New coach has Deer Lakes girls looking mentally, physically strong

Thursday, November 25, 2021 | 11:01 AM

A coaching change in the Deer Lakes girls basketball program seems to be working out smoothly.

Sam Salih replaced David Petruska, who stepped down during the offseason. Salih has the Lancers working on an eighth consecutive WPIAL playoff appearance.

“The transition is doing great,” Salih said. “I see the girls at the middle school and the campus here on a regular basis. There are things, schematically, that we are teaching. We’ve done a lot of conditioning and weight training to keep their bodies in shape.”

Veteran Reese Hasley also feels the coaching change is a positive.

“It’s a whole new rebuild,” Hasley said. “We’re building that new foundation. He wasn’t hired until late summer and in the fall is where we worked to get ourselves right, and we’re good for practice now and go from here.”

Salih most recently coached three seasons at Greensburg Central Catholic, where he led the Centurions girls to a 42-17 mark and three playoffs berths.

Deer Lakes finished 6-8 overall, 4-3 in section play. The Lancers lost an opening-round playoff game to Southmoreland.

The team has spent some of the time working on late-game situations.

“We want to be able to be in the moment and handle the moment and not being emotional to see where that leads you to,” Salih said. “It’s just working on conditioning and our mental stamina, getting our minds set. I think being in the weight room has empowered them a lot.”

Hasley, readying to earn her fourth letter, isn’t afraid to set goals too high.

Said Hasley, a three-time Valley News Dispatch all-star: “Like any other team, it’s just about getting our mentality right. I think we’re having a different approach this year with a stronger mentality.”

There are 16 players out for the team, giving Salih enough for a junior varsity team.

Angela Kozlowski, a teacher in the intermediate school, will serve as the assistant coach. A holdover from the previous staff, she is a Seton Hill graduate.

Besides Hasley, two other seniors — guard Nikki Fleming and forward Lydia Guthrie — are going to be counted on as leaders.

Looking to break into the starting lineup will be sophomore center Layne Loper, junior guard Anna Bokulick and freshman guard Isabella Bolduc.

“We’re going to have to play some of our young kids,” Salih said. “I like to play eight to 10 kids, By doing that, we’re going to pressure the basketball, play full court. It’s entertaining, and it’s fun for the girls. Can they shoot? We’ll find out.”

The Lancers will begin the season with a tip-off tournament at home Dec. 10 against Riverview. Avonworth and Seton LaSalle also will compete.

The Lancers open the section season Dec. 16 at home against Knoch. Other section teams include Valley, Burrell, Freeport, Highlands and Derry.

The Deer Lakes girls have made the playoffs 24 times overall and remain the only Alle-Kiski Valley girls team to win a state title, prevailing over Palmyra in 1985.

Deer Lakes girls at a glance

Coach: Sam Salih

Last year’s record: 6-8 (4-3 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Reese Hasley, (Sr., G), Nikki Fleming (Sr., G), Lydia Guthrie (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Anna Bokulick (Jr., G), Layne Loper (So., C), Isabella Bolduc (Fr., G)


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