North Star has been a shining star all season.
The Cougars continued their postseason run with a 47-41 victory over Burrell in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals Friday night at Hempfield.
It was the first quarterfinal appearance in North Star history.
The Cougars controlled the boards, outrebounding Burrell, 27-16.
“Rebounding and defense has been what’s gotten us this far,” Cougars coach Randy Schrock said.
North Star was led by Jackie Stanko, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Eliza Oswalt led the Bucs with 20 points, including six 3-pointers.
North Star (27-2) will play Bishop McCort in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Burrell, coming off its victory Tuesday over WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin, concluded its season at 22-7.
“We definitely didn’t box out. They beat us on the boards, for sure,” Bucs coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “They beat us to a lot of loose balls. We’d get a steal, and it would go back to them. Nothing went our way.”
North Star jumped out to a 12-2 lead. The Bucs mustered just one field goal over the first seven minutes of the game.
Burrell made up ground quickly, taking its only lead of the game, 16-15, with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the half. Oswalt’s basket gave the Bucs an advantage for just 26 seconds before North Star took the lead for good.
The Cougars led 22-19 halftime and scored the first eight points of the second half.
“I knew we had to come out in the second half and play a lot tougher,” Stanko said. “We had to play calm and take care of the ball.”
Kayla Rice scored 10 points for North Star, but her biggest contribution came on defense. She held Bucs standout Natalie Myers to nine points, half of her season average.
“She did a good job on me,” Myers said. “I just didn’t score enough tonight.”
“Any time I need a shutdown defender, I call on Kayla,” Schrock said. “She got 10 and she held her girl to nine, so I say she won that one.”
The Cougars finished the third quarter in front 37-30.
North Star committed just five team fouls over the first three quarters. Burrell attempted eight free throws and made four.
Oswalt, who fired in a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, got the Bucs to within 42-36 with 2:20 to go. But four consecutive free throws by Courtney Schrock put the game out of reach.
“Our defense and athleticism would bring us up close, but we could never get into any rhythm,” Ziemianski said.
Even with Friday’s loss, Burrell has posted a 114-23 record over the past five seasons.
George Guido is a freelance writer.