George Guido: Deer Lakes boys highlights memorable basketball season in A-K Valley

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | 10:47 PM

It’s time to close the book on another scholastic basketball season in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Deer Lakes lost a PIAA quarterfinal game to Sharon this past Saturday and all that’s left, locally, is Cager Classic XXIII on Saturday night at Highlands High School.

What a great season it was for the Deer Lakes boys. The Lancers, who had their best start in section play since 1987, won their first playoff game since ‘85, their first outright section title since ‘92 and had their first two PIAA playoff victories.

Highlands had another stellar season, sharing its section title with Knoch and making the WPIAL semifinals for the seventh time in school history.

Freeport and Springdale both made the WPIAL playoffs for the 33rd time and the Apollo-Ridge girls, playing two classifications up, made the Class 4A playoffs.

Too bad Moon isn’t playing in the state finals Wednesday night, that’s because a supermoon will glow across the Northern Hemisphere.

So while were celebrating the vernal equinox, let’s pass out this season’s awards:

Toughest schedule

Highlands. Of the 26 games the Golden Rams played, 20 were against playoff teams. A 21st game against a playoff team was supposed to be against Butler, but a snafu in the Pine-Richland Tip-off Tournament put the kibosh to that. A 22nd game against a playoff team was with Johnstown on Jan. 20, but the Johnstown bus got stuck on an icy road and the Trojans couldn’t get to Woodland Hills for a showcase game.

Runner up: Deer Lakes. The Lancers played 19 of their 26 games against playoff teams. A 20th, against Springdale, was called for inclement weather and never made up.

Aimless Fact of the Year

If surnames were allowed in Scrabble, stellar Springdale athlete Michael Zolnierczyk would be worth 38 points.

Margaret Sanger Award (Planned Parenthood)

Leechburg coach Corey Smith became a father again on the day the Blue Devils played St. Joseph for the section title. Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham became a father again when the Lancers played North Catholic in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Would somebody please drop off a calendar at the Smith and Parham residences?

Decisive 1.1

Apollo-Ridge missed the boys playoffs by virtue of a basket by Springdale freshman Logan Dexter with 1.1 seconds left in the game. Had the game gone to overtime and the Vikings won, Apollo-Ridge would have made the playoffs.

Salute to dedication

The Springdale girls went the entire season with six players. The Dynamos didn’t win a game but Caitlyn Ullger, Katlyn Nagy, Julia Parfitt, Emily Wilhelm, Maggie Dvorcak and Brianna Thompson learned more about life than their counterparts on other teams.

Stat of the Year

Going into its Dec. 22 game at Gateway, Highlands had scored 247 points and given up 247 points.

Shot of the Year

Mars senior Andrew Recchia, son of former Kiski Area standout Anthony Recchia, hit a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left to lift the Planets to a 58-56 victory over Moon in the WPIAL Class 5A finals at Petersen Events Center.

Best sustained performance

The Class 4A champion North Catholic girls won their 19th title and were in the playoffs for the 44th consecutive season. On the boys side, Monessen made the postseason for the 38th straight year.

Outlook for 2019-20

The Freeport Tip-off Tournament will be interesting with Mars, Burrell and Shaler involved. It could mean Shaler coach Rob Neidermeyer might face Burrell, the team he led to the 2013 WPIAL title game. … All of the sections and classifications will stay the same with the exception of a slight adjustment in boys Section 3-A. … With the Deer Lakes playoff drought ending, attention turns to the Riverview boys, who last won a playoff game in 1999 against Chartiers-Houston, and the Springdale girls, who last won a playoff game over Charleroi in 1998.

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