.”

On the boys side, how can’t Belle Vernon be one of the top returning teams in Class 4A with junior guards Devin Whitlock and Daniel Gordon, and freshman forward Quinton Martin back?

The Leopards, seeded No. 1 in the WPIAL bracket, were stunned in the semifinals by North Catholic, 77-76.

With the WPIAL sending only champions to the PIAA playoffs this year, local fans only can wonder what might have been for some teams in the state tournaments — the ultimate second chance for teams that were tripped up in the district playoffs.

Think about teams such as the Jeannette boys and Norwin girls, other semifinal teams.

“It was a long and strange season and a lot of us weren’t even sure we would make it this far,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “You think about how fortunate you are to have reached the end. But at the same time, you wonder about what might have happened in states.”

Norwin loses key seniors Danielle Rosso and Mara Polczynski but brings back juniors Brianna Zajicek, Maggie Race and Alyssa Laukus, sophomore Savannah Schneck (who missed time with a knee injury), and freshman Lauren Palangio.

Big season for Rocco

Alayna Rocco, a freshman at North Catholic whose father used to coach Penn-Trafford and brother was a star guard for the Warriors, helped North Catholic reach the WPIAL Class 3A championship as a starter in her first season.

The Trojanettes lost to Mohawk, 54-48, on Saturday in the Class 3A championship at North Allegheny.

Rocco had a number of big games this season, including a 30-point effort.

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

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