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Apollo-Ridge girls become victory No. 500 in career of Shady Side Academy coach Burke

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023 | 8:02 PM


Not too often do head basketball coaches in a particular matchup combine to own nearly 1,100 career victories.

That was the case Tuesday as Shady Side Academy’s Jonna Burke and Apollo-Ridge’s Ray Bartha guided their teams into the Section 3-3A girls opener at Shady Side Academy’s Mellon Gym.

Bartha has 568 victories in nearly three decades at the helm of the Vikings. Burke, with the Bulldogs’ 66-34 victory over Apollo-Ridge, joined select company in the WPIAL with her 500th career win.

“I’ve been around 28 years, so something like this doesn’t happen overnight,” said Burke, who now is 500-209 in 28 seasons at Shady Side Academy, Bethel Park and Butler. “I’ve been really lucky. I know a lot of people say that. But I’ve been really lucky over the years to have such good kids and kids who want to play hard and work hard. Kids like that I really relate to.

“I’ve been with the right people. The same thing in my playing days (Bethel Park, Pitt), I was surrounded by the right people. I never feel like it’s really just like an individual thing. When I reflect, I look at it and feel blessed.”

The Bulldogs and Vikings came into Tuesday’s game with a combined record of 15-2.

Apollo-Ridge hoped to play spoiler and postpone Burke’s milestone celebration. But Shady Side was just too strong and improved to 8-1 overall. The Vikings fell to 7-2.

The win was the Bulldogs’ fifth in a row since a loss to Baldwin on Dec. 8.

“Shady Side is a very good team, and we played out of character,” Bartha said. “We hadn’t played many tough games, and we had to step it up tonight, and we didn’t step up. I was disappointed in some of our performances.”

The section matchup was the first between Burke and Bartha.

“There’s not going to be many of us left who will be coaching that long,” Bartha said. “It is a great milestone for her. She has a nice team that shoots the ball really well.”

The foundation for Burke’s 500th win was established early as a combination of strong offense and stingy defense lifted Shady Side Academy to a 19-4 lead after the first quarter.

Apollo-Ridge committed eight turnovers in the opening eight minutes. Bulldogs freshman guard Maggie Spell, who finished with a game-best 20 points, scored 11 in the first quarter and had 14 at the break.

Senior forward Cate Sauer was consistent throughout and ended with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Any hope Apollo-Ridge had of coming back in the second quarter was dash when, after Vikings senior guard Brinley Toland converted a jumper to open the frame, Shady Side Academy went on a 10-0 run to balloon the lead to 29-6.

“We wanted (coach Burke) to get her 500th, and we wanted to start the section off with a win,” Spell said. “We want to be the winners of the section, so we had to start off big with a big win. It felt good to take control early.”

Toland paced the Vikings with 19 points, and senior Sydney McCray, who was saddled with foul trouble for a good chunk of the game, finished with seven points.

Junior guard Jaden Mull came off the bench to grab seven rebounds.

“We need to regroup for Ligonier Valley on Thursday,” Bartha said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Tags: Apollo-Ridge, Shady Side Academy





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