Deer Lakes leaning on experience, defense heading into 2nd half of season

Thursday, January 16, 2020 | 7:09 PM

Entering the second half of section play, the Deer Lakes boys basketball team is in a position it didn’t expect to be.

After their state playoff run last season, the Lancers came into the 2019-20 season expecting the same results. Through 11 games, the Lancers are 6-5 with a 3-3 record in section play.

“This wasn’t how we wanted to start, but I’m sure we’ll get back on track here,” senior forward Jack Hollibaugh said. “Hopefully, we can get a couple good wins here and then see what we can do.”

Since the start of the new year, the Lancers are 3-1 with section wins over Burrell, Valley and Shady Side Academy, which puts them on the fringe of the playoff picture.

Coming into this year, second-year coach Terence Parham had to replace three senior starters who combined for 30-plus points last season. It takes time to replace that type of production, and Parham feels his team is starting to turn a corner.

“I think we’ve started to come around a little bit, especially against Shady Side,” Parham said. “So, hopefully, it’s at the right time, the second half of the season, but we have to take care of our business first.”

Senior Ryan Butler and Hollibaugh have combined to give the Lancers a solid presence in the paint. In Deer Lakes’ past two wins, the seniors have combined for 35 and 25 respectively, which has accounted for at least a third of the Lancers points.

“Feeding the bigs has been huge for us,” senior point guard Zac Herbinko said. “We have one of the best bigs in the section with Jack, and Butler is there cleaning everything up. It helps us that they are both able to handle the ball and shoot it as well, and it makes life on us guards a little easier.”

Outside of turning the ball over more than they want, the guards have been playing crucial roles as well. Freshman Bryce Robson is starting to come into his own alongside Herbinko, and senior Aris Hasley has settled into an essential role as a swingman.

Offensively, the Lancers have been coming along, but through the first half of the season, defense has been their calling card. They allow 48.1 points per game, which is the fourth best in WPIAL Class 3A, and only four teams have scored more than 50 points against them.

“It’s been our catalyst, and I’m loving the fact that they’ve bought into the defensive aspect of basketball,” Parham said.

After winning two PIAA playoff games last season, the Lancers are hoping to lean on that experience down the stretch.

“We don’t get as pressured in those situations now because of that,” Herbinko said. “We’ll go up 10, a team will make a run, and teams in the past might’ve folded in that position. But we don’t fold anymore.”

A matchup with two of the No. 1 teams — Knoch (Jan. 23) and Springdale (Jan. 27) — in the next 10 day will help to give the Lancers a battle-tested mentality. Until then, they are just taking it day by day.

“We just gotta take it one step at a time and try and get one of the four spots for the playoffs,” Parham said.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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