After a season to remember, Deer Lakes boys trying to plan an encore

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Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 5:08 PM


The Deer Lakes boys basketball team made history last year during its school-record run to and through the postseason.

The Lancers captured an outright section championship for the first time since 1992. They also won a WPIAL playoff game and qualified for the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 1985.

Their state-tournament wins over Brookville and Forest Hills were the first such victories in program history.

With all of that success behind them, Deer Lakes turns the page to a new season, and the team, with two starters and several other contributors returning, hopes to equal or surpass those achievements all the while knowing it will have a big target on its back, both in and out of Section 3-3A play.

“After my first year, we had established what it takes to win, and the next two years, we were able to make strides in that direction,” Lancers coach Terence Parham said. “Last year, we had a group of guys who really took pride in this program and helped get us over the edge.

“The kids had a lot of success, but the group is in the new position of being a defending section champion. We have to be able to bring it every night knowing that we have an X on our back, and everyone wants to beat the defending section champ. We’ll get everyone’s best game.”

Deer Lakes’ hopes for a second straight section crown will face challenges from from the likes of Steel Valley, Valley and Shady Side Academy, all playoff qualifiers last season.

“We never say we’re going to do this or that. We just put our effort to the max and whatever happens happens,” said senior point guard Zac Herbinko, a returning starter along with senior forward Jack Hollibaugh.

“We want to give ourselves the best chance to win every time. We might be out-skilled at certain times, but our effort, energy and focus can be there every time. That mentality is going to win you games in this section.”

The Lancers were able to win the close games last year. They were 9-2 in games determined by less than 10 points, including both wins in the PIAA playoffs.

“Our best game has to be every game,” said Hollibaugh, who scored 12 points from the post in Deer Lakes’ PIAA second-round victory over Forest Hills, the District 6 champion.

Deer Lakes lost about 30 points — more than half of the team’s 56.9 points per game — with the graduation of senior starters in guards Brad Perrotte and Jared Colton and forward Colin Kadlick.

But Parham said he likes the way the team continues to come together, from the work in the offseason to the first series of preseason practices this week.

He feels the squad can be balanced, from play in the paint to the perimeter. The Lancers will test themselves in a home scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday against West Mifflin.

“We have some guys in different roles and some who will have a wake-up call, so to speak,” Parham said. “We hope to continue to teach and mold them so they are ready. The season is literally right around the corner.”

Senior 6-foot-2 forward Ryan Butler, Parham said, can be a difference maker in the post and also play well further away from the basket.

“He’s deceptively quick with really good post moves,” Parham said. “We’re going to try to put him in positions to take advantage of his strengths.”

Senior guard Aris Hasley returns after starting several games last year and is a leading candidate to fill one of the regular spots in the starting rotation.

“No matter what the situation was last year, Aris often provided a spark with his skill and competitiveness,” Parham said.

Parham said he’s excited to see the continued competition for additional starting time or minutes off the bench from the likes of 6-5 junior forward Paul Zalus, senior guards Josh Darsie and Alex Rodgers, sophomores Armend Karpuzi, Lucas Toglio and Justin Brennigan and freshman guard Bryce Robson.

Senior guard/forward Trey Darrah, also expected to be a part of the rotation, is back with the team after not playing last year.

Deer Lakes will scrimmage at South Park on Dec. 4 before opening against Summit Academy on Dec. 6 at the St. Joseph Tournament.

“The schedule is a challenge, and the section will be tough again. I know everyone is working their tails off to solidify their spot in the section,” Parham said. “There are no nights off, and that’s what you want. If you want to be the best, you have to bring it every night, and the guys are looking forward to the challenge.”

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

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