Deer Lakes’ Makayla Blair makes successful return from hoops hiatus

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | 4:45 PM


Makayla Blair scored a game-best 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds Monday in the Deer Lakes’ girls basketball team’s 57-41 victory over Burrell.

It was a breakout game for the Lancers senior guard in a comeback of sorts after three seasons away from the sport.

“My main goal was to focus on my mechanics. Don’t rush plays or shots and just trust my game, my skills and my teammates, too,” said Blair, who was limited to seven combined points in season-opening losses to Avonworth and Riverview.

Blair, a multiyear softball all-star, said she hopes to take advantage of a second chance in basketball and help a young team make its way in and out of Section 3-3A.

“Makayla is a growing flower right now,” Deer Lakes coach Dave Petruska said. “She hasn’t reached her full potential because she is still re-learning the game. But I saw a lot of the Makayla that I remember from when she was in eighth grade.”

Blair was showing flashes of her basketball skill in seventh grade before a torn ACL and lateral meniscus derailed her progression.

She rehabbed, recovered and returned for her eighth-grade season.

“I struggled at first coming back, but it was like riding a bicycle. I kept working at it, and eventually, I got there,” Blair said.

But with growing opportunities year-round in softball, both in high school and through her travel team, Pittsburgh Pride, she decided to give up basketball.

“I kept going back and forth on whether or not I should play,” said Blair, who recently signed on to play softball in college at Division II West Liberty State.

“Makayla was showing a lot of promise for what was to come in her basketball career as she got into high school,” Petruska said. “Then she approached me and said that she wanted to focus on softball because that was her big passion and her No. 1 sport. It was tough news, but I understood. So we went our separate ways.”

Blair attended a number of girls basketball games over the past three seasons and often thought about playing again.

As last spring turned to summer, the returning Lancers players began to prepare for summer open gyms and league games. A group email from Petruska, also sent to Blair, caught her eye. It was a spark that helped convince her to return.

“I really missed the sport, and I wanted to give it a try again,” Blair said. “I am happy with my decision.”

Blair admitted that the comeback over the summer, at first, had its rocky moments.

“I was really frustrated because I was really bad,” she said. “My mechanics were way off. But Coach Petruska kept telling me to have a positive attitude and mindset and things would come around. That really helped me carry through.”

Blair said her teammates also have been key to her getting back in the groove.

“They were really excited when I first said I was coming back,” she said. “They really had my back. That really made me feel comfortable. I am excited about what this team can do. I want to do whatever I can to help us win.”

Petruska said he’s happy with the commitment Blair’s shown in her return.

“She showed so much growth in just one offseason,” he said. “We can’t worry about the last couple of years. For her, it’s about making the most of the games she has remaining.”

Deer Lakes (1-2) opens section play Thursday at home against South Allegheny.

“I have many regrets about not playing the past couple of years,” Blair said. “I wish I would’ve stuck with it. At the same time, I’m glad I came back with the time I have left. That makes it really special.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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