A-K Valley athletes of the week: Leechburg’s Adalyn Zanotto, Deer Lakes’ Billy Schaeffer

Saturday, December 16, 2023 | 1:54 PM

Adalyn Zanotto

Class: Sophomore

School: Leechburg

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Zanotto, who also plays volleyball and softball, helped lead Leechburg’s girls basketball team to a pair of one-point victories last week. The sophomore shooting guard had 19 points as the Blue Devils (4-1) edged Geibel, 37-36, in overtime Monday. She then had 14 points, including the game-winner, in a 29-28 triumph over East Allegheny on Wednesday.

How did the team play against East Allegheny on Wednesday?

We were missing like three of our starters that game, but I feel like the people on the bench put in their best work and we still won the game. I made a 3-pointer, but they called it as a two in the last minute (for the winning point).

How did the team play against Geibel?

We were really excited about that one. That was our best team-played game of the season. We really just worked as a team. It was a good game.

What are some things the team is doing well at this point in the season?

I feel like we’re working more as a team better this year. We only had two seniors last year, so it’s basically the same team. We don’t have any freshmen.

What is your role on this team?

I think I’m the main scorer, and they just rely on me to do a lot of fast breaks and just shoot the ball when I’m open.

How did last year’s experience with the varsity help?

It got me ready to be one of the bigger leaders this year. Even last year, they relied on me to shoot the ball when I was open.

What are the team’s goals this season?

To have a winning season. I think we need to do better than we did last year since we all played together.

What will it take to reach and advance in the playoffs?

Everyone needs to shoot the ball as much as I do and pass to each other when we are open.

Which of the three sports you play is your favorite?

Probably softball. I’m a shortstop.

How do you balance all the different sports and school?

I like to be busy and not have a lot of free time. I always have a sport to play. They keep me in shape for the other sports.

Are you involved in any other activities at Leechburg?

I’m in student council and Spanish club.

How did you get started playing basketball?

I just played as a seventh grader. I just liked it and continued playing.

Does the team listen to any hype-up music before games?

We usually use my playlist. Our pump up song is (Meek Mill’s) “Dreams and Nightmares.”

What’s your favorite holiday movie?

“Elf.” I just like it. He’s a good character.

What’s your biggest Christmas gift wish?

I want the big JBL speaker so we can play it on the bus. Music just gets us pumped up.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I don’t like ketchup. When it gets near me, I just freak out. Also, I almost lost my toe due to a skin (infection), and I was in a boot and no one knew about it.

Billy Schaeffer

Class: Senior

School: Deer Lakes

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Defending WPIAL Class 3A boys basketball champion Deer Lakes is off to a 5-1 start, and the Lancers’ lone returning starter is a major reason why. Schaeffer had 26 points in a 65-55 win over Mohawk in double overtime on Tuesday. He then scored 15 points in a 63-34 victory over Ligonier Valley in the Section 3 opener Friday. The senior guard, who was a first-team Valley News Dispatch all-star last season, is averaging 17.7 points through the first six games.

How did the team play against Ligonier Valley on Friday night?

We got the job done. It was our first section game of the season. We went in as the favorites and did what we had to do.

What was the double-overtime victory like against Mohawk on Tuesday?

That honestly felt like a WPIAL playoff game. They had a great crowd. It was loud. The environment felt like a championship. They came back in the fourth quarter but we were able to pull it out. We just started playing our game. Our defense was good. I hit a 3 from the corner to put us up by two, and our point guard, Collin Rodgers, had a nice and-1 to seal the game.

What are some things the team is doing well at this point in the season?

Overall, we’ve built very good camaraderie through the team. Our chemistry is improving. It’s a different team than last year, but so far our chemistry is pretty good and building.

What are the team’s goals this season?

We always have the same goals; we want to win a championship. WPIALs, states — we’re going to go after it all.

What did last year’s experience do for this team?

Throughout the whole playoff run, we had 10 guys playing, five guys off the bench getting quality minutes. Our young guys were able to see this and build off it. We can help them out with our experience and knowledge. We have an experience that few teams have that helps us in every game. We played the best of the best teams throughout the whole state so we know what it’s like to be in a battle.

How have the younger players adjusted so far this season?

They’re doing well so far, learning the playbook, learning how we do things. Certain techniques on defense take some time to learn but they are getting the hang of it.

What will it take to defend the WPIAL title?

We just have to play as a team, be selfless, realize we all have the same goals. It’s not just about one of us, it’s about all of us, just coming together and playing hard every day. We compete with each other in practice and that helps us in games. Some of our practices are tougher than games because we push each other throughout the season.

How did you get started playing basketball?

I started playing in fourth grade. Just picked up a ball in the driveway with my dad. I just fell in love with it. I played for coach (Albie) Fletcher since fourth grade. It’s been the same group of kids playing since.

Have you made any plans for next fall?

I’m looking into the military. I’ll always keep my opportunities open to play at the collegiate level.

Who is the toughest player you’ve guarded?

Last season, against West Catholic their point guard Budd Clark, he didn’t miss a shot, he’s fast. Makhai Valentine (from Steel Valley) is tough to stay in front of on the wing.

Does the team listen to any hype-up music before games?

We have a playlist before games one of the guys made. We all pitched in. Lot of rap. I like “All of the Lights” before games by Kanye and Rihanna.

What’s your favorite holiday movie?

I’ll say “Christmas Vacation” because that’s the last one I watched.

What’s your biggest Christmas gift wish?

I want to win our holiday tournament.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I like to run. I just picked up that hobby recently. I ran in a race in Pittsburgh a couple months ago. I plan on running the marathon this year.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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