Deer Lakes boys basketball hopes to extend state playoff run

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 11:34 PM


The playoffs tend to present adverse situations, and finding the right response can prove to be the difference in the outcome.

So it was for Deer Lakes in Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A boys basketball tournament opener. The Lancers’ first state playoff appearance since 1985 hung in the balance late after a technical foul helped to put them behind late in the fourth quarter — their first deficit of the game.

Rather than folding, Deer Lakes got a tying basket from first-year starter Zac Herbinko and then a strong performance in overtime to get a 56-52 win, the first PIAA victory in school history.

“We regrouped,” said senior Colin Kadlick, who was assessed the technical. “All the guys that were on the court, they were keeping my cool, and we all just regrouped. Coach (Terence) Parham and (assistant Albie) Fletcher, they all helped us regroup. We regrouped, we regathered and we won. We pulled out big.

“It’s huge. It was scary whenever it first happened because I thought that was going to be my last game. I thought I was going to be the reason for that being my last game. But it was huge. Thankfully, we came out on top.”

Deer Lakes, which faces a PIAA second-round game against Forest Hills at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Armstrong, found a way to do so in large part because of the growth the program continues to make.

Parham came to the school four seasons ago hoping to build a tradition of winning, and the Lancers are showing the signs of that this season. They won an outright section title for the first time since 1992 and a WPIAL playoff game for the first time since 1985.

Saturday’s victory was Deer Lakes’ first in a PIAA tournament game.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about,” Kadlick said. “Winning the section is one thing, and winning our first playoff game since 1985 is another thing. But being that No. 1 team in the history books, it’s remarkable. It really is.”

The Lancers faced adversity along the way to their record-setting season. They won their first nine section games but dropped two of their final three entering the WPIAL playoffs. They also needed fourth-quarter comebacks in wins over Burrell and Valley, the latter one helping them clinch the section title.

“You can fall back on those,” Parham said. “It’s not something that you have to bring up, but I think mentally these guys knew. You could hear them say, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before. Don’t fold.’ When I heard ‘don’t fold,’ that’s telling me the kids are confident.”

Even so, Saturday’s playoff opener was what Kadlick called a “crazy” situation. Deer Lakes led Brookville all game and held a three-point advantage in the fourth quarter when a whistle stopped action. An official assessed a warning against Brookville’s coach.

With play about to resume, Kadlick tossed the ball to the official and was called for a technical — “Right call, right time, I’m not going to complain about it,” he said. Brookville promptly hit two free throws, then a 3-pointer, to take a two-point lead, its first of the game.

But Deer Lakes responded with Herbinko’s shot to tie the score, which came after an offensive rebound, then answered the bell by scoring nine points in overtime — all on free throws.

“We keep preaching on it that an old Deer Lakes team probably would have lost in that situation,” Kadlick said. “Not saying that the older Deer Lakes teams were worse, but I feel like it’s just a completely different (team). We’re trying to change the program, that’s what coach Parham and coach Fletcher are trying to do, and I think we’re doing that successfully right now.”

Another victory Wednesday would continue that path.

District 6 third-place team Forest Hills is coming off a long-awaited victory of its own, as the Rangers’ 64-51 first-round win over North Catholic was their first PIAA playoff win since 1995. The Rangers mirror Deer Lakes in many ways as a physical, defense-and-rebounding team, and they held North Catholic more than 20 points below its season scoring average.

Forest Hills is led by senior forward Adam Cecere, a three-sport standout who starred at quarterback in football and is committed to Wake Forest for baseball. Kadlick and junior Jack Hollibaugh figure to draw the assignments against Cecere, who scored 21 points against North Catholic.

Deer Lakes is looking forward to the battle and the opportunity to play another game.

“If I could get rid of some of this gray, I wanted to take someone’s uniform,” Parham said, laughing. “I’m literally living vicariously through them and the rest of the community is as well. It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely a game you want to play in.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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