A-K Valley girls basketball notebook: Deer Lakes leaning on defense

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | 5:38 PM

The defense is not resting for the Deer Lakes girls basketball team.

The Lancers, 5-3 overall, lead Section 3-3A in scoring defense at 37.3 points per game. They limited Riverview and South Side to 39 and 29 points, respectively, last weekend in winning the St. Joseph Tournament.

Deer Lakes held South Side to 10 second-half points in the 35-29 title-game victory.

“One of the things I and my assistant coaches noticed is this is a very athletic team that is able to pick up and change their defense on the fly,” Deer Lakes coach Dave Petruska said. “Our focus has been on teaching them the different intracasies that go into each specific defense we run.”

Deer Lakes held a potent Carlynton (Class 3A No. 2) offense to 35 points in a 35-29 section loss Dec. 19. The Lancers are 2-1 in the section, tied with Derry and Shady Side Academy for second behind Carlynton.

Petruska said as the offense comes along, his players understand strong defense can make the difference.

“There have been several instances this year of breakdowns on the offense end or small mental errors, but those things didn’t affect them defensively,” Petruska said. “They are able to turn around and create that havoc and chaos they’ve been working to do.”

Deer Lakes returns to action Monday with a home section game against East Allegheny.

At full strength

Freeport enters January undefeated in Section 1-4A (3-0), and visits section foe and 4A No. 1 North Catholic (6-0, 2-0) on Thursday.

The Yellowjackets go into the first meeting between the teams this season with everyone in the lineup.

Seniors Madeline Clark (knee) and Sidney Shemanski (back, illness) missed several games in December, but both are back. Clark saw increased minutes last weekend in both games of the West Shamokin Tournament, and Shemanski had a team-best 16 points in last Friday’s 68-59 win over Redbank Valley.

Seniors Harley Holloway and Louisa Fennell added 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the victory.

“We’re all coming together and are able to practice as a full team,” Shemanski said. “We have really worked hard to prepare for North Catholic. It’s also good for us psychologically to know that were clicking again and able to go into the game at full strength. I think it will be a good game.

Freeport is 5-3 overall, and the victories include section wins over Highlands, Burrell and Greensburg-Salem.

“The goal is to be as consistent and disciplined as possible, and a full and healthy lineup is crucial to having that,” Freeport coach Fred Soilis said.

Winless no more

After six straight losses to begin the season, Burrell put one in the win column last Friday with a 59-54 victory over Jeannette at the Hempfield Tournament.

Second-year coach Joel Ceraso said the victory was a big confidence booster for a youthful Bucs, powered mostly by freshmen and sophomores, that continues to find its way.

“We continue to preach the process,” Ceraso said. “We’ve talked a lot about every bit of growth along the way and have highlighted every positive thing even though it wasn’t showing up in the win column. We saw improvement, and it was a great feeling to see them be able to get that win.”

Sophomores Olivia Watts and Allison Fisher scored 23 and 19 points, respectively, to lead Burrell to the win.

Starting sophomore forward Hope Clark wasn’t able to play against Jeannette because of illness.

“It’s good to see some of the young kids grow and understand what positive things can happen when they execute what we are trying to do,” Ceraso said.

Burrell (1-6, 0-3) hosts section foe Indiana (6-4, 1-2) on Thursday.

Back to business

Every WPIAL girls basketball game Thursday is a section matchup, and seven other Alle-Kiski Valley teams join Burrell and Freeport hoping to start 2020 with a win.

Knoch (6-3, 3-0) seeks to remain unblemished in Section 1-4A at Apollo-Ridge, and the Vikings (4-4, 1-2) hope to snap a two-game section losing skid.

Other contests with local importance Thursday have Armstrong (6-2, 2-1) at Plum (3-4, 1-1) in Section 2-5A, Greensburg-Salem (3-6, 1-2) at Highlands (2-4, 0-2) in Section 1-4A, Valley (1-10, 0-3) at East Allegheny (3-5, 1-2) in Section 3-3A, Winchester Thurston (7-0, 2-0) at Riverview (4-5, 1-2) in Section 2-2A, and Leechburg (1-5, 0-1) at Clairton (5-1, 1-0) and St. Joseph (0-7, 0-1) at Propel Andrew Street (2-6, 0-1) in Section 3-1A.

In Section 1-6A, Fox Chapel (5-3, 1-2) visits Shaler (5-3, 2-1) on Friday as part of a varsity doubleheader.

Kiski Area (4-6, 0-3) takes on Highlands on Saturday and gets back to Section 2-5A action Tuesday against Gateway (6-3, 2-1), while Springdale (2-7, 0-2) returns to the court Monday with a Section 2-2A game at Jeannette (2-7, 0-2).

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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