Deer Lakes avoids slow start, takes down Elizabeth Forward

Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 8:40 PM

The Deer Lakes boys basketball team has only played one game since Feb. 10, but it sure doesn’t look like that.

On Thursday night, the No. 10 Lancers (10-3) returned to their home court for the first time in just under a month and turned in a dominant shooting performance to capture a 53-21 Class 4A first-round playoff victory over No. 7 Elizabeth Forward (8-5).

“This feels great, and it’s what we’ve been working for,” said sophomore guard Bryce Robson, who led the Lancers with 22 points.

The Lancers will now move on to take on No. 2 Lincoln Park, which knocked them out of the playoffs last season, in Monday’s quarterfinals.

Although they pulled away fairly early, the Lancers got off to a slow start. Elizabeth Forward dominated the boards in the first few minutes and showcased a physical mentality as it took a 4-0 lead.

Deer Lakes wasn’t playing to its potential.

“I don’t think we did a good job of rebounding, and I thought we gave up too many second-chance opportunities early on,” Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham said. “(Elizabeth Forward) didn’t capitalize on them, and if they did, who knows? But the attention to detail on shooters was good.”

With the fear of giving their opponents an early lead waning, Parham called a timeout and had one message for his players.

“There’s no tomorrow,” Parham said. “Do you want to pay admission? You can’t go this year, but do you really want to pay admission or watch a stream? Or do you want to be preparing for the next opponent? And the light switch came on.”

Robson hit his first of three 3-pointers to give the Lancers their first lead of the game at 5-4. Then, after the Warriors responded with a bucket of their own, he hit another 3 to make it 8-6, and the Lancers never relinquished the lead again.

At the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, the Lancers went on a 15-2 run that built their lead to 20-8.

Robson added another 3-pointer in the second quarter, Lucas Tiglio hit three of his four in the frame, and by the end of the half, the Lancers led 28-10, having held Elizabeth Forward to just three points in the second quarter.

“I mean, that’s what we do. That’s what our team does,” Robson said about his team heating up from behind the arc. “When we get hot, we can put any team out.”

The Lancers found their rhythm offensively, but their defensive play created and converted turnovers into easy baskets all night long.

Justin Branigan produced several steals, and the Lancers fed off his energy while a combination of different zone defenses created havoc. The Lancers capitalized on it.

“That’s our staple, and we really knew what they were capable of,” Parham said. “We knew the attention to detail on defense was going to be key for us tonight.”

Coming into Thursday’s contest, the Warriors averaged 54.6 points per game this season, but coach Matt Loftis said it just wasn’t their night from the field.

“We just shot it extremely poorly tonight,” Loftis said. “I thought we were getting good looks and we were getting consistent looks, whether it was in the paint or from three, and we just did not shoot the ball well tonight. Once it stopped falling early, it just seemed like it kept mounting on us.”

Vernon Settles and Matt Daniels led Elizabeth Forward with six points apiece.

Armend Karpuzzi finished with 11 points for Deer Lakes and Tiglio finished with 12.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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