East Xtra: Despite low numbers, Burrell leads section

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There are only nine players on the Burrell girls basketball roster.

One of those players, the lone senior, Jenna Ehrlich, was lost for the year after sustaining an injury during the soccer season. There are not enough players to field a junior varsity team.

Five-on-five scrimmages are obviously not possible, so Burrell scrimmages the boys eighth grade team.

The scrimmages are intense. The eighth grade boys don't take it easy on the girls, they know they are there to help make the girls' team better.

So far it is working.

Burrell is 10-2 overall and 5-0 in Class AA Section 1 after winning at Indiana, 37-35, in non-section game Tuesday.

"The scrimmages are pretty close, it is really fun," Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said of playing the eighth grade boys. "We alternate balls, so sometimes we are using a bigger ball. One of the boys can dunk, we are not going to see that many girls who can jump like these boys and we are not going to see the speed they have."

In actual regular-season games, the Buccaneers have been getting it done with defense. They are allowing 26.6 points per game, second best in Class AA. The short three-person bench has not affected Ziemianski's defensive strategy. Burrell has been playing a man-to-man defense.

"We have been trying to play man-to-man as much as possible," Ziemianski said. "When you put pressure on the other teams, they panic. We have been doing really well without fouling. For only playing six to eight girls and to play man, you have to be in good shape, it shows their work ethic. It is amazing we are only allowing 26 points per game."

If Burrell were to get in foul trouble or if Ziemianski would go to her bench for any other reason, there is little dropoff. The Buccaneers may not have many players but the ones they do have are all year-round players who compete in AAU basketball.

"When we go to the bench, we don't get hurt at all," Ziemianski said.

Burrell did not graduate any seniors from last year, the only starter it had to replace was Ehrlich because of the injury.

Junior guards Jalia Manga and Kelsey Oddis, junior forward Jessica Cercone and sophomore point guard Sydney Bordonaro are all returning starters. Freshman guard/forward Natalie Myers also starts.

Myers leads the team in rebounds, she has posted double-digit points and rebounds several times this season. Bordonaro is the leading scorer. She scored 20 points and Myers added 15 in a recent 47-32 win against Deer Lakes. Last week Manga, Cercone and Myers all scored 13 in a 51-26 win against West Shamokin,

The other players on the team are sophomore guard/forward Erika Finn, junior forward Emma Brown and sophomore guard Abigail Nitowski. Finn is usually the first player off the bench.

"I think we were pretty optimistic coming into the season," Ziemianski said. "I thought our youth hurt us in the playoffs last year but we worked a majority of the offseason. We were able to do a summer league and a fall league."

With Myers at 5 feet 9 and Cercone at 6 feet 1, the Buccaneers are able to cause matchup problems for most Class AA teams.

There is a big eighth grade class coming through next season and with only one senior departing, the Buccaneers should have a bigger roster in the future, but in the mean time Ziemianski is enjoying the small group.

"It is kind of nice to have such a close knit group," Ziemianski said. "Nobody is fighting over playing time, sometimes it's like the girls are almost too close. We told them, if you aren't getting the ball enough, tell your teammates, they'll still be your friends after the game."



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