Burrell girls prepped to face Bishop Canevin again after falling in WPIAL semifinals
The Burrell girls basketball team had its year-end banquet almost two weeks ago. Team members and their families enjoyed a meal before the customary speeches and applause. No harm done.
But an awkwardness seemed to cast a shadow over the group at Mogie's in Lower Burrell. People looked at each other thinking the same thing but not uttering the words.
This thing isn't over yet.
“I yelled at them for putting ‘Congratulations on a Great Season,' on the cake,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said with a laugh. “We all said our good-byes, but then said we'd see each other at practice the next day.”
Ziemianski didn't want words spelled in icing to affect her team's PIAA playoff run.
“That's me being my superstitious self,” she said. “I guess that's the hockey fan in me.”
Burrell has added a few more memories to its season since the banquet. It's won two state playoff games for the first time in school history and now has 24 wins, which ties the 1994 team for the school record.
But the same team that ended Burrell's WPIAL playoff run stands to do the same to its PIAA roll unless the Bucs (24-3) can find a way to defeat Bishop Canevin (24-4) in Friday's 6 p.m. quarterfinal-matchup at North Hills.
Talk about icing on the cake. Burrell hopes someone can splice some state-playoff highlights into the banquet film, particularly those from a win against Bishop Canevin.
The WPIAL champion Crusaders trounced Burrell, 55-19, in the WPIAL semifinals.
“This is what we wanted, but we still have to keep working hard,” Burrell sophomore point guard Sydney Bordonaro said. “We have to play hard for all 32 minutes, especially against a team like Bishop Canevin.”
Burrell knows the key to exacting revenge on the Crusaders could lie in the first couple minutes of Friday's game.
In their last meeting on Feb. 25 at Moon, Bishop Canevin took advantage of 11 first-quarter Burrell turnovers and fast-breaked its way to a 20-2 lead and then hit cruise control.
“That'll tell a lot,” Ziemianski said of the opening minutes. “That'll show which one of us shows up. It'll show where we are with our nerves.”
With only eight healthy players and no seniors in the starting lineup, Burrell practices are sometimes limited in terms of what the team can do. Two coaches often step in and will do so Thursday as the team prepares to face Bishop Canevin's 1-3-1 trap.
Ziemianski and her brother, assistant Zack, are both former Burrell point guards.
“We can still run a little,” Meghan said. “We're team Ziemianski. We bought (Pirates) Zoltan shirts and everything.
“We have to be able to handle (Bishop Canevin's) pressure better.”
Burrell has been relatively untested in its two PIAA wins: 65-46 over Bellwood-Antis and 45-18 over Sharpsville.
But Bishop Canevin will once again force Burrell to play virtually mistake-free basketball.
“We want to show them we're not the same team that lost to them,” Burrell junior forward Jessica Cercone said. “We didn't show up last time.”
Bishop Canevin has several outstanding players, including 1,000-point scorers Erin Waskowiak and Carly Forse. Waskowiak is a Duquesne recruit, while Forse is headed to Point Park.
Forse had 23 points and Waskowiak 22 against Burrell in the first meeting.
The Crusaders also have long bombers. Junior guard Johnie Olkosky hit seven 3-pointers in a 56-47 win over two-time defending champion Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL championship.
Senior guard Celina DiPietro connected on eight 3s and scored 26 points in a 56-44 win over Mohawk in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Mohawk (19-7) has advanced to face Seton-La Salle (26-2) in the quarterfinals.
Burrell still has a better defensive average than the Crusaders, but not by much. The Bucs allow 28.9 points per game, Bishop Canevin 33.0. The 55 points Burrell allowed against the Crusaders was a season high.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.