ERIE, Pa. -- Since transferring from Division I St. John's, Amanda Burakoski has felt like she was part of a team at Nova Southeastern.
She rewarded the Sharks' welcoming atmosphere with a career game in the biggest game of the season to date.
Burakoski tied a career high with 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, including eight on defense, to lead Nova Southeastern to a 72-64 win against Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Tuesday in front of 1,244 fans at Erie Insurance Arena.
“It has been a lot different in a good way,” said Burakoski, who spent two years at St. John's before playing the past two seasons at Nova Southeastern. “This team is a lot more together and I feel like I'm more part of a team. The coaches are always on my back in a good way and always picking me up. It has been a positive experience.”
Burakoski is a 6-foot guard out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and initially stayed at home to play college basketball. With a new atmosphere, Burakoski scored 12.7 points per game as a junior with the Sharks.
This season, her aggressiveness has paid off to make an impact with Nova Southeastern.
“I'm just showing up and trying to step up for the team,” Burakoski said. “Whether it's me or everyone else, we are all trying to win and the team always has my back.”
Both teams struggled in the first half, with the exception of Burakoski. The Sharks were 9 of 39 (23.1 percent) from the field, but Burakoski was 5 of 7 (71.4 percent). She had 14 points in the first half and chased down her career high of 27 that she also put together on Jan. 16, 2013, against Rollins.
“Amanda is one of those speical players that is probably the most unselfish player I've ever had the opportunity to coach,” Nova Southeastern coach LeAnn Freeland said. “I have to stay on her to look to score every possession because she's such a great passer and unselfish player. She really stepped up [Tuesday] and she's not ready for her senior year to end.”
Burakoski also knocked down 11 of 12 from the free throw line and had two assists for the Sharks.
Nova Southeastern managed to hang on despite shooting 26.5 percent (18 of 68) from the field as the Sharks outrebounded the Golden Bears 60-42. Danielle Robinson added 14 points, six rebounds and several clutch shots in the final minutes, while Jessica Russi had 11 points for the Sharks.
Concordia-St. Paul had four players in double figures, including Rachel Hansen (16 points), Carissa Wolyniec (15), Anika Whiting (14) and Ameshia Kearney (12).
With both teams starting to adjust their shooting in the second half, Burakoski stood out with big rebounds and tough defensive plays.
“She's a good player and long and athletic,” Concordia-St. Paul head coach Paul Fessler said about Burakoski. “She's a tough matchup and she forced us to switch our defense. We started with a post on her but a post couldn't keep up so we had to move a guard to defend her. She's a nice, long athlete and you can't find too many of those out there.”