Nurkic, Baldwin drive way past Allderdice
Toughened by defeats in last year's state tournament and last week's WPIAL championship game, Duquesne recruit Belma Nurkic helped lead Baldwin to a 61-39 first-round victory Friday against Allderdice in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament at Brashear.
"I just think that losing last year made us play so much harder this year," Nurkic said. "We want it really bad this year."
Baldwin (21-5) opened the game on a 16-1 run, including 10 points from Nurkic. She finished with 31, despite not playing the last 6:55. Anna Lauterbach added 12 points, and Laura Saussol had 10 for Baldwin.
"That's what Belma (Nurkic) has done all year for us," Baldwin coach Dan Thayer said. "She was so down about the WPIAL championship game loss (to Mt. Lebanon last week), so we were a little harder on her this week."
The Fighting Highlanders forced the Dragons into 22 turnovers in the first half to take a 30-13 lead at halftime.
"Our press is designed to slow the other team down and make them have to work hard to get the ball up the court," Thayer said. "Sometimes, it doesn't work, but tonight, we were able to force a lot of turnovers. It's hard to lose when the other team doesn't shoot the ball."
Allderdice (17-7) was scoreless for the first 4:25 of the third quarter, allowing Baldwin to expand its lead to 23 points. The Highlanders led, 49-23, at the end of the quarter.
"We just wanted to go out there and work harder than they did," Thayer said. "Our girls have struggled with that loss last Saturday at the Palumbo (Center). So, we had to shake them up a little bit this week."
Allderdice outscored Baldwin in the fourth quarter, 16-12, largely because of eight points from Janay Bottoms. She finished with 12 points.
Baldwin will play District 6 champion State College on Tuesday night in the second round, where Baldwin lost in the PIAA playoffs last year to eventual champion Mt. Lebanon.
"We're going to play as hard as we can," Thayer said. "We probably have the talent to get further than last year, but you never know what could happen on any given night."
Nurkic believes the team will be ready.
"We're not going to take anyone lightly and keep getting better," Nurkic said. "We are going to do everything we can to make it past the second round this year."