A-K Valley basketball notebook: Leechburg’s Lovelace living at the line

Friday, January 19, 2018 | 12:03 AM

The charity stripe has been a fine line for Leechburg's Mikayla Lovelace this season.

Lovelace, who broke her own school record by scoring 44 points in Leechburg's 70-59 win over Brentwood on Tuesday, is making a living at the free-throw line, frequently getting there more than 10 times a game. She shot 17 of 24 from the line in the Brentwood game.

“You knew she was dominant, but she's dominant in a lot of games,” Leechburg coach Joel Ceraso said. “Where Mikayla's able to do it for us lately is getting to the line. If she can do that for us, we're going to be tough, and she's going to be tough. Because she makes a high rate of them.”

An IUP recruit, Lovelace broke the record of 43 points she set last season against Kiski Area. She broke the former school record as a sophomore with 39 points in a playoff loss to Ellis School.

“It was kind of surreal,” Lovelace said. “I mean, I didn't even realize I scored that much. I just remember we were down and our whole team came together to get us the lead. I think it's kind of weird that I beat my record by one point, though. I never would have guessed that I scored that much.”

Lovelace, who eclipsed 1,500 career points earlier this year and is quickly approaching 2,000, also pulled down 21 rebounds in the win over Brentwood, which gave Leechburg (10-2, 6-1) sole possession of second place in Section 2-2A.

“She wasn't always a great rebounder … and she has just developed a relentlessness to the ball, which bodes well to getting those chunks of rebounds,” Ceraso said.

Tight at the top

Boys basketball Section 3-6A could get interesting again as it winds into the second round of games.

But can it top last year's logjam at the top?

After Latrobe's 80-66 upset of No. 2 Penn Hills rattled the standings, it's now Penn Hills (14-1, 6-1) and Woodland Hills (11-2, 6-1) on top, followed by Latrobe (10-4, 5-2), Fox Chapel (10-4, 4-3), Norwin (8-6, 3-4), Penn-Trafford (6-9, 3-4), Hempfield (4-10, 1-6), and Plum (5-9, 0-7). The top four make the WPIAL playoffs.

Last year, Latrobe, Fox Chapel and Penn Hills all tied for the section title.

“It's still a great section, not as good as last year, but you know there are no easy games,” Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said.

Woodland Hills beat Latrobe. The teams play again Friday night at Woodland Hills. Fox Chapel beat Latrobe. Penn Hills beat Woodland Hills. Penn-Trafford knocked off Fox Chapel.

Force in fourth

Freeport is showing it can win during “winning time.”

The Yellowjackets posted back-to-back Section 1-4A boys basketball victories by excelling in the fourth quarter, rallying to beat Deer Lakes on Tuesday with a 16-0 run early in the period and then outscoring Derry, 27-20, in the fourth Wednesday to break open a tied game in a 61-54 win.

Freeport coach Mike Beale said he expected the intensity between his Yellowjackets and Deer Lakes — with physical defense, players diving everywhere for loose balls and a boatload of athletic offensive efforts — simply because of how important the game was in the fight for positioning within the section.

“(Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham) is a very good coach, and he always has his team well-prepared,” Beale said. “When we go there (Feb. 9), we know it will be a game because they will be ready. Who knows, a playoff spot could be on the line. We're all jockeying for position within the section.”

Winner of six consecutive games, Freeport (8-4, 6-2) hosts second-place Valley (7-2, 4-1), winner of five straight, in another important section game Friday. Deer Lakes (6-6, 2-2) visits section-leader Indiana (10-1, 6-0). Those four teams currently hold playoff positioning, but Derry (4-6, 2-3) is close behind.

Valley beat Freeport, 65-55, in the teams' first meeting, pulling away in — you guessed it — the fourth quarter. Freeport will try to turn the tables Friday.

Greiser returns

Former Yough boys basketball coach Wayne Greiser made a successful return to Cougar Mountain last week as assistant with Freeport, his alma mater.

Freeport won, 79-39, and Ben Beale (21) and Isiah Bauman combined to score 41 points.

“There are some great people at Yough that I got to see,” Greiser said. “It will always hold a special place in my heart as they gave me the chance to be a head coach.”

This and that

Leechburg will recognize senior Christian Hack with a ceremony at Friday's game against Riverview after he reached 1,000 career points earlier this season. … Freeport leads A-K Valley boys basketball in scoring (68.2 points per game), and Valley has the best defense (49.7 ppg). On the girls side, Leechburg has the highest-scoring offense (62.4 ppg) and Deer Lakes the stingiest defense (41.3 ppg).

Bill Beckner Jr. and Michael Love contributed. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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