After WPIAL title, Deer Lakes boys set sights on run to state championship

Saturday, March 2, 2024 | 5:54 PM

The Deer Lakes boys basketball team had three goals at the beginning of the season: win a section title, repeat as WPIAL champs and get back to Hershey for the state finals.

After Friday’s 55-49 win over Alle-Kiski Valley rival Burrell in the WPIAL Class 3A championship, the Lancers can cross two milestones off the list.

Deer Lakes’ journey to reaching its third goal of returning to a state title game begins with hosting Mercyhurst Prep in the first round Saturday.

“We’ve got two down and one to go,” Deer Lakes coach Albie Fletcher said. “With the way these guys put in the work in the offseason, I knew we could get back here. Did I think when I got the job, ‘Here we go, back-to-back WPIALs?’ No. But as we progressed, and I saw the kids that we had and what we were building, I knew it was something special.”

Mercyhurst Prep is the third-place team out of District 10. The Lakers took down Fairview, 55-39, in the District 10 3A consolation game to get into the state tournament.

It’ll be a less familiar opponent for Deer Lakes compared to their neighborhood rival Burrell, which they faced for a third time this season in the WPIAL championship.

That probably won’t faze the Lancers, however.

One of Fletcher’s main sticking points for his team is that nobody will out-prepare them.

Lancers senior guard Billy Schaeffer credited his coach for doing a good job leading by example and getting the team ready.

“We have to give props to Coach (Fletcher) for the preparation he instills in us,” Schaeffer said. “He watches so much film. The amount of hours is crazy. On Hudl, it says it on the bottom of the screen and the hours go up by the hundreds. I don’t think he sleeps.”

Schaeffer had a game-high 20 points in the WPIAL final victory. Nathaniel Moore grabbed 16 rebounds.

Schaeffer is the lone returning starter from last year’s team, but he is accompanied by plenty of experienced players who played major roles off the bench last year.

Wayne Love, a senior, is one of the them who is making an impact in the starting lineup. He made sure to credit everyone on the roster for contributing to their success after Friday’s win.

“You have to give it up to all of our guys on the bench,” Love said. “If you are on our team, you are one (heck) of a help.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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