State Colleges

Amanda Burakoski leads Nova Southeastern women’s basketball to Division II Final Four

Amanda Burakoski has been looking to contribute in as many ways as she can for Nova Southeastern.

The 6-foot senior guard came off the bench to have a career game Tuesday and help the Sharks play in their first Final Four in program history.

Burakoski scored a career-high 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to help Nova Southeastern defeat Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) 72-64 in the NCAA Division II women's basketball Elite Eight in front of 1,244 fans at Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pa.

“I just show up and try to step up for my team,” Burakoski said. “If it's not me, someone else on the team will step up. The team always has my back and I feel like part of a team since coming here.”

No. 10 Nova Southeastern (29-4) moves on to the Final Four on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against West Texas A&M (Texas), an 81-44 winner over Limestone.

The Sharks struggled throughout the first half, connecting on only 9 of39 shots (23.1 percent) from the field. Burakoski was the exception as she made 5 of 7 to score 14 points and give Nova Southeastern a 30-21 lead at halftime.

“Amanda is one of those special players and one of the most unselfish players I've had to opportunity to coach,” said Nova Southeastern coach LeAnn Freeland. “I have to stay on her every possession to look to score because she's such a great passer and unselfish player. She really stepped up (Tuesday), and she isn't ready for her senior season to end.”

Burakoski, a native of Brooklyn, spent her first two season near home at Division I St. John's before transferring to Nova Southeastern. Although she didn't start on Tuesday, Burakoski played 31 minutes and went 11-of-12 from the free throw line, including 9-of-10 in the second half, to help the Sharks move on.

Nova Southeastern finished 18-of-68 (26.5 percent) for the game, but Concordia-St. Paul couldn't get much going on offense either at 32.9 percent (23-of-70). The Golden Bears continued to hit big shots when the Sharks appeared to be pulling away, but couldn't get over the hump to take a second-half lead.

“We aren't going to focus on this game. We know we didn't have our best and we are going to focus on the run we made to get here,” Concordia-St. Paul coach Paul Fessler said. “We kept talking about in the second half that we needed to get two stops in a row and if we got the lead, we weren't going to relinquish it. Usually, we can get a few stops in a row when we needed it this year, but we couldn't do it (Tuesday) and it was tough for us.”

Danielle Robinson contributed with 14 points and six rebounds, including five on defense, for the Sharks, and Jessica Russi added 11 points and Jasmine Wilkins pulled down nine rebounds.

Rachel Hansen led Concordia-St. Paul with 16 points, followed by Carissa Wolyniec (15), Anika Whiting (14) and Ameshia Kearney (12).