BURGETTSTOWN – While preparing for her team’s first-round game in the WPIAL playoffs, Burgettstown girls basketball coach Megan Zitner turned on her laptop and watched two games of the Blue Devils’ opponent, Greensburg Central Catholic.

Zitner stopped after the two games as one troubling thought ran through her mind: How is Greensburg Central Catholic only a No. 12 seed?

The Centurions have size, a good perimter shooter, depth and an annoying full-court press. They looked better than any team the Blue Devils played in Class 2A Section 3.

Unfortunately for Burgettstown, Zitner’s impression of Greensburg Central Catholic was spot on.

Mya Morgan scored 17 points, Bailey Kuhns tallied 12 of her 16 points in the second half and Greensburg Central Catholic upset fifth-seeded Burgettstown 52-39 Tuesday night.

The win sends GCC (9-4) to the quarterfinals while Burgettstown (15-3) will have an offseason to think about how its nine-game winning streak ended and ponder how the Centurions were seeded so low.

“They looked better than a No. 12 seed,” Zitner said. “I know (GCC) had a lot of stoppages during the season. I know it’s hard for the WPIAL to seed teams when one team has played only half a schedule and others have played a full schedule.”

GCC coach Sam Salih stopped short of saying his team was underseeded.

“This is my 26th year of coaching high school basketball and I’ve learned that you never know if you’re underseeded,” he said. “We feel we’re better than a 12 seed, but we had 12 games canceled because of COVID-19 situations. We had our own COVID issues and were shut down for 15 days, so we haven’t played a lot of basketball.”

On this night, GCC played a full game while Burgettstown played one solid quarter. The Centurions forged a 24-17 halftime lead behind 10 points from Morgan, the only outside scoring threat for GCC.

The lead grew to 38-23 after three quarters. Burgettstown was plagued by turnovers – 22 on the night – and when the Blue Devils did shoot they were misfiring at an alarming rate and had very few second-chance opportunities. The Blue Devils had trouble getting the basketball inside GCC’s 2-1-2 zone defense and were limited to three-point shooting.

After Blue Devils senior guard Avery Havelka drove to the basket and flipped in a floater that made the score 2-2, Burgettstown went the next 22 minutes with only two players – sophomore guard Jill Frazier and junior forward Madeline Newark – able to make a field goal.

“We wanted to keep the ball out of the paint and limit them to one shot because Burgettstown is a good rebounding team,” Salih said. “We mixed in a couple of presses and that threw them off. That was key because they shoot the ball ridiculously well.”

The Blue Devils, however, did not go down without a fight. They turned to a full-court press and tight man-to-man defense and quickly swung the momentum. Two free throws and a three-point play by Newark started a comeback early in the fourth quarter, and Frazier followed with two of her six three-pointers. Havelka then made one from behind the arc and suddenly the Blue Devils had trimmed a 15-point deficit to 40-37 with 4:30 remaining.

That would be as close as Burgettstown could get as Kuhns worked inside for six consecutive points.

“They picked apart our zone defense,” Zitner said. “They move the ball as well as any team we’ve seen in Double-A. They move it quickly. With hindsight being 20-20, maybe we should have gone to a man-to-man and pressed earlier.”

Frazier finished with 19 points to lead the Blue Devils. Newark had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Though the loss was disappointing, the future looks bright for Burgettstown. The Blue Devils started one freshman, a sophomore and a junior and the three players they brought off the bench are underclassmen.

“We had a great year,” Zitner said. “To win the section title for the first time in 23 years and go 15-3, that’s a good year.

“The 2016 season, that was the first time we made the playoffs since ‘98. That was huge. Now we’ve made the playoffs four times in five years but we want to take that next step and win a playoff game. We thought this would be the year to do that.”

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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