Burrell boys get unlikely extra home game in PIAA playoffs

Sunday, March 3, 2024 | 6:06 PM

It’s been nearly a month since Burrell’s boys basketball team played a home game.

After their 58-44 win over rival Valley on Feb. 9, the Bucs were expected to be road warriors for the remainder of the season.

As the No. 11 seed for the WPIAL playoffs, they upset No. 6 Seton LaSalle, No. 3 Shady Side Academy and No. 2 Mohawk en route to reaching the Class 3A championship game.

Burrell battled to the very end with top-seeded Deer Lakes but fell just short as the Lancers defended their title 55-49 on Friday at Petersen Events Center.

By reaching that point, however, Burrell earned another game on its home floor for the start of the state playoffs.

The Bucs (16-9) will host District 6 third-place finisher Bishop Guilfoyle (23-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the PIAA first round.

“No one expected us to be here. We were here at the very end of the game,” Burrell coach Mike Fantuzzo said after the championship loss.

“Even though we lost, we still have a lot of positive things to feed off of and a solid week to get ready for a state game at our place. We’ll come back on Monday. The motivation will still be there. There’s still more work to do.”

Burrell is 7-1 on its home court, where it has leaned on a deep senior class and several talented scorers.

Senior guard Macky Bennis had 17 points in the WPIAL finals. Fellow senior guard Joey Discello added nine points and three assists, and senior forwards Ryan Croushore and Esau King-Buchak combined for 13 points and six rebounds.

Bishop Guilfoyle is coming off a 72-58 win over Tyrone in the District 6 third-place game. Jude Haigh had 36 points, and Trevor Rehm added 15 points and 15 rebounds.

The winner of Girard (23-2) and Derry (15-7) awaits the winner in the second round. Burrell would have to reach the semifinals for a possible rematch with Deer Lakes.

Burrell lost twice to the Lancers during the regular season, and the teams certainly had some familiarity with one another Friday night.

After playing to an 8-8 tie in the first quarter, Burrell pulled ahead 17-8 via a 13-0 run. Deer Lakes counted that run, however, to take a 21-17 lead at halftime.

“I was thrilled,” Fantuzzo said about Burrell’s start to the game. “We had some momentum. We were doing some good things, penetrating on them, ducking in and getting some layups. They made some adjustments and kind of closed that off.”

The Bucs controlled the pace with half-court sets and managed to keep Deer Lakes from getting second-chance points. That changed later in the first half, however.

“In the first quarter we were all right, and we went on that 13-0 run,” Fantuzzo said. “Then, they went on a 13-0 run and that pace kind of got away from us for that little period of time. It showed that wasn’t exactly what we wanted to do at that time.”

With those lessons learned and plenty of playoff experience, the Bucs will try to carry on their season in front of their home fans Saturday afternoon.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.


More High School Basketball

Hampton basketball readies for rare coaching search
Hall of fame basketball coach Joe Lafko steps down at Hampton
Dave Pucka, one of Plum’s own, hired to coach boys basketball team
Corey Dotchin steps down as Highlands boys basketball coach
PIAA taking bids to host basketball championships