By Lance Lysowski
KcKEES ROCKS – Burrell junior Sydney Bordonaro leapt in excitement as the clock struck zero. After four grueling quarters of basketball against a surging McGuffey team, Bordonaro walked to the bench where she embraced her teammates.
The 5-7 guard scored 23 points to lead second-seeded Burrell to the WPIAL semifinals with a 79-68 victory over seventh-seeded McGuffey at Montour High School. It is the second-straight Class AA semifinal appearance for the Buccaneers (24-0) – a first in school history.
“It was such a relief getting that win because we didn’t play our best game defensively, and they’re a really good team,” Bordonaro said. “We haven’t reached our goal yet and it feels good to get to the semifinals, but we haven’t accomplished anything.”
The Highlanders’ loss drops them to 20-4, while Burrell will face Greensburg Central Catholic on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined for the right to play for the title at the A.J. Palumbo Center next Friday.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” McGuffey head coach Amanda Burchett said. “Burrell is the second-best team in the WPIAL for a reason. They are an amazing basketball team. We held our own for most of the game.”
The Highlanders competed with the undefeated Bucs, who allow a Class AA-best 33.2 points per game, because of the play of junior Sammie Weiss.
“She is an amazing basketball player,” Burchett said. “She is one of the hardest working kids I have been around in my life. She is 110 percent dedicated to basketball. It’s amazing how much she has matured.”
Against a physically imposing opponent, Weiss did not hesitate utilizing her quick first step to drive to the basket and make tough shots. Her 29 points were a game high, but it was her play on the defensive end that obstructed Burrell’s offensive rhythm.
“She scored more than we anticipated,” Burrell head coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “She finds a way to get points. Most of them came off put backs, but those aren’t easy to account for.”
The Highlanders trailed by just two points early in the second quarter when Bordonaro hit three uncontested three-pointers to extend Burrell’s lead to nine points at halftime. Bordonaro used her quickness to dodge screens, find space and hit the open shot.
At halftime, Burchett decided to use her team’s best defender, Weiss, to neutralize Bordonaro’s outside game. Against a Bucs team that features 6-0 forward Jessica Cercone and 5-11 forward Natalie Myers, the decision allowed Burrell’s front court to roam free. It was Myers who took advantage.
The daughter of Joey Myers, who played forward for Duquesne in the early 1980s, Myers displayed the same savvy post moves as her father in the second half against McGuffey; executing put backs and showing a soft jump shot from the baseline. Only a sophomore, Myers was dominant in the lane; grabbing 16 rebounds for the Bucs and after a strong second half, tying Bordonaro for a team-high 23 points.
McGuffey cut Burrell’s lead to just seven points entering the fourth quarter when the Bucs’ deep lineup answered with a 17-6 run to increase their advantage to 18 points. McGuffey junior Rachel Czulewicz hit a three-pointer with just over a minute remaining to draw her team to within 11, but was too little too late. Being outrebounded by Burrell throughout the game and surrendering easy baskets on defense, McGuffey’s WPIAL title hopes came to an end.
Now, the Highlanders become Burrell fans. If Burrell defeats Greensburg Central Catholic, McGuffey will qualify for the PIAA playoffs for the second year in a row.