Burrell blitzes Beth-Center for 1st playoff win since '06

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

Burrell's boys basketball team left little room for doubt Saturday afternoon as it steamrolled Beth-Center, 64-34, in a WPIAL Class AA preliminary-round playoff game at West Allegheny.

The win is Burrell's first in the postseason since 2006. The Buccaneers (16-6) advance to face Washington (16-6), a 76-32 winner over Jefferson-Morgan, in the first round.

Burrell coach Rob Niederberger hopes Saturday's win is just the beginning for his team, which shared the Section 1-AA title with Deer Lakes.

“We want to get to Palumbo,” the coach said, referring to the site of the WPIAL championship game. “That's been the goal all year. We're not shy about saying that. I think Class AA is wide open. I think there's eight teams that can realistically do it, and one of them, Washington, we play on Wednesday.”

Despite periods of sloppy play, especially in the early going, the Bucs led from the start. A 14-0 run in the second quarter gave them a commanding 30-9 lead over the Bulldogs.

“I think we came out in the first quarter-and-a-half and played a little jittery,” Niederberger said. “We got those jitters out, and then I think we got in a groove midway through the second quarter.”

Though Burrell turned the ball over 19 times, it forced a season-high 33 turnovers.

“We didn't expect as much pressure as they put on,” Beth-Center coach Gary Amos said. “They didn't look as quick on tape.”

It was that consistent supply of turnovers that fed the Bucs' offense, leading to numerous transition points. Senior forward Cole Bush scored a game-high 23 points and capped off his double-double with 10 rebounds.

Notably, despite his size, the 6-foot-2 Bush generated much of his offense on the fast-break and through high-percentage shots resulting from clockwork passing combinations.

“From the jump (we felt jittery),” Bush said. “This was our first playoff experience together, so obviously there was going to be some jitters. Once we got going, we were clicking on all cylinders.”

Burrell senior guards Alex White (14 points) and Pete Spagnolo (11 points, seven steals, five assists) also were impressive.

Sophomore guard Joey Cox scored eight points off the bench.

“I thought every guy contributed,” Niederberger said. “Once we settled down, we played good ball.”

Junior forward Dean Holt and junior guard Adam Walters led Beth-Center with 10 points apiece.

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.

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