Burrell bolts to playoff victory over Washington
Burrell coach Rob Niederberger has been calling his team “a resilient bunch” all season.
Resiliency was needed Wednesday night.
Burrell fell behind by six in the fourth quarter but staged an 18-0 run and posted a 61-50 victory over Washington.
Two steals by Pete Spagnolo and two layups by Matt Hess helped propel the Bucs to the decisive run in the WPIAL Class AA first-round win at the Hempfield.
The Little Prexies took a 48-42 lead with 5:55 left but didn't score again until Jaylin Kelly hit a pair of free throws with 1:16 remaining.
Burrell (17-6) will play Greensburg Central Catholic in the quarterfinal round Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
Wash High, in the WPIAL playoffs for the 56th time, concluded its season at 17-7.
“The thing about our guys is that they just don't quit,” Niederberger said. “You've got to remember this senior class won just four games two years ago. These guys don't know the word quit. We've had games where we were down by six with a minute left, and we still won.”
Spagnolo's steal and basket with 4:06 to go gave Burrell the lead for good at 49-48.
After a strong move to the hoop by Hess, Spagnolo stole the ball in front of the Washington bench. The possession resulted in a 3-pointer by Joey Cox, and the Bucs suddenly had a 54-48 advantage.
Cole Bush's block stopped another Little Prexies opportunity. Bush scored on the opposite end to put Burrell ahead by eight.
“We knew we had to make some plays out there, and we were able to do it,” Spagnolo said.
“We found out our point guard wasn't going to play when we got to the gym,” Washington coach Mark Gaithers said. “But we put ourselves in position to win, and we self-destructed. But give credit to them.”
Another factor was bench scoring: Burrell's reserves outscored Washington, 12-3.
James Liput entered the game in the second period with Spagnolo and point guard Alex White in foul trouble. Liput responded with a key 3-pointer and a later basket to give Burrell a 30-26 lead at the half.
“I can't say enough about what James did for us tonight,” Niederberger said. “He came up with huge buckets in that second quarter. He's had a tough couple of years with his concussions, and he was ready to play tonight.”
Spagnolo led the Bucs with 18 points, and Hess added 15. Bush had nine points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.
Five players scored during Burrell's 18-0 surge.
“They hurt us all night on their backdoor plays and got some easy buckets,” Gaithers said. “We got a little stagnant, took some forced jumpers.”
Senior Josh Wise led the Little Prexies with 19 points. Jordan Drew added 12.
George Guido is a freelance writer.