Beaver Falls stifles Burrell, 61-33, for Class AA boys crown
Drew Cook paced Beaver Falls with 20 points in its Class AA win Saturday.
Beaver Falls' Dan Stratton and Micoy Mason celebrate their win against Burrell in the WPIAL boys AA basketball final.
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Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega said his team's goal in the WPIAL Class AA title game was to hold Burrell to 27 points or less. And he was serious.
Such talk might be considered preposterous, but it's an indication of how much Biega believes in his team's defense and an indication of how he thought his Tigers could exploit Burrell.
Beaver Falls didn't quite reach Biega's goal, but the Tigers did reach gold again.
Beaver Falls put on a tremendous defensive display and crushed Burrell, 61-33, to win the gold championship trophy Saturday afternoon at Palumbo Center. With the win, Beaver Falls got its second consecutive title, the ninth in school history and Biega got his 300th career win in 14 seasons.
It was fairly easy, too, as Beaver Falls jumped to a 15-0 lead. In the end, the 28-point winning margin tied for the third-most lopsided game in 101 seasons of WPIAL championship games. And for the second year in a row, the win was all about defense. In the title game last season, Beaver Falls used mostly a zone defense and held Monessen to 27 points, which tied for the lowest offensive output in any title game in 52 years.
This time, it was a full-court, pressure man-to-man defense that did in Burrell, which was making its first championship appearance since 1979. That year, coincidentally, Burrell lost to Beaver Falls.
"We had hoped to do what we did last year. Twenty-seven was our goal," Biega said. "We kind of shut down in the fourth quarter or we might have attained it."
Burrell had 28 turnovers, including seven in the first five minutes. Beaver Falls (23-3) led at halftime, 32-8.
"That's what we've worked on every day for 14 years -- defense," Biega said. "If we practice three hours, then two hours and 20 minutes are on the defensive end. When you have athletes, you can score the basketball. But defense is all about coaching, learning, sacrificing as an individual. Defense kind of embodies what sports is about."
When Burrell was able to break the full-court press, the Bucs struggled mightily in the half court. If they didn't turn it over, they couldn't run their offensive sets, simply because Beaver Falls wouldn't let them. Beaver Falls was simply too quick for Burrell.
"We do that to a lot of teams," said Beaver Falls junior guard Elijah Cottrill. "But we're not the first team in Beaver Falls history to play good defense. Beaver Falls' history is a defensive-first team. Our offense comes off our defense."
Defense is paramount for Beaver Falls because the Tigers basically start five guards. Cottrill is the biggest at 6-3.
"Our size doesn't matter, as long as we pressure the ball," Cottrill said.
But the Tigers have some offensive talent, too. Senior guard Drew Cook made 8 of 13 shots and finished with a game-high 20 points. Cottrill added 14 and junior guard Danny Stratton 13. Those three shot 18 of 33 from the field.
Senior forward Cole Bush and senior guard Pete Spagnolo scored 14 points apiece for Burrell. The Bucs trailed, 15-2, after the first quarter.
Cook scored 10 points in the second quarter to help the Tigers to a 24-point advantage at the break. Burrell got off only 15 shots in the first half.
"Their pressure is the best we've faced all year," said Burrell coach Rob Niederberger.
"But these guys have nothing to be ashamed about. These kids have done stuff at Burrell that has been done only once before.
"This is a wrestling school. Everyone thinks it's wrestling, football and baseball. They never talked about basketball. That's what we've worked on to change."
This game only added to Beaver Falls' basketball tradition.
"Beaver County and Western Pennsylvania are football areas," Biega said. "But Beaver Falls is a basketball school."
Where defense reigns.
First Published March 3, 2013 12:00 am