Despite rough going, Belle Vernon boys get past Southmoreland

Despite rough going, Belle Vernon boys get past Southmoreland

By: Bill Beckner Jr.

Friday January 27, 2023 | 10:39 p.m

Jeff Helsel | Independent of Mon Valley

Belle Vernon’s Zion Moore shoots over Southmoreland’s Ronnie Collins on Friday January 27, 2023.

Jeff Helsel | Independent of Mon Valley

Trevor Kovatch of Belle Vernon puts the ball on the ground in front of Elijah Myers of Southmoreland on Friday 27th January 2023.

Jeff Helsel | Independent of Mon Valley

Southmoreland’s Ty Keffer lays down Belle Vernon on Friday. Keffer had a game-high 26 points.

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Feeling his team walked away with something in their most recent win — the first of three straight games for Belle Vernon this weekend — boys’ basketball coach Joe Salvino expressed more frustration than satisfaction as he walked out Friday night the locker room and climbed the stairs back to the gym floor.

Obviously, tongue-lashing had just occurred for a team trying to sort out their differences.

“Until they realize who’s to blame, until they’re held accountable themselves, things won’t change,” Salvino said of his players. “We can have all the talent and athleticism in the world … it won’t matter.”

Imagine if the leopards lost.

Still keen to mesh talented characters and realize their full potential at both ends of the floor, Belle passed Vernon in a 3-4A section game while visiting Southmoreland, 59-52.

The Leopards (8-7, 4-2) overcame a 26-point effort from the Scotties’ Ty Keffer, who hit his first seven shots and scored six 3-pointers. The team’s 1,000-point man struggled to open in the second half as he was guarded by Quinton Martin and then Zion Moore.

Southmoreland (12-6, 2-4), ending their four-game winning streak, led late in the first half but failed to get the ball rolling against a defense Salvino thought was largely flawed.

With a game Saturday night against Franklin Regional in the shootout at Seton Hill and another Sunday against North Hills in the PBC Hall of Fame Classic in Montour, the Leopards are looking for continuity, teamwork and trust.

Their distraught 71-year-old coach expects a lot more and doesn’t care who knows.

Look at the criticized leopards.

“I’m tired of the excuses. We don’t blame ourselves. We blame everyone else,” Salvino said. “The finger pointing needs to stop and they need to own up to it. It’s not all. We simply have too many individuals and not enough team.

“We did a better job at Keffer, but we rest far too much on the defensive.”

Still, Belle Vernon managed a win as they built a 44-34 lead after three quarters and held off the Scotties late for their third win of the season against them.

Belle Vernon also won 87-69 and 73-56, one game during a holiday tournament, the other from a section game.

The Scotties closed 32-31 in the third, but a 12-3 run to close out the quarter kept the Leopards ahead.

Martin had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Alonzo Wade added 13 points and Moore scored 10 for Belle Vernon.

Wade, who had nine rebounds and five assists, hit inside to put the lead to 52-43, but the Scotties made one final push, with Wyatt Richter hitting on a break and Keffer nailing a corner 3 to take it to 52 -48 to shorten 3 minutes, 27 seconds.

However, Southmoreland went quiet from three as the Leopards scored seven straight goals, with Martin delivering two putbacks to go 59-48 with 1:28 left.

“We had shots, we just didn’t put them down,” said Southmoreland manager Frank Muccino, who also serves as assistant manager at Belle Vernon. “(Belle Vernon) did a good job putting Q (Martin) on (Keffer) and letting him walk around. He did everything he could. He was used up.”

Richter and Keffer scored again, but the Scotties ran out of time and were seven down with 30 seconds left.

“The thing about Belle Vernon is they get punched in the mouth but hit right back,” Muccino said. “We had to keep them off the boards better.”

Keffer, who said he was in a groove early, said the Leopards wore down the Scotties with second- and third-chance points on the edge and a defense that kept him moving.

“It was really hard to open up on screens,” Keffer said. “We tend to take the gas off when we get up. We have to get better with the leadership.”

Southmoreland scored 90, 78, 76 and 84 points during his winning streak. Keffer needed more help, Muccino said, for the batting streak to continue.

“I cannot fault our efforts,” Muccino said. “We just didn’t do a few games here and there on the track. I’m happy with where we’re going.”

Trevor Kovatch had nine points with three 3s for the Leopards. Richter finished with 10 points.

In a back-and-forth first half, the lead changed sides five times.

Southmoreland led 22-16 after a layup by Noah Felentzer and a feed by Keffer.

But the Leopards picked up 12 straight points, with Trevor Kovatch connecting with a pair of 3s and Martin and Alonzo ending Wade layups with quick breaks.

Belle Vernon prevailed at the break with 28:24.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a contributor to the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill via email at [email protected] or via Twitter.

Keywords: Belle Vernon, Southmoreland

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