When Seton-LaSalle coach Spencer Stefko yells "fire," opposing players know a trap is coming and they will soon be swarmed by multiple defenders.
Fires ran rampant Friday, the effects causing turnover after turnover, sparking Seton-LaSalle to a championship performance that extinguished Burrell's perfect season.
Seton-LaSalle forced 24 turnovers and held Burrell to its lowest offensive output this season, rolling to a 55-34 win in the WPIAL Class AA championship at Palumbo Center.
It was the sixth WPIAL title for Seton-LaSalle (22-4) and third in the past four seasons. Burrell (25-1), the only WPIAL team to finish the regular season unbeaten, was making its first championship appearance.
Seton-LaSalle trapped, pressed and made life difficult for Burrell, which didn't match up well with the Rebels' speed and athleticism.
"They're super-athletic and they're super-quick," Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. "They play in-your-face defense. We came out ready to turn the ball over. We couldn't even get into an offensive set."
It was another balanced offensive effort for Seton-LaSalle, but the star of this show was senior guard/forward Yacine Diop. One of three Pitt recruits on the team, Diop finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds and was a menace on defense.
"The defense was just like my goal," said Diop, a Senegal native. "I don't care about offense. I'm just going to play hard defense."
Shaunay Edmonds also had 15 points for Seton-LaSalle.
Each team shot 40 percent from the field, but Seton-LaSalle attempted 19 more shots -- the Rebels were 22 of 54, while Burrell was 14 of 35. Seton-LaSalle outrebounded Burrell, 37-21, and did a flawless job keeping the Bucs off the free-throw line -- they did not attempt a free throw in the game.
Burrell's Sydney Bordonaro, a junior guard and the team's leading scorer, provided nearly half of the Bucs' points, finishing with 14, including four 3-pointers.
Stefko, Seton-LaSalle's first-year coach, said he was proud of his team's defensive effort. Stefko coached in the WPIAL championship for the second year in a row, as he guided Chartiers Valley to the Class AAAA final a year ago.
"We wanted to put a lot of pressure on the ball and then have people in support positions against Bordonaro, as well, because she's a heck of a player. We didn't want to let her get going," Stefko said. "The kids committed to it. We always had five on the floor who were committed to that. It's fun when it works out that way."
The final minutes provided a special moment for Burrell when senior Jaila Manga briefly returned to the game. Manga cut her head early in the first quarter when she collided with a Seton-LaSalle player. It was bad enough that Duquesne University police drove Manga to Mercy Hospital, where she received three staples just above her forehead. She returned to Palumbo Center and, with a hospital bracelet still on, took the court to a big applause.
"I just kept saying, 'I want to get back,' " Manga said.
Both teams qualify for the PIAA tournament and will play first-round games Friday.
First Published February 28, 2014 6:39 PM