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Hempfield's Burns leads upset victory against Bethel Park

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 9:57 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Leah Knizner (left) and Michelle Burns battle Bethel Park's Samantha Simpsonl (22) for rebound during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Leah Knizner shoots over Bethel Park's Elizabeth Neal during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Aubree Halusich steals the ball from Bethel Park's Shannon Conley during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Lexi Irwin battles Bethel Park's Shannon Conley for a loose ball during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Monica Burns drives past Bethel Park's Samantha Simpson (left) and Kaitlin Chess during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Michelle Burns battles Bethel Park's Elizabeth Neal (23) and Samantha Simpson for a rebound during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Michelle Burns (left), Alexa Pastor (middle) and Aubree Halusich celebrate their 56-38 victory over Bethel Park during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Monica Burns shoots as Bethel Park's Shannon Conley (left) and Kaitlin Chess defend during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Feb. 21, 2014, at Charleroi High School in Charleroi. Hempfield defeated Bethel Park, 56-38.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield head coach Aaron Epps talks with his team during their 56-38 victory over Bethel Park during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game at Charleroi High School on Feb. 21, 2014 in Charleroi.

Monica Burns sported a fat lip after Hempfield's first-round win earlier this week.

On Friday at Charleroi, she was just exhausted.

But the 5-foot-7 senior guard, who is headed to IUP, showed why she is one of the best guards in the WPIAL.

Burns scored a game-high 19 points, handed out six assists and had six rebounds to help No. 12 Hempfield to its second upset of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, a 56-38 dismantling of No. 4 Bethel Park (17-6), the reigning WPIAL champions. The Spartans defeated No. 5 Upper St. Clair on Tuesday.

Hempfield (16-8) advances to the semifinals Tuesday against North Allegheny.

The Spartans also qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

“We executed the plays and did almost everything right,” Burns said.

“I couldn't have done it without my teammates. We played awesome. I have the best team in the world.”

Hempfield shot well the entire night, making 22 of 40 from the field, including 5 for 6 in the fourth quarter. Burns took over the game in the fourth quarter as Hempfield protected a double-digit lead.

“Monica basically ran the point,” Hempfield coach Aaron Epps said. “She made all the decisions. We wanted the ball in her hands. I wouldn't trade her for anyone. Pound for pound, I think she's the best player around.”

For the second consecutive game, Hempfield started quickly. The Spartans raced out to a 12-2 lead as Leah Knizner scored seven of her 14 points and Burns scored six. Hempfield led 15-6 after a quarter.

“I told the team we had to come out fast, and we did,” Epps said.

“It really helped us the last two playoff games. Bethel Park isn't one of those teams you want get down on because they are so disciplined and well coached.”

Bethel Park crawled back to within 25-20 by halftime as sophomore guard Shannon Conely scored 10 of her team-high 13 points in the first half.

“I don't think Hempfield's win is surprising,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “Whatever seed they were is deceiving.

“With Burns leading them, she's the kind of player that makes everyone around her better. When she found the open player, they made the shots.”

Hempfield was clinging to a 30-24 lead in the third quarter when Liz Irwin and Knizner hit back-to-back baskets to push the lead to 34-24. The Spartans led 41-30 after three quarters and then put the game away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Bethel Park, 15-8.

Freshman Michele Burns, Monica's sister, scored five of her 11 points in the final quarter. Monica Burns chipped in with six.

“We've been struggling offensively, and that continued,” Burke said. “We got behind early, and it was too hard to come back because they kept putting the ball in the hoop. We had to fight so hard and when you're not scoring, defense becomes a chore.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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