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Confident in their roles, young Burrell girls hope to take next step in maturity

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Jaila Manga (No. 5) fends off Bellwood-Antis' Bailey Swogger during their PIAA first-round playoff game Friday, March 8, 2013, at Plum.

From the time they're in Bitty Ball — Burrell's youth basketball program — girls are taught to be team players.

Individual accolades get attention only after the team's accomplishments are recognized.

Coaches hope that mentality stays with most players over the years, and it apparently has for the current varsity group. They know their roles better than they know each other.

“On any given night, any of us can have a big game,” junior forward Jessica Cercone said. “Everyone does whatever needs to be done to get a win. Some people score, some rebound, some pass. We all work together.”

A team of primarily underclassmen, Burrell has meshed well from the start of the season, developing a chemistry far beyond its years.

The Lady Bucs (24-3) think they can pull an upset in the state quarterfinals if their moving parts continue to function as one. All this talk about popes, and Burrell just wants to dethrone a Bishop.

It won't be easy against WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin (24-4), a team that thumped the Bucs, 55-19, in the district semifinals. The rematch is 6 p.m. Friday at North Hills.

“We don't have role players,” sophomore point guard Sydney Bordonaro said. “We're all just players.”

Bordonaro and freshman forward Natalie Myers have done much of the scoring this season, but both credit teammates for their success.

Cercone and junior guards Jaila Manga and Kelsey Oddis all have had double-digit scoring games. They've sacrificed shots at times to give the team the best chance to win. The extra pass or pick can turn a good shot into a great one.

Key reserves like sophomore guard Erika Finn also have given the team a spark when needed.

“I think we're learning and getting more mature every game,” Finn said. “We're a young team, and sometimes it's hard to practice, but we find a way.”

Coach Meghan Ziemianski knew she had a talented group when she took the job last year. But molding the talent into the right mix, despite being undermanned, has been fun for Ziemianski.

“None of them are selfish. They all just play; they love to play the game,” the coach said. “I don't even think it's sunk in how far they've come. When what they do clicks, it works.”

Even the team's only senior, Jenna Ehrlich, who hasn't played all season because of a knee injury, has a role. Ehrlich has attended practices and games and has been the team's biggest supporter.

“She plays when she has to, keeps track of stats and equipment like a manager, and also knows the game, so she's like another coach,” Ziemianski said of Ehrlich. “She's our jack of all trades.”

Ehrlich's goals these days are rooted in seeing her teammates succeed.

“I'm so happy we've made it this far. I just wish I could be on the court with the girls,” Ehrlich said. “I try to do the same things I would do if I wasn't hurt.”

Manga said Burrell needs a fast start against Bishop Canevin, which didn't happen in the first meeting.

“We came out scared and flustered,” Manga said. “We know we can't do that again.”

Ziemianski preaches to her team to maintain its defensive pressure and take care of the ball even when the Bucs have seemingly comfortable leads. Letting up isn't an option.

“We were up 14 against Keystone Oaks and lost,” Ziemianski said. “As soon as we slow it down, we lose what we're doing. “We can't get stuck in other teams' (gameplans).”

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