Humbled Burrell ready to rebound in state playoffs
Burrell plans to pay for any success it has in the state playoffs with the patience from its first defeat of the season.
Burrell (25-1) was outraced from the opening tip in Friday's WPIAL Class AA girls basketball championship game against Seton-La Salle, but the Lady Buccaneers didn't sulk around the hallways of Palumbo Center afterward.
Instead, they shrugged their shoulders, gave Seton-La Salle its props and asked, “When's our next game?”
The team reassembled for practice Saturday and began to prepare for the PIAA playoffs, set to begin March 7.
Don't get the wrong idea, Burrell wasn't content with the mostly one-sided defeat. Like the Kiski Area boys after a blowout loss to New Castle in the WPIAL semifinals, it was simply a case of one team shaking its head at the other's immense talent.
You may have the resume to play at the highest level, but you don't always get the job.
“It's disappointing coming out and playing like that; we hoped for a better showing,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “But we're not done. My brother (assistant coach) Zach's team went undefeated (in section) when he played and they lost and their season was over. They were done. We're still going.”
Burrell struggled with Seton-La Salle's pressure defense and never settled into its offense in a turnover-riddled final that probably will be more of a blur than a warm and fuzzy experience for the Bucs.
But the basketball postseason in Western Pennsylvania offers second-chance hope for teams that don't get the opportunity to squint from popping flashbulbs and celebrate a championship.
“That was kind of shocking to us,” Burrell senior Kelsey Oddis said after the 55-34 loss to Seton-La Salle (22-4), the top-ranked Class AA team in the state all season. “We hadn't seen a team like that.”
Burrell will play the District 9 runner-up Clarion-Limestone (16-9) in the first round of the PIAA tournament.
Burrell knows one loss doesn't define the winningest season in program history.
Last year, Burrell was eliminated in the district semifinals by Bishop Canevin, 55-19, but went on to win back-to-back state playoff games before falling to Bishop Canevin again — in a much closer game — in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Burrell remembers what it felt like to hit the reset button. The championship game could serve as a wake-up call to a team that had its checklist interrupted and its confidence jarred.
“It makes you realize that we have to get better as a team, but also as individuals,” Burrell sophomore forward Natalie Myers said. “I know I can play better than that. We have to prepare ourselves to start another run (in the playoffs).”
Burrell would have to make it to the state semifinals for a potential rematch with Seton-La Salle, a team seasoned that basketball observers in attendance Friday said could compete for a championship in Quad A.
“We have to go over our mistakes,” Oddis said, “and learn from them.”
Burrell senior guard Jaila Manga could be a question mark for the first round. In Friday's final, she suffered a cut on the top of her head that required three staples. The quick procedure was done during the game. Manga left Palumbo, her uniform bloodied, was driven drove down the street to Mercy Hospital by Duquesne security, and returned for the final 30 seconds.
“They had me filling out paperwork and it took forever,” Manga said. “I'm like, ‘Can I please leave?'”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.