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Burrell girls share strong work ethic

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 11:40 p.m.
Burrell guard Sydney Bordonaro takes the lead during a running drill at practice this week. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Matt Hess, the team's top returning scorer, goes up for a layup during a practice on Tuesday. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell High School's Jaila Manga takes aim while shooting during basketball practice on Tuesday November 20, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Natalie Myers (right) runs alongside teammate Sydney Bordonaro at a Lady Bucs' practice.

Low roster numbers and high expectations usually don't relate, but that's practically the motto at Burrell this season.

The Bucs' girls basketball team is rich with potential and lacking in depth. Yet somehow, its eight girls are committed to making it work.

Burrell is a small group with big goals.

“We need to get in shape the best we can; endurance is going to be the main thing,” coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “We have a lot of talent for sure.

“I think once the girls saw how good they could be, they buckled down. They have one combined goal.”

Ziemianski's issue of getting rising stars to share the basketball hasn't been a problem so far.

“I have to say, this is the first team I've had that hasn't had one attitude,” Ziemianski said.

With two proven scoring guards already returning in 5-foot-6 sophomore Sydney Bordonaro and 5-7 junior Jaila Manga, the Bucs will add another rising player to the starting five in freshman guard-forward Natalie Myers.

Bordonaro averaged 13.7 points per game last season and Manga 11.2. The 5-10 Myers has shown flashes of skill in fall workouts, demonstrating versatility as a ball-handler, post-up threat and outside shooter.

Myers is the daughter of former Burrell and Duquesne star Joey Myers.

“Natalie has really picked things up well; we haven't changed a whole lot,” Ziemianski said. “We've added some dribble-drives and one-hitters, but most of it is the same.”

Burrell started fast last season, winning 10 games before its first loss. It finished 18-5, losing 44-42 to Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Experience should help a team that could be strong for years to come. Commitment hasn't been a problem. Most of the team focused solely on basketball during the offseason. While girls from opposing teams were playing other sports, Burrell's were attending open gyms.

Manga played tennis but was quickly back on the court.

“They love to practice,” Ziemianski said. “They're a fun group.”

Depth issues aside, Burrell posted some impressive wins in a fall team camp, defeating Hempfield and Mt. Lebanon, while also playing Uniontown, Bishop Canevin and Vincentian close.

“With my Bad News Bears — all seven of them,” Ziemianski said. “I think we're getting used to not having the numbers. It gives the girls a better work ethic.”

Junior forwards Kelsey Oddis (5-7) and Jessica Cercone (6-0) will round out the starting lineup. The reserves are 5-7 sophomore guard Erica Finn, 5-10 sophomore center Abby Pattock and 5-3 sophomore guard Abby Nitowski.

Lone senior Jenna Erhlich likely will miss the entire season with a knee injury suffered during soccer.

Burrell knows it can't take section play for granted.

Deer Lakes, known in recent years for its clamp-down defensive play, surely won't sit back and watch Burrell cruise to the Section 1-AA title. The Lancers have won back-to-back section titles and defeated Burrell twice last season.

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