Burrell wilts under Beaver Falls' pressure in WPIAL finals
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Burrell players said they didn't feel much pressure heading into the program's first WPIAL basketball title game in 34 years.
When the game started, the Buccaneers couldn't escape it.
Beaver Falls treated Burrell like an unwanted guest at an invitation-only party, handily defending its Class AA title with hounding, pressure defense in a 61-33 victory on Saturday afternoon at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center.
Burrell (19-7), making its first championship game appearance since 1979, fell behind, 15-0, out of the gate and trailed, 32-8, by halftime.
“Beaver Falls in the best team in the state for a reason,” Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. “Their press is the best we've seen all year. They denied the wing and never let us settle into our offense.”
The Bucs played the fast-paced Tigers (23-3) even in the fourth quarter, at 18-all, but the damage had already been done. They trailed by as many as 30 points in the third quarter.
Burrell committed 24 turnovers, half of them in the first quarter. Beaver Falls, which fast-breaked its way to a 43-13 lead in the third, had just five.
“Hats off to coach (Doug) Biega,” Niederberger said. “We struggled in our half-court and struggled to get open.”
Simply, Beaver Falls was too fast and, once again, set the tone from the start.
“We dug ourselves into a hole and couldn't get out of it,” Burrell senior forward Cole Bush said. “Our scout team couldn't (simulate) Beaver Falls' pressure.”
Bush scored 10 points in the second half and tied teammate Pete Spagnolo, who hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, with a team-high 14 points. The rest of the team had five points.
“I think we had some jitters,” Spagnolo said. “We had to handle their pressure better.”
The Bucs, much like Apollo-Ridge in the semifinals, appeared nervous and perhaps awestruck by the atmosphere. Bush said that was not the case.
Beaver Falls cruised past Apollo-Ridge, 71-39.
“We've played in big games in front of big crowds before,” Bush said. “It wasn't that. It's just that it all went too quick. I feel like we just got here and it's over.”
Beaver Falls won its ninth WPIAL title, as guard Drew Cook scored a game-high 20 points, Elijah Cottrill added 14 and Dan Stratton had 13.
Burrell was going for its first WPIAL hoops title.
Somewhat of a positive for Burrell: Saturday's margin of victory was Beaver Falls' lowest of the playoffs. The Tigers beat everyone else by at least 30.
“When your strength is what you have to do in your game plan, it makes for an easy week of coaching,” said Biega, who won his third WPIAL title, “and an easy couple days to prepare.”
Burrell isn't done yet. The Bucs move into the PIAA bracket and will face District 6 third-place team Bishop McCort (18-8) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Gateway.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.