Playoff-regular Deer Lakes returns 4 starters, boasts offensive balance

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Thursday, November 25, 2021 | 6:12 PM


After making the WPIAL playoffs for a school-record five consecutive seasons, the Deer Lakes boys basketball team doesn’t want to stop at that milestone.

The Lancers will start the new season with four returning starters, and the team justifiably is optimistic.

Sixth-year coach Terrence Parham welcomes back 6-foot-2 senior Armend Karpuzi and 6-0 junior Bryce Robson, who will be joined by Lucas Tiglio and Justin Brannagan.

In last year’s covid-abbreviated season, the Lancers finished 10-4 overall and 4-3 in the Class 4A Section 1.

The only senior starter to graduate was Paul Zalas.

The Lancers defeated Elizabeth-Forward in the opening round of the playoffs before losing to eventual champion Lincoln Park.

“I think North Catholic is the team to beat,” Parham said. “They might disagree, but in our eyes, they’re the team to beat. But in the section, you can’t take any night off. Knoch has a great shooter in Ryan Lang. Burrell has some great, young guards, but it will be an interesting section and our goal is always to be in the mix there.”

Albie Fletcher again will be Parham’s assistant coach. There are 19 players out for the team.

“This might be our most balanced team, offensively,” Parham said. “In years past, it was the opponents containing someone. Now I think we have four legit shooters out there, so we can space the court. With that, we can more easily open up driving lanes.”

Robson said: “We’ve been playing together over the last three years, and we’ve jelled nicely. I can feel it’s going to be a good year. We’ve got big goals and big aspirations.”

Since he was a player at Shady Side Academy in the mid-90s, Parham has seen his share of changes in the game.

“The first thing when you step into the gym, the first thing you see is guys shooting behind the 3-point line,” he said. “They see shooters like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and those guys. Teams work it in then back out. To fix the mid-range game is a lot harder. It’s either a deep 3 or an easy lay-up. I want to be balanced at all three levels.”

Deer Lakes might have the experience to provide that balance.

“We were a young group before,” Karpuzi said. “But now we’ve evolved to a spot where we all got quicker, we got faster and we’re shooting better. We all know our game.”

Deer Lakes will open the season at the Highlands Tip-off Tournament with a field that includes Moon and Mt. Pleasant.

Section play begins Dec. 17 at home against Knoch. Other Class 4A section rivals include Burrell, Derry, Freeport, Keystone Oaks and defending WPIAL finalist North Catholic.

The Lancers have made the playoffs 15 times in the past.

At a glance

Coach: Terrence Parham

Last year’s record: 10-4 (6-2 in Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Bryce Robson 6-0 Jr. PG, Armend Karpuzi 6-2 Sr. F, Lucas Tiglio, Justin Brannagan)

Top newcomers: Billy Schaeffer, Derek Burk 6-1, so., Michael Butler)

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