Washington avenges last year's playoff loss to Burrell

| Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 11:33 p.m.

The Burrell boys basketball team found itself in a familiar position from a year ago, with a chance to end Washington's season.

But unlike last year's first-round victory over the Little Prexies en route to the WPIAL Class AA title game, the Bucs fell to Washington, 68-52, on Saturday in a preliminary-round game at Chartiers Valley.

Led by sophomore Nathan Swart's 22 points and senior Dupree Jenkins' 20, Washington (17-6) embraced the challenge of facing Burrell in the playoffs for the second straight year.

“It's a lot of different guys, but when we saw the bracket, that's the first thing we thought of,” Washington coach Mark Gaither said. “We were excited to get another shot at playing them, even though it's a different year.”

After falling behind early and facing a 16-7 deficit after the first quarter, the Bucs (6-16) were forced to abandon their game plan.

“We had a plan to really pack it in, make them shoot the basketball,” Burrell coach Shawn Bennis said. “We watched about four tapes on them, and they score the majority of their points in the paint.

“So we were really packing it in, but if they get a lead you have to start extending.”

That type of defensive adjustment allowed Jenkins to drive the lane, providing open space for the 6-foot-4 Swart to knock down shots from the perimeter. Swart finished with four 3-pointers.

“Swart's a tough matchup because he's so big, and he can step out and shoot it,” Bennis said. “So we knew he could shoot it, sometimes we (went) to go help Jenkins, and he just kicks it back to him, and he can knock down those shots.”

Swart and Jenkins, along with junior Dequay Isbel, who chipped in 14 points, combined for over 80 percent of the Little Prexies' offense and propelled them on to face Section 1-AA champion Summit Academy on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

“To have all three of them on the same page like they were today for most of the afternoon, that's a huge difference,” Gaither said.

With just one senior in its starting lineup, Burrell was led by freshman guard Max Garda's 19 points and also received solid contributions in the backcourt from sophomore Brendan Lettrich (15) and junior Joseph Cox (14).

“It's the first playoff experience for every kid on our team,” Bennis said. “I thought they came out and played hard.

“If we hit some more shots, it's a closer game, and down in the end, it might have been a different story.”

With his team moving up to Class AAA next season, Bennis is eager to begin working toward next winter and is confident the Bucs can be successful with the core of the team returning.

“We start four underclassmen and six of our top eight are coming back,” he said. “I'll give them about three weeks off, and we'll get back at it.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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