Carlynton girls basketball falls to Burrell in WPIAL playoffs
Carlynton girls basketball coach Tim Bonner felt his squad had the formula to knock Burrell out of the playoffs: control the tempo and make the most of its scoring opportunities.
But a nagging habit of starting slow brought the Lady Cougars' season to an end with a 47-23 loss last week.
“We were confident the game plan was solid,” Bonner said. “We didn't finish on a couple of easy shots, and if we did we could control the tempo.
“Basketball is a funny game — you can be out of it really quick.”
The Buccanneers, the 21-2 champions of Section 1-AA, have limited opponents to 27 points per game this season.
Burrell started the game up, 5-0, and never looked back. The Buccaneers built a 19-5 lead by intermission.
While it was a rough first half, the Cougars held Burrell to only five points in the second quarter.
“They scored those five points off of turnovers,” Bonner said. “They didn't score on our set defense in the second quarter.”
Things didn't get any better after halftime as the Cougars committed seven turnovers in the first three minutes, allowing Burrell to go on a 10-0 run to start the third frame.
What disappointed Bonner about the performance in the third period was how the team was unable to figure out Burrell's zone press, a defensive scheme Carlynton had little trouble against all season.
“We saw it on film and talked about it in practice,” Bonner said. “We didn't think they would go to it, because we have done so well against it all season. I just think our players got rattled going down so much.”
Hannah Murray finished with 14 points. including four 3-pointers.
While Bonner was disappointed with how the loss to Burrell played out, he couldn't say the same thing about the season. Bonner, who coached the Cougars from 2004-06 and was an assistant during the 2010-11 season, came into a program in disarray. He was Carlynton's fourth girls basketball coach in as many seasons.
But in his first season back, Carlynton snapped an eight-year playoff drought and finished with the most wins (13) since 2005.
“Our motto this season was ‘return to glory,' ” Bonner said. “During breaks in games, we always finished with ‘1-2-3-glory.' We want to get it back to the way it was in the '80s, '90s and 2000s.”
The defense improved drastically in 2012-13, going from allowing 48.3 points per game last season to 34.7, fifth best in Class AA.
The team will return its most dynamic scorers next season in Murray and sophomore Jordan Melko.
“We also return Jazmyn Meredith, who was our leading scorer for a few weeks,” Bonner said. “They are our three leading scorers. We are returning a good, solid nucleus. We had some problems this season scoring, but I don't foresee that happening (next season).
“We are probably going from one end of the spectrum to the other and have a really good offense next season.”
Bonner said the team was able to work several freshmen — such as Abby Diulus, Abigail Greiner and Summer Nicholls — into games, which should help build depth for the 2013-14 campaign.
The team also looks forward to the return of Conor Richardson.
The forward sat out her entire sophomore season with a leg injury. Add in sophomore Lyrics Woods returning from injury as well, and the Cougars get a drastic boost.
“I told (Richardson) the other day, ‘I am really looking forward to coaching you',” Bonner said. “She came to practices and games, and you could tell it was tearing her apart to not be able to help the team. (Woods) got some playing time as a freshman, and she is returning.
“We are very excited for next season.”
While the team will return plenty of talent next season, it will lose three talented players in seniors Amanda Dodd, Rose Doyle and Legla Isak. Each player brought considerable experience to the court —Dodd was a four-year varsity player, and the other two each played three — and helped Bonner transition in his first year back as Carlynton's head coach.
“What helped me the most is that they accepted me so well right off the bat and sold me to the other players,” Bonner said. “I didn't have to win their respect. (Isak) didn't play last season, and she decided to come back when she found out I would be coaching, and where would we be without her?
“Those three seniors made this season much easier by selling my virtues of what I can add. This all started with those seniors helping me from the get go.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.