Highlands coach earns victory in return to Burrell
Highlands coach Meghan Ziemianski returned to her alma mater Saturday night, where she played as a guard on multiple Burrell WPIAL playoff teams.
But her return was longer than expected, as the Lady Rams needed two overtimes to post a 44-39 victory over the Bucs in a non-section game.
“I like coming back here. I know so many people,” Ziemianski said. “I want the girls to watch how my dad (Burrell coach Mark Ziemianski) runs his offense, It’s like ours, except he’s been running it longer and a few new things are added.”
It was the first game of a Highlands-Burrell, girls-boys doubleheader.
Highlands led, 23-9, with 7:17 left in the third quarter and appeared ready to cruise to a victory much like teenagers cruised the Heights Plaza parking lot in the 1970s. But Burrell, after shooting 3-for-17 in the first half, staged a solid comeback, finally tying the game at 31 with 8.3 seconds left in regulation on a three-point play by Taylor Myers.
Myers scored all four Burrell points in the first overtime as the Bucs (6-5) took what would be their only lead of the game on another Myers basket with 2:53 left in the second overtime.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Sidney’s Grabigel’s long banker gave the Golden Rams (5-6) the lead for good 14 seconds later.
Courtney Kordes finished with 14 points to lead Highlands. Grabigel added 10. Myers led Burrell with 23.
“The third quarter is usually our bad quarter,” Ziemianski said. “We keep squandering leads in the third quarter. We did it against North Allegheny and Beaver, but at least this one, we pulled it out.”
“I’m extremely proud of our effort,” said Bucs first-year coach Brian Sharick. “We were down 12 at the half and could have thrown in the towel and surrendered in the third quarter. They scratched and clawed against a good Class AAA team.”
In the first half, Highlands successfully got passes in deep to Kordes, one of the Alle-Kiski Valley’s leading scorers. Kordes also stole the ball in the backcourt twice and converted key baskets.
Burrell’s comeback also was propelled by quality ballhandling. The Bucs committed just one turnover in the third and fourth quarters.
Sharick didn’t make any big adjustments at the half.
“As far as schemes and X’s and O’s, not necessarily,” Sharick said. “We relied on Taylor and Morgan (Sharick) to try and create a little bit. Sometimes we’d be too robotic. Defensively, we just picked up our intensity.”
“In the second half, I think there were switches, and they were setting better picks. We couldn’t pick up the mismatches like we did in the first half,” Ziemianski said.
The Bucs cut the Highlands lead to 29-28 as Kylie Cochran’s steal led to the only basket of the game by Jessa Manga.
Two free throws and a blocked Burrell shot by Abby Hetrick, who was playing despite an illness, gave the Golden Rams a 31-28 advantage with 18.7 seconds to go. Myers was fouled on the shot by Grabigel and her subsequent free throw tied the game.
The contest also marked the return of Morgan Sharick, the coach’s daughter, who missed 54 weeks of basketball with knee and back injuries. Coach Sharick is another one of retired coach Tom Myers’ assistants who have earned their own head coaching jobs. That list includes boys coaches Rich Falter of Highlands, Dave Fuhrman of Bradford and Mark Ziemianski of Burrell.