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Burns paces Hempfield past Connellsville

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 11:24 p.m.
Connellsville forward Marissa Matesic pulls down a rebound ahead of Hempfield guard Monica Burns on Thursday during their game in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Because of a school dance, Connellsville's girls basketball game Wednesday night at Hempfield was moved to the school's old gymnasium.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, the host Spartans felt right at home — delivering a run-away, 66-31, Section 1-AAAA victory.

Hempfield (4-0) used a merciless press, forcing Connellsville (1-3) to commit 13 turnovers and rushed out to a 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Spartans ended the half with a commanding 32-13 advantage and the game was never in doubt.

Offensively, Hempfield gave the Falcons fits with its quick-tempo style.

The Spartans received a dazzling performance from junior guard Monica Burns, who finished with a game-high 23 points and was also the catalyst of an aggressive, suffocating defensive scheme.

“We knew coming in Burns was an incredible player,” first-year Falcons coach Shawna Little said. “They are a great team and have a lot of players contributing, but she is a real difference-maker out there.”

The Falcons repeatedly had trouble breaking the Spartans' press, which led to many quick scores for Hempfield.

Connellsville, with just one senior on its roster, had a difficult time keeping pace with the more-experienced Spartans on both ends of the floor. The Falcons weren't, however, lacking effort.

“We are a very, very young team,” Little said. “Offensively, we just aren't there yet. There is a very good mix of young players, but we just, right now, don't have that go-to scorer. We're a few classes behind right now (depth-wise).”

Junior guard Ashton Grimm finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting to lead the Falcons. Connellsville hit just 9 of 33 shots and couldn't get any to fall in the opening eight minutes.

The Spartans came out after the break with a hot shooting hand, adding 24 points in the third quarter.

“We have to get better focus,” Little said. “I love the effort the girls gave tonight. It's tough when you get down like that, but I told the girls at halftime we had 16 minutes left and we had to make the most of them.”

Little is confident her team will take a lot away from its defeat.

“We don't have players who have played in big games against big teams before,” she said. “This was a great experience for the team tonight, and we'll take a lot out of it. We just need to continue to work on the offensive end and keep improving each game. We got a lot of valuable minutes tonight.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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