Deer Lakes boys looking to make school history in PIAA quarterfinals vs. Neshannock

Friday, March 17, 2023 | 8:44 PM

Colin Kadlick remembers well when his mom babysat Aiden Fletcher — yes, that Aiden Fletcher, the son of the Deer Lakes boys basketball coach, the kid currently playing hoops for his dad, Albie Fletcher.

“It seems like yesterday that Aiden was at my house,” said Kadlick, a basketball player at Deer Lakes when Albie Fletcher was an assistant.

But it was four years ago. Since then, the 5-foot-11 Aiden Fletcher has grown and is part of Deer Lakes’ deep rotation that has carried the Lancers into the PIAA quarterfinals.

WPIAL champion Deer Lakes (19-8), fresh from a PIAA Class 3A second-round victory Wednesday over Loyalsock Township, also known as the Lancers, on Saturday will face WPIAL fourth-place finisher Neshannock (20-7), yet another team known as the Lancers, in a quarterfinal-round game at North Allegheny.

Not only does Kadlick find it difficult to believe Aiden Fletcher is about to complete his junior year of high school, but also that he himself already is four years out and has begun his life’s dream as a police officer after having completed his academy training in December and signing on as a part-time officer with the West Deer Police Department.

“I have two uncles and a grandfather who were police officers,” Kadlick said.

His late grandfather, Richard Driscoll, was a former Boston policeman, his uncle Dennis Driscoll is retired from the Boston force and his uncle Tommy Driscoll is a former Miami cop.

As a high school senior under former coach Terence Parham, the 6-4 Kadlick helped Deer Lakes to its first PIAA quarterfinals appearance. Four years later, he’s watching with great interest as the Fletchers are part of a team attempting to become the school’s first semifinalist.

“I tell these guys to just ride the wave, just keep going,” said Kadlick, who has stood in on security detail during several Deer Lakes home games this season. “You don’t get these high school moments back. You’ve got to keep playing hard and keep working hard. You can be that kid to win a state championship.”

Since the 1969 merger of the former West Deer and East Deer Frazer high schools and before 2019, Deer Lakes had appeared in just one PIAA boys basketball tournament, where it lost a 1985 first-round game to Sharon.

Kadlick’s 2019 team, as a WPIAL sixth-place finisher, earned the school’s first state tournament victory by beating District 9 champion Brookville in the first round, then followed it up with a win over District 6 third-place finisher Forest Hills in the second round before bowing again to Sharon in the quarterfinals.

“It’s really exciting. It really is,” Kadlick said of Deer Lakes’ current run of success. “I can’t really describe what those kids are feeling. It was exciting to go through it and it’s exciting to watch it again.”

Kadlick said the teams “were polar opposites,” saying the 2019 squad was built for the half-court game and concentrated on scoring from inside while this year’s team plays at a faster pace.

“This year seems a little bit more special,” he said. “I don’t want to predict anything, but it seems this team is destined. They won a WPIAL championship. We didn’t.”

Deer Lakes earned its first WPIAL title by edging Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 61-60. The Lancers opened the state tournament with a 74-35 rout of Seneca, the third-place team in District 10, then held off District 4 third-place finisher Loyalsock Township, 67-59, in the second round behind Bryce Robson’s 18 points.

“All the credit in the world to the coaches and the guys that stepped up,” Robson said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for team ball.”

Most nights, 10 players see significant minutes for Deer Lakes.

“We’re a deep team,” Robson said. “We don’t have a dude that’s going to overscore or overproduce. It’s definitely team ball for us.”

Neshannock, beaten by Steel Valley, 87-64, in the WPIAL third-place game, nipped District 10 runner-up Oil City, 61-59, in its PIAA first-round game before getting past District 9 champion Brookville, 46-43, in the second round.

“They’re very similar to us,” the Deer Lakes coach, Albie Fletcher, said. “They want to get up and down the floor. They’ll get up in you defensively, like us.”

Jack Glies’ 15 points sparked Neshannock’s victory over Brookville.

“They have some good shooters,” Fletcher said. “We have a little size advantage, but they are very diverse. It’s a lot like watching us. It’s going to be a good matchup.”


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