Jonna Burke has tried nearly everything but not much of anything has worked.
And as the Bethel Park High School girls basketball coach gathered herself to talk to the media after another frustrating loss to Peters Township, this time three weeks ago in the WPIAL semifinals, there was one question Burke could answer with certainty.
“Do I want to face them again? No, not really,” Burke said. “What’s the pleasure in that? They are the No. 1-ranked team in the state. They’re great. They are a crosstown rival and there is no love lost. Frankly, I don’t want to play them again, but we will if we have to.”
The two teams play again tonight in a PIAA Class 6A second-round game at Canon-McMillan High School, the same site the Indians knocked Bethel Park out of the district playoffs exactly three weeks ago.
Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
It is the second straight season the teams will meet for the fourth time. Last year, Peters Township won the first three meetings, twice in the regular season and in the WPIAL semis, before losing to the Black Hawks in the first round of the state tournament. The Indians similarly rolled through Bethel Park (22-3) so far this season, winning both section games in January and in the district tournament.
“We can catch teams that aren’t as familiar with certain things and set plays,” said Peters Township coach Bert Kendall. “When you are playing a team for the fourth time, there is so much familiarity and aren’t too many surprises.”
Kendall knows the Black Hawks might do something different, similar to when they forced the game to a crawl by slowing the tempo in the semifinals, still losing 36-28.
Peters Township (26-0) has won eight of the last nine meetings.
“We have tried something different every game,” said Burke. “We haven’t been successful, but neither has anybody else. They are a great team right now.”
Determining a winner tonight might focus directly on how the two best players for each team perform, Peters Township’s Makenna Marisa and Bethel Park’s Olivia Westphal.
In the last 10 games against Bethel Park, Marisa has scored more than 20 points seven times and the Indians won all seven. In the three games this season, Marisa has scored 25, 26 and 13 points, the latter maybe being the most impressive as she changed the complexion of the game with a big second quarter.
She is averaging 22.1 points against the Black Hawks.
“I can’t say enough about her other than I can’t wait until she is done,” Burke said. “You hope to contain her but you can’t stop her. She has been in our way for four years.”
Westphal, a sophomore, was the main reason of sending the first game between the two teams this season into overtime. She scored a game-high 34 points in that game but was limited to 13 points in the second meeting and held to single digits in the playoffs.
“We had to adjust our defense to contain her,” Kendall said. “We are focused on still playing our game. Regardless of the opponent, we have to play our game. We know we have a goal and have to move on to achieve it. We are going to treat them like anybody else. They are in the way.”