Decade’s best No. 8: Kipper Burleigh built an outstanding program at North Penn-Mansfield in boys basketball
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in a series looking back at the top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from last decade
Kipper Burleigh helped an experienced Mansfield team capture the 2010 District 4 Class A championship. He led a Tigers team replacing eight seniors in 2018 to a Class AA state tournament win. This past season he took a team which lost its top eight contributors from 2019 back to the playoffs.
Whether veteran-laden, young or somewhere in the middle, Burleigh’s teams have shared a common denominator–they have all won.
Burleigh is the only area boys coach who coached every season of the last decade and produced a winning record each time. Even the legendary Pennsylvania all-time wins leader, Loyalsock’s Ron Insinger, had a .500 season last decade. Burleigh has built an outstanding program over his 18 seasons at North Penn-Mansfield and consistency has been its hallmark.
Burleigh coached just Mansfield until 2015 when it and North Penn merged and became North Penn-Mansfield. Separate or together, the results have been the same and Burleigh has led North Penn-Mansfield to 12 straight postseason appearances. His teams went 184-77 last decade, compiling a .705 winning percentage, capturing two district championships and making five state tournament appearances in both Class A and AA.
Mansfield closed the 2000s strong when it reached the second round of the Class A state tournament and opened the 2010s just as strong. Burleigh’s 2010 team captured its second district title in four years and reached states for the third time during that run, finishing 23-5. The Tigers beat defending champion Millville in the final, again reached the second round of states and might have made the quarterfinals if not for the referees missing six players being on the court for eight seconds during overtime in a 51-47 loss to Lebanon Catholic.
It was more winning big in 2011 as Mansfield went 21-6, reached another district final and again advanced to the second round of states. Burleigh had his teams peaking at the right time and was well-prepared each game, tirelessly scouting opponents and building successful game plans. His teams won 30 games the next two years, but his 2014 team featured four new starters and it appeared the good times might stop. Instead, they continued going strong and Mansfield went 17-9 and closed its rivalry against North Penn with a thrilling, last-second 56-55 district quarterfinal win.
Rivals became teammates in 2015 with North Penn and Mansfield merging. It made North Penn-Mansfield deep, but it also could have created chemistry issues. Burleigh, however, was able to get the former opponents to mesh well and the Tigers topped 20 wins for the third time of the decade, finishing 21-7 and reaching states again. All those starters graduated and North Penn-Mansfield had to start new in 2016, but Burleigh had built a strong program from elementary school on up so these transitions were not nearly as difficult as they could have been. A new crop of Tigers was ready to make an impact and North Penn-Mansfield went 15-10 while laying the foundation for a championship.
Forward Brock Burleigh earned all-state honors and North Penn-Mansfield featured its traditional balanced offense as it romped to the District 4 Class AA championship in its first year competing as an AA team. The Tigers finished 21-6, won a share of the NTL-I championship and won both district playoff games by double-digit margins. It was a championship a decade in the making.
“I started doing Tiger Cub camps for kindergarten through third grade when Brock was in first grade and those kids played at halftime of the high school games and then I started travel basketball for them when they were in fourth, fifth and sixth we we played locally, in Williamsport and New York and then AAU together, playing 30-35 games over the summer so this is special,” Kipper Burleigh said after the championship win against Northeast Bradford. “It’s really special for me to see them get the gold medal. That’s the moment I’ll remember forever is seeing them receive the gold medals.”
“I’ve had this dream since second game,” Brock Burleigh said after the championship win against Northeast Bradford. “Going into open gyms, going in before school and after school and playing AAU over the summer … I’m glad to see it finally pay off.”
All that work continued paying dividends a year later. It was a new chapter but a similar script. The Tigers lost eight seniors and four starters from that district champion, but continued flourishing. North Penn-Mansfield went 18-11, finished third in the district and defeated top-seeded Wyalusing to reach the state tournament again. The Tigers then traveled three hours to play North Star in the opening round, winning their first state tournament game since 2011 in convincing fashion.
“We knew it was going to be tough losing eight seniors, but we also knew we had good players coming back,” Kipper Burleigh said after the Wyalusing game. “Every game we get is going to help develop our program and make us stronger next year.”
That it did.
North Penn-Mansfield moved up to Class AAA and continued thriving, winning 18 games again. The Tigers also captured their third league championship of the decade when they stunned long-time nemesis Wellsboro 43-41 to capture the NTL Tournament title. The Tigers snapped a six-game losing streak against the defending district champion and created a lasting memory which tied a memorable decade together well.
“I can’t even describe it. There are no words,” point guard Jayden Andrews said afterward. “It means everything. It truly does.”
So does having Burleigh running the North Penn-Mansfield program.