Deer Lakes girls basketball finds footing early in new class

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 | 7:51 PM


Trips to South Allegheny and Carlynton for section play in December weren’t exactly hops, skips and jumps for the Deer Lakes girls basketball team.

They are part of the new norm for the Lancers, who dropped down to Class 3A in the offseason and into a section with much longer trips and games against some less-familiar foes. Gone are the shorter jaunts to accustomed places such as Freeport, Knoch and Highlands.

It’s a situation coach Dave Petruska said his team continues to get used to as it battles for one of the section’s four playoff spots. With its mix of senior leadership and younger players making an impact, Deer Lakes is off to a strong start at 6-2 overall and 2-1 in Section 3.

“The section is definitely a whirlwind with the changes,” Petruska said. “We knew what to expect with the Freeports and the Burrells and all the other teams in our section the past four years. We didn’t know what to expect from some of the new teams we would be facing.”

The Lancers defense clamped down on South Allegheny, 37-28, in the section opener Dec. 13.

“We went to South Allegheny not knowing anything other than what their record was, and they proved to be a very physical team and a team that relies on their strength and their brute will to win,” Petruska said.

Petruska said a lot of work in the offseason helped prepare the team for the new and different matchups in the section.

“I tried to do everything possible to get games against bigger schools knowing full well we would be changing it up. We wanted to go against the best competition to prepare us for the section,” he said.

The Lancers started out well against the Carlynton on Dec. 20 to the tune of a 13-6 lead after one quarter. However, an 18-2 run over the second eight minutes and a 17-10 third quarter turned things in the Cougars’ favor.

Carlynton enters the new year 7-1 overall and tied with Deer Lakes, as well as East Allegheny and Derry, at 2-1 in the section behind leader Shady Side Academy (7-1, 3-0).

“We fought hard against Carlynton, especially in the second half,” senior Abby Buechel said. “It was a tough game, but we know that we can play with them, and we hope for a better result the next time around.”

Senior Anna Solomon scored a team-best 17 points against the Cougars and owns four double-digit scoring performances this season.

Deer Lakes resumes section play Thursday at home against Steel Valley before Monday’s road game against East Allegheny. The Lancers host Derry on Jan. 10 leading up to a visit to Shady Side on Jan. 14.

“We’ve definitely realized our strengths but along with that, our weaknesses, too,” Buechel said. “We’ve had some tough games that showed what we still need to work on, like cutting down on turnovers. The section is so competitive, and we have to bring our best each time.”

Buechel said team chemistry has been a plus from the seniors down to the freshmen group that includes point guard Reese Hasley, one of the leading scorers at 12.5 points per game.

“We got a lot of work in over the (holiday) break and in the two (St. Joseph) tournament games,” Buechel said. “We’re also still conditioning to keep in shape. It should really be helpful leading into the rest of the season.”

The 48-45 setback to Quaker Valley on the first night of the St. Joseph tournament was a different story from the 22-point victory over the Quakers in early December. Petruska said although the down-to-the-wire situations in that contest didn’t go his team’s way, they will be a benefit in close contests the rest of the season.

“We did some things that are very out of character, especially in the critical point of the game,” Petruska said. “We had several opportunities to capitalize and take a lead. We didn’t execute like I know we can. It was a good reminder to them and something they are working really hard on in practice.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.

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