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Bucs get payback

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch Burrell's #03 Pete Spagnolo attempts to score against West Shamokin's #30 Ryan Dean during the basketball game at Burrell High School on Tuesday February 5, 2013.

After it upset Burrell in early January, West Shamokin's boys basketball team braced for an intense rematch reaction from the Bucs, who remained in the Section 1-AA title race despite the setback.

On Tuesday night, Burrell turned brutish, and West Shamokin struggled to find an effective response.

The Bucs (14-6, 7-2) won, 52-40, at home on their senior night to stay in the hunt for a section title. They headed to the locker room at halftime tied at 21 but built an eight-point lead in the third against the Wolves (9-9, 4-5), who dropped to fourth in the section standings.

“Shamokin is a really tough team; they hustle,” said Burrell coach Rob Niederberger, whose Bucs lost, 74-69, in overtime at West Shamokin on Jan. 11. “While you have to give credit to West Shamokin, I didn't think we played with enough energy last time. Tonight, you could see, we came out with a lot of it.”

Burrell opened with an 8-1 run and led, 12-8, at the end of the first quarter. West Shamokin guard Anthony Rocco, responsible for 40 points in the January meeting, brought the Wolves back and gave them a brief lead in the second quarter with eight of his game-high 17 points.

“They played a lot more physical this time,” said Rocco, who had three 3-pointers. “They had the home crowd, and with senior night, they were all amped up.

“I just didn't get inside as much (this time). I think last time I took two or three 3's in the whole game. This time, almost all I took were 3's.”

With just a tenth of a second left until halftime, Bucs forward Matt Hess made a heads-up play that tied the score and shifted momentum in Burrell's favor. Hess missed the second of his two free throws, but, in the midst of four West Shamokin defenders, attacked the rim and scored on a tip-in as time expired.

“I didn't realize until the ball reached its highest point that I could run in and tip it,” said Hess, who finished with 11 points. “It definitely fired everybody up and let us know that we were going to win this.”

Hess and fellow forward Cole Bush began to control the boards in the second half. They helped Burrell grab 14 rebounds in the final two quarters, including five offensive rebounds.

In the game, the Bucs had a 26-15 edge in rebounding and a 28-18 advantage in points in the paint.

“We were coming into a hornet's nest down here,” West Shamokin coach Mike Nagy said. “I thought our kids came out and matched their intensity for a while. Then we had that debacle there at the end of the half. … If nothing else, I think it gave them a shot in the arm.”

While Hess and Bush thrived inside, Pete Spagnolo excelled at the foul line. He made all 10 of his free throw attempts, including six in the third quarter. Spagnolo finished with a team-high 14 points.

West Shamokin will finish its section schedule at Apollo-Ridge (14-6, 4-4) on Wednesday. Burrell, meanwhile, will travel to Deer Lakes (15-5, 8-1) on Friday.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BWest_Trib.

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