Okopal guides Burrell to another closing-seconds win

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 | 11:09 PM

It was Jake to the rescue once again for Burrell on Tuesday night.

For the second consecutive game, senior guard Jake Okopal hit a 3-pointer to pull out a victory for the Bucs.

This time, it was a basket with 2.3 seconds left in overtime to give Burrell a 45-44 victory and a share of the Section 3-3A title.

Apollo-Ridge, going nowhere this season at 5-14 (1-8) gave the Bucs all they could handle.

Freshman Klay Fitzroy hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to give the Vikings a short-lived 44-42 lead.

Okopal hit a 3-pointer in the victory over Shady Side Academy last Friday, and he was one of the options in the frantic final seconds.

“We drew up a play, and we had two options,” Okopal said. “We had me and Logan Bitar. Whoever was open was going to knock down the shot and get us a win.”

Said Burrell coach Shawn Bennis: “We got some time back on the clock at 9.2 seconds. We had a play we run called 10 seconds. We executed it pretty well. Jake got the shot, and it was a big one. Figured we could go back to him tonight.”

Burrell (10-11) and Shady Side finish the season 7-3 in the section. East Allegheny is a half-game back at 6-3, pending a makeup game against Apollo-Ridge on Wednesday. All first-place teams will be awarded a section plaque, as per WPIAL policy.

That leaves Apollo-Ridge another chance to have a final say in the section race.

“This game shows the resiliency of my kids,” Vikings coach Damon Andring said. “We've been talking all year about overcoming adversity, and I think my guys showed tonight they're going to never give up, no matter what.”

One of the highlights of the night was the battle in the middle between centers Donovan Russell of Burrell and Kyle Fitzroy of Apollo-Ridge.

Russell had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Fitzroy had five and 12.

“That was an old slobberknocker,” Andring said. “Our first game they went after it, they did the same thing last year. Two big kids, two titans. They both did a great job.”

Burrell had trouble getting its offense on track, scoring just seven field goals in the first half to lead 17-15 at halftime.

“They extended their guards in their 2-3 (zone) and made us play a mid-range game,” Bennis said. “We had some wide-open shots, but you've got to knock them down.”

Freshman Jake Fello had an outstanding game for the Vikings with 15 points. Klay Fitzroy had 11 and seven rebounds.

Okopal finished with 1––4 points, and Bitar had 11 for the Bucs, who will play Deer Lakes at home Monday in a playoff tune-up game.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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