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Burrell boys regroup for state basketball playoffs

| Sunday, March 3, 2013, 8:45 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Peter Spagnolo is consoled by assistant coach Brandon Cochran after he was taken out in the final minute of play against Beaver Falls in the WPIAL Class AA championship game on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. Beaver Falls won the game, 66-31. (Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review)

Burrell's boys basketball players aren't quite ready to see their high-tops dangle from the electrical wires.

After a surprising run in the WPIAL playoffs, the Buccaneers will try to regroup for the PIAA postseason.

But first, a cool down for the silver medalists.

“We're going to take (Monday) off, take a breath,” Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. “We need some time to acknowledge what we did. I am proud of our guys and the way they fought. They gave the community something to latch onto.”

Burrell (19-7) gave its all against the best Class AA team in the state — some coaches are saying perhaps the best in any classification — but couldn't overcame a blinding first-quarter surge by defending champion Beaver Falls (23-3) and fell, 61-33, in its first title-game appearance since 1979.

The trip to Duquesne's Palumbo Center was swift, but memorable. Burrell had a 10-game winning streak stopped but will set out to begin a new streak in the state playoffs.

“Basketball season's a grind; you have your ups and downs,” Niederberger said. “We expected to make it (to the finals). It's disappointing, but these guys have nothing to be ashamed of. I think we're starting a tradition here.

“You will see us back (at Palumbo Center) again.”

Burrell took its previous two playoff opponents to overtime, but the championship game was leaning noticeably one way by halftime. The Bucs couldn't settle in offensively against a pestering and chaotic Beaver Falls defense that limited quality shot attempts and cashed in turnovers with ease.

The Bucs, led mainly by seniors, knows a second chance awaits in the state tournament, which hasn't included Burrell in its brackets since 2001.

They'll start with a first-round game against District 6 third-place team Bishop McCort (18-8) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Gateway High School's Furrie Sports Complex.

The game site will allow a hefty fan following to keep an eye on the Bucs.

“We didn't play the way we can (in the finals),” Burrell senior forward Cole Bush said. “We'll have to take it out on Bishop McCort.”

Burrell's WPIAL playoff run has been an extra-large energy drink for the program, which isn't used to playing into March.

Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega, who has won three titles in 14 seasons, argued on Saturday that Beaver Falls should be known as a basketball school. Niederberger

wants to be able to say that about Burrell one day.

“Burrell is a wrestling school,” he said, “along with football and baseball. Nobody talks about Burrell's basketball teams. We're going to change that.”

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