Deer Lakes boys run away with another victory over Derry

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 | 9:52 PM

Deer Lakes is new to the Trib HSSN top-five boys basketball rankings.

The No. 3 Lancers continue to show why they deserve recognition among the best in WPIAL Class 3A.

High-scoring Deer Lakes registered its fifth straight victory by beating host Derry, 89-64, on Tuesday night in Section 3, using its run-and-gun style and line-change depth to wear down another opponent.

“We got back to what we’re good at,” said Lancers junior guard Billy Schaeffer, who had 19 points. “We want to get out of the halfcourt and push the tempo.”

The Lancers (10-6, 7-1), who put up 97 points against Ligonier Valley and 87 when they played Apollo-Ridge, swept the Trojans (7-7, 3-4) in two section games and pulled into a tie with Shady Side Academy for first place.

Aiden Fletcher had a game-high 20 points, Nate Litrun added 14 and Bryce Robson had 11 for the Lancers, who came out in their green-and-white pinstriped warmup pants and wasted little time getting shots up.

“We knew we had to come out hot,” Lancers coach Albie Fletcher said. “We knew Derry can shoot it well, and this is a tough place to play. Two years ago, we won big at their place and then came here and they beat us.

“I was really happy with our effort tonight. This was the best we’ve played this year with all 10 guys (contributing).”

Deer Lakes became a footnote — an answer to a trivia question, even — when it ended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s record 74-game winning streak earlier in the season with a 70-55 victory over the Chargers.

Now the Lancers want to be known for more than that feat, no matter how impressive it was.

“I won section titles (as a player) in 1991 and ’92,” coach Fletcher said. “I told them how tough it is and how tough you have to work. I think they understand that, and they want more.”

Deer Lakes’ last section title came in 2018-19.

Derry, which has been playing well of late — it only lost 66-63 to No. 5 Shady Side Academy — was looking to catch the Lancers on a off night.

But like the teams’ first matchup when the Lancers put up 46 first-half points in the way to an 82-55 win, the tone was set early in the rematch.

“Deer Lakes plays their system, and it works for them,” Derry coach Tom Esposito said. “They play very well on both ends of the court. We had some careless turnovers, and they capitalized on them. We didn’t capitalize on their mistakes. Their defense rushed us.”

It was a 19-15 game after one quarter, but the Lancers took a 43-32 lead into halftime as eight players scored. After Derry took a 15-14 lead late in the first quarter, the Lancers went on a 17-2 run to pull ahead 31-17.

Collin Rodgers and Schaeffer hit consecutive 3-pointers during the surge.

“We know we can play 10 guys,” Schaeffer said. “We trust the guys behind us. There is too much in our arsenal, so we’re tough to match up against.”

Derry chipped the deficit down to 37-30 in the second quarter on a steal and layup by Gabe Carbonara, but the Lancers responded to each push the Trojans made.

Aiden Fletcher made a 3 before Robson drove in for a layup just before halftime to put the Lancers back in front by double figures.

Carbonara led Derry with 17 points, Ethan Frye added 15 and Nate Papuga had 11.

The Lancers led by 16 after the third and held steady with a 31-point fourth.

Schaeffer made a pair of 3s early in the final frame, and Michael Butler added another, before Wayne Love hit a runner to swell the margin to 79-54.

“We had two really good practices coming in here,” coach Fletcher said. “I am really happy with our effort. With 10 guys like we have, our practices are intense. Our kids are working hard.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at

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