Burrell breaks through for WPIBL girls championship

Thursday, February 14, 2019 | 8:36 PM

Burrell’s girls bowling team picked up nice Valentine’s Day presents on Thursday: WPIBL championship rings.

The Buccaneers edged Butler, 2-1, for the title at AMF Noble Manor Lanes in Crafton.

“This is incredibly special,” Burrell senior Carlee Hummel said.

The victory avenged a loss to the Golden Tornado for last year’s title.

“It’s amazing because we worked so hard for it,” Burrell senior Brittany McDade said. “It was tough to get back here, but we worked hard.”

Burrell finished the qualifying round with the top score of 2,315. Shaler finished second at 2,273 and Butler (2,261) was third. The Golden Tornado swept the Titans, 2-0, in the semifinals to set up the rematch with the Buccaneers.

“This was very special. I think our experience from last year paid off because they wanted it more this year,” Burrell coach Natalie Flanagan said. “Once you have a taste of it, they know they can do it. It was just a matter of getting here and doing what they needed to do.”

Burrell took the first game, 153-136, but Butler started the second with four straight strikes and posted a 192-152 victory to set up the decisive third game. The Golden Tornado opened with six spares in a row, but the Buccaneers rallied for strikes in the sixth, seventh and ninth frames to pull away for a 168-151 triumph.

“We knew we had to stay focused. We were so proud of each other that, no matter what happened, we were a team,” Hummel said. “I guess everyone just decided we wanted to win, and the adrenaline kicked in.”

“It was a very good battle. We were determined to do well,” Burrell freshman Lydia Flanagan said. “To win is honestly the best feeling. I love it.”

Butler was happy to have a chance to defend its title despite senior Jordyn Graham being the only returning starter from last year.

“I am very proud of this team. It was cool to have it come down to Burrell and us. We had a great match last year, and I congratulate them on a great job. They deserve it,” Butler coach Bob Cupp said.

“We bowled today with a senior, two freshmen and two sophomores. To win the section championship was one thing, but to come in here and get into that top three, that was our goal. That was a big step forward for the girls who will be coming back because of the grind you have to go through to get to this tournament. We’re absolutely thrilled. Now, we want to be in the top six at regionals so we can get to states.”

Burrell and Butler advance to the Western Regional tournament March 9 at North Versailles Bowl. As section champions, Greensburg Salem, Penn Hills, Ambridge, McKeesport, Moon, Montour and Elizabeth Forward earned automatic berths to the regional tournament, while Armstrong, Shaler, Plum, Norwin, Steel Valley, Penn-Trafford and Blackhawk advanced as well.

In addition to Lydia Flanagan, McDade and Hummel, Zaynah Baronie and Ashley Smith bowled in the top five for Burrell, which hopes to move on to the state championship on March 16.

“We finished this one and we’ll enjoy it, but the next one is a whole new game and now we have to focus on that,” Natalie Flanagan said.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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