Bishop McCort crushes Burrell's PIAA hopes
Burrell's hopes of making another playoff run were Crimson crushed.
The WPIAL runner-up Buccaneers, looking for their first PIAA playoff win in school history, fell behind by double digits at halftime Saturday afternoon and never regained their balance in a 62-43 loss to Bishop McCort in a Class AA first-round game at Gateway's Furrie Sports Complex in Monroeville.
The Crimson Crushers (19-8), who finished third in District 6, posted their first PIAA win since 2009.
Burrell, making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2001, ends one of its most memorable seasons at 19-8. After a 10-game winning streak rocketed the Bucs into the WPIAL finals, they closed the campaign with two straight losses.
The proverbial WPIAL hangover might have reared its head for Burrell, which also couldn't find its footing one week earlier in a lop-sided defeat against highly touted Beaver Falls in the WPIAL finals at Palumbo Center.
“Hats off to Bishop McCort; they played well,” Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. “But at the same time, we frustrated ourselves. We didn't come out with any intensity. We came out flat.”
Once again, the Bucs struggled to settle into their offense and gave Bishop McCort points in transition.
Still, they showed positive signs early. Senior guard Pete Spagnolo hit a 3-pointer to give the Bucs a 10-7 lead. But Bishop McCort ended the quarter on a 10-2 run to build a 17-12 advantage.
The Crushers' next surge, though, was more hurtful. Senior guard Adam Pastorek hit a pair of 3s to key a fast-breaking, 12-1 run that led to a 29-13 lead.
Spagnolo and senior backcourt teammate Alex White connected on 3s, and senior forward Matt Hess scored inside to cut the deficit to 29-21, but Bishop McCort took a 35-25 lead into the half.
The Crushers have size and play physical, which are key ingredients in Burrell's gameplan.
Bishop McCort 6-4 junior forward Nemo Trexler — a dead-ringer for the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah — scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the opening quarter. Junior guard Billy Hipp added 21 points.
“We knew coming inhow physical Burrell was and how strong they are running their stuff,” Bishop McCort coach Patrick Hollern said. “They are very comfortable in what they do and they way they play. Our goal was to make it uncomortable for them today.”
Hollern said the Crushers didn't watch game film on the Burrell-Beaver Falls game because Burrell was so out of sorts.
“We had some other (film),” the coach said. “We wouldn't have learned much from that game. We wanted to make their big guys work. We wanted to keep (Cole Bush) and (Matt Hess) away from the hoop and force them to take jump shots.”
Trexler looked like the best player on the court Saturday, but he is a star baseball player who led the Crushers to a state title on the diamond last spring.
Burrell felt like charging the mound in this game.
With comeback attempts fizzling fast, tempers flared in the third quarter. Burrell was hit with a pair of technical fouls, and Spagnolo was ejected after trying to push a player off him when they fell to the floor.
Players shoved one another in obvious frustration on a couple other occasions.
“We were doing things that are very uncharacteristic of us,” Niederberger said. “We don't get technicals. We were out of control, and it should not have got to that point.”
The Bucs got 14 points from Hess and 12 from White. Hess scored all 10 of the team's points in the third as the Buccaneers fell behind, 52-35.
Bishop McCort led by as many as 21 in the fourth. The Crimson Crushers shot 20 for 27 from the free-throw line.
“I think when we lost the WPIAL championship game a part of us was lost, too,” Niederberger said. “But you look at our program. Two years ago we won four games. We had kids that bought in. These guys worked so hard in the offseason and got so much better.
“It's been rewarding to see what hard work can do.”