Junior Brandon Coury shines as Burrell gets off to best start in 6 years

Thursday, January 21, 2021 | 6:15 PM

Through its first five games of the season, the Burrell boys basketball team is off to its best start since the 2014-2015 season, and Brandon Coury is a big reason why.

The junior shooting guard has scored an average of 20.6 points per game, including a career-high 38 points this past Saturday when the Bucs took down WPIAL Class 5A opponent Kiski Area on the road for their second win of the season.

Coury followed up his 38-point performance with his second 20-point outing of the year in a 13-point victory over Derry on Tuesday night.

“I think the offseason was critical,” Coury said, explaining his strong start. “Everyone worked hard, and we definitely have more chemistry this year. Last year, we kind of just built it up, and this year, we are starting to see the progress come together. I haven’t really been feeling it from behind the 3-point line yet, but personally I feel quicker, which is helping me get to the rim.”

As a sophomore last season, Coury led the Bucs in scoring with 14.5 points per game, but in coach Mike Fantuzzo’s first year at the helm, the team went 1-20. Now, with another year under their belt, the Bucs (3-2, 1-1 in Section 1-4A) have started to become accustomed to Fantuzzo’s system, and it is showing in their early success.

One of their two losses came at the hands of defending WPIAL Class 3A champion North Catholic, and Fantuzzo added that the Bucs let one slip away when they lost to Armstrong, 45-38, on Jan. 12.

Last season, the Bucs used to lose games like that a lot, but Fantuzzo said his guys are starting to learn what it takes to win games.

“We found a lot of ways to lose some close games last year, and this year, we are finally starting to learn how to hold those leads,” Fantuzzo said. “Armstrong, we got the lead and kind of threw it away with a couple minutes left, and since then, Kiski started to make a run at us before we were able to pull away and same with Derry. The experience is just kicking in, and they are understanding game situations now.”

Coury is one of four returning starters on the roster. He said last year’s losses were valuable.

“I think the experience for us was just huge, and I don’t think we’d be off to a pretty decent start if we didn’t go through those bumps and bruises last season,” Coury said. “We were young — we were really young — last year, and we were inexperienced.”

So far this season, the Bucs have shown that they are starting to turn it around, and Coury has been a prime example of that. Against Kiski, Coury said he felt like he was going to have a decent night, and Fantuzzo set him up to have a good one.

“His shot was on. We ran a lot of set plays for him for threes, and he was knocking those down,” Fantuzzo said. “He was cutting to the hole. He was getting wide-open layups there, and they really had trouble keeping him in front of them. So, he was scoring from all over that game.”

Coury also had one of his worst games last season against Kiski, so he didn’t want to come up short against the Cavaliers for a second time.

“I kind of had that in the back of my head a little and didn’t really want that to happen again,” Coury said. “So that was a little extra motivation.”

Scoring in bunches isn’t anything new to Coury. He showed signs of his natural scoring ability last season in his first year starting on the varsity level.

He dropped 30 in Burrell’s second-to-last game against Steel Valley and scored 23 against the Ironmen in their first matchup of the season. Coury also recorded a 24-point outing against Valley.

Coury always knew that he had it in him. He just needed to find consistency.

“That results just weren’t showing last year because we were so young,” Coury said. “But I’ve gotten bigger too, so that helped. It’s just another year. It helps.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


More Basketball

Corey Dotchin steps down as Highlands boys basketball coach
PIAA taking bids to host basketball championships
Basketball coach Rob Niederberger, who lifted Shaler from last place to WPIAL contender, resigns
Penn Hills senior joins Point Park basketball at exciting time
A-K Valley shooters on target at Cager Classic skills competition