BURGETTSTOWN – Megan Zitner turned to her bench and found two starters, Emily Prasko and Geena DeMario, both sitting after fouling out.
Two other starters barely remained on the court with four fouls early in the fourth quarter.
Zitner didn’t change much of anything, knowing that’s just the way her team plays. The Blue Devils are just tough, and maybe sometimes, a little too tough.
“We were in foul trouble. This was the most adversity we’ve fought through in a game,” Zitner said. “But I didn’t want them to back off defensively.”
The tougher team won Monday night.
Winning the battle on the boards and making shots when needed, Burgettstown won 15 games in a regular season for only the second time this century with a 45-24 victory over Chartiers-Houston in Class 2A Section 3.
“(Toughness) is something we live and die on,” Zitner said. “If we don’t come to play defense a lot of the time we aren’t winning because we’re not always efficient offensively. We can’t control if the shots are always going in but we can always control our effort on defense.”
One of the better defensive teams in Class 2A, Burgettstown (9-2, 15-6) sealed up its 15th win and second place in the section standings. The only other time since 2000 the Blue Devils reached the 15-win mark was in 2016-17.
“Most of the teams have come back the second time we’ve played them and hit harder,” said DeMario. “We were expecting them to do the exact same.”
The Blue Devils first absorbed a blow and then delivered a punch back that stumbled Chartiers-Houston (7-4, 11-9) for the remainder of the game.
Trailing 11-10 after the first quarter, Avery Havelka tormented the Bucs for a second time this year, this time in a four-minute span. Havelka made three consecutive layups to spark a 10-0 run for Burgettstown and give it a 21-10 lead.
While the Blue Devils were finding their offensive touch, Chartiers-Houston lost all of its offensive identity as it went cold from the field. The Bucs failed to make a shot for nearly seven minutes and never found the rhythm they had when it forged a first-quarter lead.
In the foul-filled game, Chartiers-Houston went just 7-for-24 from the free-throw line and only made three field goals in total in the final three quarters.
Dominique Mortimer had 10 points to lead C-H in scoring.
“We thought we did a better job offensively in getting open shots but didn’t know them down,” Chartiers-Houston coach Laura Montecalvo said. “We were shooting early. That was keeping us in the game in spite of our mistakes. As the game went on we shot worse and worse.
“Credit to Burgettstown,” Montecalvo continued, “they hustle all over the place.”
Zitner put an emphasis on her team for another teeth-gritting performance to earn a section victory and higher seed with the upcoming WPIAL playoffs looming.
“We knew coming into tonight that if we didn’t win then we would probably tie for second. That could lead (Chartiers-Houston) being a higher seed than us. We were ready.”
Burgettstown kept its lead to as little as three possessions and as much as double digits in the second half.
A phantom technical foul that ended Emily Prasko’s Senior Night for Burgettstown was followed by a nine-point run by the Blue Devils throughout the fourth quarter, extending their nine-point lead all the way to 39-21.
DeMario and Celeste DiVecchio each scored nine points in the balanced effort for the Blue Devils. Havelka finished with eight points.
“It started with our playoff game against (Our Lady of Sacred Heart) last year,” DeMario said. “We lost but battled. It was a breakthrough. We tried going out with a bang, but it definitely motivated us coming into this year.”