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Burrell girls work new faces into solid basketball nucleus

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Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Burrell's Sydney Bordonaro runs the ball during basketball practice at Burrell High School on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.
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Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Burrell's Eliza Oswalt focuses on the play during basketball practice at Burrell High School on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.
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Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Burrell girls head coach Meghan Ziemianski instructs her players during basketball practice at Burrell High School on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Burrell’s goal isn’t to make it to Palumbo Center this year.

Sure, the Buccaneers want to return to the WPIAL Class AA championship game, but the title games have been moved to Petersen Events Center for the next two years, moving away from Palumbo Center.

Now Pitt is it for Burrell, which returns a pair of Division I-caliber players in senior guard Sydney Bordonaro, who signed with Pepperdine, and junior forward Natalie Myers, who has four Division I scholarship offers.

Finding the right mix of role players to complement Bordonaro and Myers could be the key to having another shot at a championship.

This team — albeit one with a different look — still is charged up after falling short last year.

“It’s not fair to compare this year’s team to last year’s,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “You can’t replace the senior leadership we had from (graduates Jaila Manga, Jessica Cercone and Kelsey Oddis). We have a lot of young players who saw time last year and are ready to go.

“You can’t beat having two D-I players. But this is a different group.”

Burrell had its best season in school history. It went 28-2 with both losses coming to Seton-La Salle. After falling in the WPIAL final, the Bucs rallied in the PIAA playoffs before taking their final bow in the state semifinals.

While the team shows no signs of slowing down and has another postseason run planned, new faces in new positions coincides with a theme that also will include a new section.

Burrell moves from Section 1-AA to Section 2-AA and joins another newcomer, Greensburg Central Catholic, which Burrell defeated in last year’s WPIAL semifinals 51-47. GCC, which returns standouts Carolyn Appleby and Leah Bisignani, is expected to push Burrell for the section title.

“It’s tough to have expectations when you don’t know what to expect,” said Ziemianski of the new section and Burrell’s place in Class AA. “I know Syd and Nat are ready to be considered one of the top teams. They’re both gym rats. They’re both great players, but they’re even greater combined.”

Four sophomores will contribute to what looks to be an eight-player rotation. Starters will be Bordonaro, who will move from point guard to shooting guard, Myers, senior Erika Finn, sophomore Nicole Kristof and sophomore point guard Eliza Oswalt.

“This is a very athletic group,” Ziemianski said. “They have played so many games (in the offseason).”

Bordonaro led Burrell with 16.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 assists per game, doing much of her scoring from the outside. She broke the school scoring record and has 1,209 points going into the season.

With the 6-foot-1 Cercone gone, Myers becomes the team’s tallest player at 5-11. She averaged a double-double last season: 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomores Brooke Smith and Bailie Taylor also are expected to provide minutes in the backcourt, along with freshman guard Brittany Dunn.

Burrell will open the season against Hampton in the Seneca Valley Tip-Off Tournament. Over the holidays, the Bucs will head to the State College Tournament to try to defend their title.

Burrell has won 20 straight section games.

The Bucs have won 25 in a row against Class AA teams in the regular season and have 22 straight victories at home.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected].

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