Burrell girls eye improvement even after easy win in PIAA opener

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 10:09 p.m.

This slow-start thing is eating away at Burrell's girls basketball team.

After a 28-point win over Clarion-Limestone in the first round of the state playoffs, players and coaches were muttering under their breath, more frustrated than celebratory, the urge to critique and improve clearly on their minds.

“We missed some wide-open layups and came out flat,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “That first half was like watching paint dry.”

Still, after strong-arming Clarion-Limestone, 55-27, in a PIAA Class AA first-round game Friday night at North Hills, the WPIAL runner-up Bucs (26-1) are moving on to the second round for the second consecutive season.

Their next opponent will be District 6 champion Bellwood-Antis (24-3), which held off McGuffey, 56-55, to advance.

Burrell beat Bellwood-Antis, 65-46, in the first round last season.

Burrell has set a standard and doesn't feel quite comfortable with anything less — although Friday's win was a far cry from the 55-34 loss to Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL championship game.

“It was like we weren't ourselves,” Ziemianski said.

Four players scored in double figures, led by junior point guard Sydney Bordonaro, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Sophomore forward Natalie Myers added 15 points and 13 rebounds, senior center Jessica Cercone scored 12 and senior guard Kelsey Oddis had 10.

Cercone's stat line also included seven rebounds and four steals.

Burrell had to stay patient, particularly early, because it was unable to dictate a faster tempo.

“(Clarion-Limestone) came out in a zone and really tried to slow us down,” Ziemianski said. “We're not used to that. We want to get out and go.”

Burrell took a 21-12 lead into halftime but gradually stretched the advantage in the third. A 12-1 run to close the quarter had the Bucs ahead 38-16.

Bordonaro scored 16 in the second half.

“We weren't very good early,” she said. “We took a while to get going.”

Myers had the game's highlight when she fired in a halfcourt shot to beat the third-quarter buzzer.

“When it left her hand, I knew it was going in,” Bordonaro said. “We heard a guy in the stands say, ‘dun, dun, dun; dun, dun dun (like the SportsCenter theme).' ”

The run extended into the fourth as the Bucs began the period with a 17-1 surge, which included three Bordaro 3s.

Cercone made some in-close baskets, and Oddis hit several mid-range jumpers to help the Bucs pull away.

“We missed some layups early in the first half. That has kind of been the story of our season,” said Clarion-Limestone coach Doug Rodgers, a former Deer Lakes coach. “You have to wonder, what if those go down?”

Rodgers wasn't nearly as nit-picky with Burrell.

“We had some backcourt lapses, and they got some easy passes,” he said. “You can't do that against a team like Burrell. You can only double-team a team like that for so long.”

Burrell senior guard Jaila Manga did not start but checked in midway through the first quarter.

Manga received medical clearance Thursday to play in the state opener after suffering a laceration on top of her head in the WPIAL championship last Friday at Palumbo Center.

She was jabbed by an elbow and had to get three staples, which since have been removed.

“We're happy with the win,” Manga said. “We just have to come out better.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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