Burrell beats Elizabeth Forward, wins 1st home playoff game

Friday, February 18, 2022 | 9:53 PM

It was a memorable night at Burrell for the school’s first home basketball playoff game.

A near-capacity crowd watched the Bucs hold Elizabeth Forward scoreless for 7 minutes, 12 seconds and roll to a 63-42 victory in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

Brandon Coury scored 22 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — to pace the Bucs. Sophomore Macky Bennis scored the first nine points of the game for Burrell.

The seventh-seeded Bucs (14-8) move on to the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at No. 2 Montour.

It was Burrell’s first playoff win since defeating Quaker Valley, 42-34, on Feb. 27, 2013, in a Class 2A semifinal. Burrell is 14-19 all-time in WPIAL playoff games.

“Macky came out hitting well for us in the first quarter,” Bucs coach Mike Fantuzzo said. “Then our defense picked it up. They were stuck on nine points, and we were able to get a little bit of a lead.”

The Warriors had a 9-6 lead with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in the first quarter, but Burrell went on a 14-0 run before Mekhi Daniels canned a pair of free throws.

Elizabeth Forward cut the lead to six, 27-21, late in the half, but Bennis hit a 3-pointer with 18.5 seconds left to give the Bucs a 30-21 lead at the intermission.

“I think the offensive rebounding was a big issue for us,” Warriors coach Matt Loftis said. “I thought we did a good job, defensively, in the first half and then gave them a lot of second-chance opportunities that turned into 3-pointers.”

The Bucs fired in six 3-pointers in the first half.

Burrell began to pull away a bit in the third as freshman Brady Stone’s 3-pointer put the Bucs in front, 40-25.

A 3-pointer by sophomore Isaiah Turner cut the Burrell lead to 42-32 as the third quarter ended, but Coury took over from there. The senior scored Burrell’s first six points of the quarter and later stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for a hoop and hit a pair of free throws with 3 minutes left to expand the lead to 56-40.

“This was big,” Coury said. “First-ever home playoff win. Macky got us going. Our defense got us going. It was a great atmosphere. Our student section was filled bottom to top. It was awesome.”

The Bucs scored the final seven points of the game.

“We really talked up defense to them,” Fantuzzo said. “We rely on that. If you have a bad shooting night, you need it. We’ve picked it up the past couple of games.”

Elizabeth Forward, seeking its first playoff win since Feb. 18, 2014, over South Fayette, finished this season at 14-9.

Turner led the Warriors with 15 points, and Daniels collected seven rebounds.

“You’re not going to win playoff games when you get beat on the offensive glass like we did tonight. We missed some free throws in the first half that killed our momentum,” said Loftis, who took time to shake hands and embrace every player in the Warriors locker room.

Bennis finished with 14 points, all in the first half. Travis Bitar pulled down 10 rebounds.

Burrell outrebounded the Warriors, 26-16.

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