Brentwood girls basketball had history-making season

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Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 9:14 AM


The reconstruction project continued — and flourished — for the Brentwood girls basketball program.

In her first five years at the helm, coach Rachel Thomas guided the Spartans to 15-7, 11-10, 13-9, 17-6 and 18-8 records, advancing to the WPIAL playoffs all five years.

This season, Brentwood finished with a 20-5 mark and advanced to the WPIAL finals for the first time since 1994. The Spartans also won their first section title in 25 years, sharing it with Serra Catholic.

“I am extremely proud of this team and what the girls accomplished this season,” Thomas said. “They had another history-making season. This group of girls never quit. They represented themselves, coaches, parents, school and community with poise and grace.”

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the No. 4 seed, edged second-seeded Brentwood, 50-48, in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game Feb. 28 at Petersen Events Center.

The Spartans were led by 5-foot-7 senior guard Natalie Murrio, who scored a career-high 27 points against the Chargers.

Murrio accounted for 11 of the Spartans’ 15 first-half points and added 16 points after halftime, including 14 in the game’s final quarter.

“I’m very proud of our team’s accomplishments this season,” Murrio said. “The season ended sooner than we had hoped, but we did things that no one in Brentwood has done for a long time. We worked hard and gave it everything we had this season.

“I could not have asked for a better four years of high school basketball. It was something I’ll never forget.”

Murrio averaged 11 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. She accounted for 50 points in her team’s three WPIAL playoff games, an average of 16.7.

Murrio had 11 field goals, including two 3s, against OLSH and was 3 for 3 at the free-throw line.

“Natalie has been a consistent player all year,” Thomas said. “You’re not on a roller coaster with her. She always gave us a solid performance.”

Along with Murrio, senior leadership was provided by guards Anna Betz, Abby Wolf and Brooke McQuillan and forwards Rebecca Dirling and Sydney Gilchrist.

“These seniors were remarkable leaders to our underclassmen and taught them a lot,” Thomas said.

Betz was the Spartans’ leading scorer this season, averaging 14.8 points.

“This has definitely been my best year, leading the team in points during regular season,” Betz said. “We had a great run. Making it to the WPIAL championship was a dream come true.

“I couldn’t ask for a better team to call my family. Brentwood basketball gave me everything and more. It’s been a great ride.”

Brentwood took a 13-game winning streak into the WPIAL playoffs. After a first-round bye, the Spartans defeated Winchester-Thurston, 55-28, and Laurel, 50-37, to reach the championship game.

In the state tournament, Brentwood rolled past Penns Manor, 55-38, and lost to Kane, 52-47, in the first two rounds.

“One of the things I love about this team is it never quits,” said Thomas after the WPIAL final. “This team always plays with heart. We are a small district that graduates 85 students a year, and to be as competitive as we are is absolutely amazing.

“To see that pride they have, the parents have and the community has, it’s nice to see Brentwood basketball back on the map, so to speak.”

Three key reserves in the backcourt were freshmen Maura Daly and Bella Grimm and junior Maddi Travis.

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