Shady Side Academy makes statement, beats Burrell 61-27

Friday, December 14, 2018 | 10:57 PM

Burrell won a share of the Section 3-3A championship last season with a physical, grind-it-out, defensive style of basketball.

Shady Side Academy, one of the teams the Bucs split that title with, knew the formula to beat Burrell, and worked it to near perfection.

Using a full-court pressure defense, Shady Side Academy flummoxed and flustered Burrell on its way to a 61-27 rout in the Section 3-3A opener Friday night at Shady Side’s Mellon Gymnasium.

“Right now, everything’s like a second slow,” Burrell coach Shawn Bennis said. “The passes, they’re looking in the right spots, trying to get it in the right spots, but right now the passes are just a second slow. Right now, they’re catching (the ball) and thinking, and I always say when you think, you stink.”

Burrell swept the season series with Shady Side Academy last season, with the teams combining for 80 points or fewer in both games. But the Indians sped the Bucs up Friday night and reaped the rewards.

Shady Side (2-2, 1-0) forced 32 Burrell turnovers and held the Bucs to seven field goals — one apiece in the first and third quarters and two apiece in the second and fourth — to quickly turn the game into a runaway.

“We lost to them twice in the 30s. We’re not beating them in the 30s,” Shady Side Academy coach David Vadnais said. “…We remembered last year. You don’t forget losing two games and then being co-champs in the section. That was a lot of motivation for our guys.

“These guys, we were co-champs, but they beat us twice. So we really saw them as the section champs. We wanted to come out tonight and make a statement that we can compete.”

The Indians did more than that, using their depth and defense to their advantage. They began the game on a 9-0 run, ended the first quarter up 12-2 and kept increasing their lead from there. The lead was 29-9 at halftime, 49-12 through three quarters and grew to as many as 38 points in the fourth.

“That’s everything that we could have asked for,” Vadnais said. “That’s the style we have to play. We’re not a great half-court team. We don’t have guys that can necessarily take other teams’ guys off the dribble, so we have to use our depth, play with energy and speed games up. I thought we did a good job of that and gradually just wore them down.”

Burrell (1-4, 0-1) came into Friday’s game averaging just 37 points, and the Bucs’ offensive struggles continued. They didn’t convert a shot until reserve Alex Kotecki’s offensive rebound and putback with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

After turning the ball over a dozen times in the first half, Burrell’s first six possessions of the second half ended in a turnover. The Bucs had 15 turnovers in the third quarter alone.

“The same troubles that we’ve been experiencing the first few weeks,” Bennis said. “Turnovers are hurting us right now. Teams right now are just making us play the game of basketball. We have a lot of multisport athletes who are just getting back.”

Colin O’Connor scored 14 points to lead Shady Side Academy, and Grady Monroe added 12. Twelve Indians players scored, with Vadnais substituting frequently in the fourth quarter.

“Hopefully, it shows them that when we play that way, we can be at our best,” Vadnais said. “We should get a little bit of buy-in, like, OK, we were 1-2 coming in and haven’t been able to play that way for 32 minutes. We played a good Burrell team tonight and played the way we wanted for 32 minutes. Hopefully guys are excited and ready to go the next game.”

Logan Bitar scored 10 points to lead Burrell.

The Bucs don’t have much of a turnaround after Friday’s loss. The Bucs play Monessen, another team known for pressure defense, at 1:45 p.m. Saturday in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Shootout at Hempfield.

“You have to react to how the defense is playing, and when you start doing that, you get layups for it and then teams have to start playing you straight up,” Bennis said. “Then we can play to our strengths, which is getting the appropriate people shots at the appropriate positions, quality of shots versus quantity of shots.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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