Schedule change pits mother against son as Deer Lakes girls basketball meets Mars

Friday, January 8, 2021 | 3:31 PM

Mother and son are set to go head-to-head again.

Mars, coached by Dana Petruska, will visit Deer Lakes, coached by her son Dave, on Saturday afternoon in a nonsection contest as the 2020-21 season ramps up after a shutdown ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf as part of overall efforts to slow covid-19 spread.

This matchup originally wasn’t scheduled, but plans were quickly made late Thursday. Deer Lakes’ scheduled game against Seton LaSalle was canceled earlier in the day because of covid issues within the Seton LaSalle school and girls program.

“We were pretty much scrambling to find a game all afternoon (Thursday),” said Dave Petruska who last faced his mother in a regular-season game in 2016 when Mars and Deer Lakes both were in Section 1-3A.

“I told my parents that my game was cancelled and was pretty bummed. My mom and I went to our respective practices and talked to our kids about it. We then came together and got all the details worked out and got the OK from both athletic directors.”

The JV teams will play at 2:30, followed by the varsity game at 4.

Mars will end up playing a varsity doubleheader Saturday as the Planets will open their season with a Section 2-5A game at Fox Chapel at noon.

“I knew she already had a game and wasn’t sure if she would want to do a doubleheader, because that’s a long day,” Dave Petruska said. “But she said her kids were all for it. She was the one that had the idea, and I am really thankful for it.”

Deer Lakes is set to begin Section 1-4A action Monday at home against Derry.

“At this point, my biggest concern was to get a section game in before we pick up with section play on Monday,” Dave Petruska said.

“I told my girls that I didn’t care who we played, whether it was one of the smallest schools in the area or a very big school like North Allegheny. My team is so young — we have six freshman — and I wanted them to experience the speed of the game and see what high school basketball is all about. I know we will get some good competition from it.”

Dana Petruska said Saturday’s two games will be a benefit to her team.

“They are excited that they don’t have to sit at home and look at four walls,” she said. “They are looking forward to playing games and getting playing time, like everybody else is. With losing summer and fall league games and even scrimmages, these games mean so much more to see what you have.”

The 2015-16 season was Dave’s first as head coach at Deer Lakes and Dana’s first in her return to Mars. Dave, a 2008 Mars graduate, had served the previous three seasons as an assistant to Dana on her staff at Deer Lakes.

The home-and-home section series that year went to Mars in a sweep, 49-29 and 58-46.

Deer Lakes finished 15-9 overall and 7-5 in section play and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. Mars finished tied for the section title with Hampton at 11-1 and made it to the WPIAL semifinals before falling to Trinity.

Dana Petruska’s 2018 Mars squad won the PIAA Class 5A title. Dave Petruska hopes to lead Deer Lakes to the WPIAL playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

The teams have been separated in different sections since 2016, but mother and son were reunited on the court as coaches on opposing sides for the 2019 Cager Classic. Mother again got the better of son as the East edged the West, 66-64.

They also have coached against each other in recent summer and fall leagues.

“We are a very competitive family,” said Dave Petruska, whose brother, Jimmy, has served as the head women’s coach at Saint Vincent since 2011.

“(The mother-son matchup) has brought about a little bit of stress in the past. But at the end, it brings us that much closer. We are able to show our teams’ skills in a really competitive setting. For me, it’s always a chance to show her what I have learned in coaching and being able to put what I have learned from her into practice with my girls.”

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

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