Burrell girls cruise past Sharpsville
SLIPPERY ROCK — And to think Burrell tells junior 6-foot-1 forward Jessica Cercone not to swat at the ball.
Cercone turned Burrell's second-round PIAA playoff game into her own, personal block party, rejecting eight shots to lead the Buccaneers to a 45-18 victory over Sharpsville on Tuesday night at Slippery Rock's Morrow Field House.
History has been made, but another chapter could be written for this youthful group.
Burrell (24-3) has posted two state-playoff wins for the first time in school history and tied the program mark for wins in a season, equaling the 1994 team (24-4). With the win, the Bucs, got what they really wanted: a rematch against the team that spoiled their WPIAL playoff run.
Burrell advances to play WPIAL-champion Bishop Canevin (24-4) in the state quarterfinals — the Western semifinals — Friday night at a time and site to be determined.
Bishop Canevin also cruised in the second round, downing General McLane, 56-34. The Crusaders, who turned heads with an upset over Class AA favorite Seton-La Salle in the district finals, flattened Burrell, 55-19, on the way to the title.
Burrell did the same thing to Sharpsville, the third-place team from District 10. Burrell held the Blue Darlings scoreless in the second quarter and led, 20-3, at halftime. Sharpsville had 18 turnovers and managed only two 2-point field goals for the game.
“We know that as long as we play our game, we'll be OK,” said Cercone, who grabbed six rebounds. “We wanted to come out and set the pace.”
Cercone and 5-10 freshman forward Natalie Myers altered countless Sharpsville (19-8) shots as Burrell seized control from the start.
“I just do what comes naturally when the team needs me,” said Cercone of her eight blocks.
Burrell got a game-high 13 points and 10 assists from sophomore guard Sydney Bordonaro, while Myers added 10 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Erika Finn chipped in nine points.
“We got game film of (Sharpsville) last night,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “I think it helped us, nerves-wise, to see the team we were playing.
“Being a Burrell grad, (making team history) is awesome.”
Burrell scored 12 straight points before Megan Davis hit a 3-pointer for the Blue Darlings early in the second quarter to make it 21-6. Burrell kept its defensive pressure coming — Ziemianski made sure of that — and took a 35-14 lead into the third. The lead never got below 19 in the fourth.
Senior McKenzie Popatak, Sharpsville's all-time leading scorer with nearly 1,700 points, finished with 10 points. Sharpsville hadn't been to the state playoffs in 11 years and hasn't won in the tournament since the late 1980s.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.