By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — Memo to PIAA Class AA girls’ basketball teams: Beware Burrell High’s Lady Bucs.
Sharpsville learned that during Tuesday night’s Western Regional quarterfinal-round 45-18 setback at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
Sydney Bordonaro blesses Burrell with a multi-dimensional point guard, and the Bucs boast size in Jessica Cercone and Natalie Myers. And, for Burrell, the best part is they all three are underclassmen.
A sophomore, Bordonaro bucketed 13 points and distributed 9 assists, while 6-foot-1 junior Cercone swatted 6 first-half Sharpsville shots and another couple during the 2nd half. Also, the 5-11 freshman Myers mustered 10 markers and snared 7 caroms.
The only drawback? Burrell dresses only 8 players, meaning 2nd-year head coach Meghan Ziemianski and her brother, an assistant coach, have to run with the club just so it can scrimmage during practice.
While Burrell (24-3) was bullish against Sharpsville, Ziemianski is looking ahead no further than the next game.
“We don’t look ahead like that. I’m a hockey fan, so I’m superstitious,” admitted Ziemianski, a Burrell alumna (2000). “I’m extremely fortunate, I know. I have a solid eight, and I’ll take a solid eight any day over numbers.”
In the game’s opening sequence a trio of Sharpsville shots went awry, and it served as an omen. Natalie Henwood’s drive with 4:15 remaining in the 1st frame served as Sharpsville’s lone 1st-half field goal, as Burrell burst to leads of 11-3 at the quarter and a 20-3 bulge by the break.
During the 3rd period Megan Davis drilled a pair of treys and McKenzie Popatak produced 4 of her team-high 10 points. But Bordonaro bucketed 5 of her team-high 13 points and Kelsey Oddis added 7 of her 9 during the 2nd half.
The Lady Bucs’ WPIAL-leading defense dominated the Blue Darlings, coercing Sharpsville into a 5-for-43 shooting performance and 18 turnovers.
Following a 2-5 start to the season Sharpsville (18-9) surged to a Region 2-AA championship, 3rd place in District 10, and an opening-round PIAA playoff win.
“You’re gonna have a tough time coming back from three points at the half,” admitted Sharpsville skipper Jeff Hanley. “But the girls fought hard throughout the entire game, and that’s all we could’ve asked of them.
“But it was a great season,” Hanley acknowledged, admitting, “That last locker room talk was hard, though. I love those girls, and everything that they’ve given us this year — it’s been the best in 12 years, and I can’t thank them enough for their work.”
Hanley has to bid adieu to seniors Henwood, Popatak, Paige Scurpa and Megan Whalen. Popatak and Scurpa snared 7 rebounds each, and Popatak concluded her career as Sharpsville’s leading female scorer (1,690) and 6th in all-time Mercer County annals.
“Our seniors ... wow! Since seventh grade I’ve had ’em, and it’s just been a great run for those five, six years. They’re family to me, and I’m gonna miss them a great deal,” Hanley related, continuing,
“You miss everything on the court, but what you really miss is their personalities and sense of humor and smiles, and everything they bring to you as an individual, and everything they bring to your team. It was the fourth quarter, yet we were going for blocks and diving on the floor for loose balls, trying to rebound, trying to push it down the court.
“Only one team in double-A wins their last game,” Hanley mused, “and we knew this day was coming. We wanted to prolong it as much as we possibly could, and we did. We ran into a very good basketball team (Tuesday), but we fought hard and I thank the girls a great deal for all of that.”
PIAA CLASS AA PLAYOFFS
BURRELL 11 9 15 10 45
SHARPSVILLE 3 0 11 4 18
BURRELL — Bordonaro 5-0-1-13, Oddis 4-1-2-9, Cercone 2-1-2-5, Myers 5-0-0-10, Manga 2-0-0-4, Finn 2-0-0-4, Nitowski 0-0-0-0, Brown 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Bordonaro 3. Totals: 20-2-5-45.
SHARPSVILLE — Henwood 1-0-0-2, Davis 2-0-0-6, Popatak 2-5-6-10, Scurpa 0-0-0-0, Przicina 0-0-0-0, Kurelko 0-0-0-0, Davies 0-0-0-0, Schell 0-0-0-0, Shuttleworth 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Davis 2, Popatak 1. Totals: 5-5-6-18.