Deer Lakes girls hold off Burrell in critical Section 1-4A matchup

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 | 12:28 AM

End-of-game situations don't get much run at Deer Lakes girls basketball practices. But with a game critical to the Lancers' playoff hopes hanging in the balance, instinct took over.

A key basket by Victoria Keibler and two clutch free throws from Julia Hollibaugh proved pivotal for Deer Lakes as the Lancers withstood a Burrell rally and held on for a 40-36 victory in a Section 1-4A game Monday night.

“We haven't worked as hard as we probably should have on end-of-game situations, but I was proud of how they responded at the end there,” Deer Lakes coach Dave Petruska said. “(The plays were big) just to give us a not-so-comfortable lead, but more than one possession lead down the stretch.”

After Burrell cut a seven-point deficit to two, Keibler converted a layup and drew a foul with 33 seconds remaining. Burrell's Grace Omecinski hit a turnaround jumper off an offensive rebound to make it a one-possession game again with 15.6 remaining, but Hollibaugh calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one to put the game away.

“I think it's just experience when it comes down to it,” Keibler said. “We knew we had to make those, and we actually did. It's just instinct at that point. We know we have to take care of the ball, and we can't let them score.”

Deer Lakes (7-10, 4-5) snapped a five-game losing streak and moved 1 12 games ahead of Burrell in the race for the final playoff spot in the section. The Lancers also hold the tiebreaker over the Bucs (5-11, 3-7) after sweeping the season series.

It also was Deer Lakes' first win at Burrell since Jan. 16, 2012, snapping a five-game losing streak.

“Perennially, we just haven't played well here, and we just get really stressed out about it,” Petruska said. “We let little things affect us, and even at times we did that tonight. But I just stayed with the mantra of keeping them calm and keeping them relaxed and letting them shake off the mistakes they made. Down the road, they capitalized when they needed to.”

Burrell needed the win to move back into the playoff race, and the situation looked good for the Bucs early. They ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 13-5 lead.

Brittany Dunn scored eight of her game-high 12 points in the quarter for Burrell. The senior added 18 rebounds.

The game began to turn in the second, as Deer Lakes opened the quarter with an 11-0 run and held the Bucs to one field goal to go into halftime with an 18-16 lead.

“That's kind of been us the whole season,” Burrell coach Meaghan Volek said. “We're a pretty streaky team. When things are going well, everybody's going to knock down a shot. We commit a couple turnovers in a row, and the streak starts to go the other way.”

Deer Lakes forced 20 turnovers, including 14 during the second and third quarters. The Lancers got points from eight players, led by Abby Buechel with 10 and Anna Solomon with nine on a trio of 3-pointers.

“We like to press. We like to get them out of their comfort zone,” Keibler said. “It helps us with our offense because then they're nervous on defense.”

Although Deer Lakes never trailed in the second half, Burrell never let the Lancers get away. Dunn hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to one late in the third quarter, but Solomon followed with a 3.

Another Solomon 3 gave Deer Lakes a 36-29 lead in the fourth, but Burrell answered with a Maia Ferra basket, two Dunn free throws and a Kaylen Sharrow free throw before Keibler made her big shot.

“They fought really hard till the end,” Volek said. “We had some shots that just didn't fall. In the second half, we were trying to tell everybody to work hard to get to the free-throw line and get them in foul trouble, try to stop the clock so we could get back in the game. We did that. We were in the game until the end. It's all you can ask.”

Deer Lakes can clinch a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season with another win or a Burrell loss. The Lancers host Freeport on Thursday.

“I'm proud of their effort the whole way through,” Petruska said. “I continued reminding them that it's up to them to determine where we stand at the end of the season and what the overall outcome is for the rest of the season. They responded well with it.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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