Valley News Dispatch boys basketball all-stars: Deer Lakes’ Bryce Robson strikes gold

Saturday, April 1, 2023 | 6:39 PM

Here are the 2022-23 Valley News Dispatch boys basketball all-stars:

Player the year

Bryce Robson

Deer Lakes, 6-0, Sr., Guard

Bryce Robson had a couple of goals going into this season.

He wanted to be a go-to scorer and, as the most experienced player for Deer Lakes, become an extension of the coaching staff on the floor.

He didn’t know at the time he would help engineer the greatest season in Lancers history and one of the best in the history of the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Robson, a four-year starter, averaged a team-high 17.6 points per game while leading Deer Lakes to its first WPIAL championship and an appearance in the state finals.

For his efforts, Robson is the 2022-23 Valley News Dispatch Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” Robson said of the Lancers’ run. “The bond the team created in the 4½ months we were together is something I’m really going to miss. It’s only been a few days, and I already miss those guys. I wish we were going to practice right now. Luckily, I’ll have these memories with me forever.”

There were plenty of moments for Robson during Deer Lakes’ run, which ended with an 83-55 loss to West Catholic in the PIAA Class 3A final in Hershey, but two stood out most.

The first was the final seconds of Deer Lakes’ 61-60 win in the WPIAL 3A final over OLSH at Petersen Events Center that ended the Chargers’ four-year title streak. The game was an instant classic. Robson had 18 points and hit the winning shot.

It was the second streak-busting moment for the Lancers against OLSH. On Dec. 23, they ended the Chargers’ state-record winning streak at 74 games with a 70-55 victory.

“Watching those last couple shots from (OLSH) fall out of the hoop in the WPIAL championship game … just the bliss you feel after that moment was something else,” Robson said.

The other moment that stood out came in the WPIAL semifinal win over Steel Valley. With the Lancers trailing 63-62 in the waning seconds, Robson drove the lane and kicked a pass out to a wide open Michael Butler, who drained what turned out to be the winning 3-pointer.

“I’ve grown up with Michael and he’s been my best friend forever, so to see him shine in that moment was awesome for him and for me as well,” Robson said. “Knowing that him hitting that shot was going to take us to the WPIAL finals for the first time in school history was really cool.”

Robson eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career in a 97-35 win over Ligonier Valley on Jan. 20. He scored in double digits in every playoff game.

One of the unique parts to Robson’s senior year was having first-year Lancers coach Albie Fletcher on the sidelines. Fletcher was an assistant under former coach Terence Parham, but before he joined the varsity staff, he was a youth coach at Deer Lakes. That’s when he and Robson first met.

“The funny thing is the first year I played organized basketball, (Fletcher) was my coach, and it ended in a championship. Then the last year together, we ended up winning a championship again,” Robson said. “I’m happy he was able to guide us to the ultimate goal.”

Robson is a three-sport athlete. He played golf in the fall and is a pitcher/outfielder on the Lancers’ baseball team.

He plans to attend Dayton and major in finance. He plans on joining the Flyers basketball team in some capacity.

“I’m going to try out for the scout team or become a manager or statistician,” Robson said. “I want to be involved with the game somehow, so I’m going to figure out a way to do that.”

First team

Macky Bennis

Burrell, 6-0, Jr., Guard

Bennis was a scoring machine this season for the Bucs. He averaged 21.9 points and shot 48% from beyond the arc, making 80 3-pointers. He was also strong on the glass, grabbing 89 rebounds, which ranked second on the team. He had 36 points in a win over Indiana and 35 in a victory over Ligonier Valley.

Marcus Cleveland

Leechburg, 5-11, Sr., Guard

Whether slashing to the rim or firing from beyond the arc, Cleveland lit up the scoreboard for the Blue Devils. He averaged a team-best 24.1 points per game. Cleveland eclipsed 30 points multiple times, including a 35-point effort in a 78-74 win over Riverview Jan. 13.

Bradyn Foster

Highlands, 6-8, Jr., Forward

Foster took a huge leap forward, averaging a team-best 19.4 points per game. He raised his total per game by seven points from his sophomore season while becoming a versatile weapon. He did most of his damage in the paint but also hit 29 3-pointers.

Jimmy Kunst

Highlands, 6-3, Sr., Guard

A four-year starter, Kunst finished his career as the Golden Rams’ point guard averaging 17.6 points per game. He scored a team-high 23 points in a PIAA Class 4A first-round win at Greater Johnstown. The Eastern Michigan baseball commit capped his basketball career by scoring 32 points at the Cager Classic and was named MVP of the West team.

Billy Schaeffer

Deer Lakes, 6-0, Jr., Guard

One of two returning starters along with Bryce Robson, Schaeffer was a sharpshooter from beyond the arc and a key scorer for the WPIAL 3A champion and PIAA runner-up Lancers. He averaged 12.1 ppg and had some strong showings in the postseason run. Schaeffer scored a team-high 17 points in Deer Lakes’ 61-56 win over Penn-Cambria in the Class 3A state semifinals.

Second team

Tucker Bitar, Burrell, 5-11, So., G

Jimmy Giannetta, St. Joseph, 6-0, Sr., G

Isaiah Gonzalez, Kiski Area, 6-2, Jr., G

Owen McDermott, Leechburg, 5-10, Sr., G

Cam Reigard, Highlands, 6-0, Jr., G

Third team

Amberson Bauer, Riverview, 6-2, Sr., G

Zach Clark, Freeport, 5-10, Sr., G

Mason Gent, Springdale, 6-4, Jr., F

Kam Griel, Fox Chapel, 5-10, Sr., G

Nate Litrun, Deer Lakes, 6-5, Sr., F

Honorable mention

Nate Sprajcar, Riverview; LeBryn Smith, Kiski Area; Michael Butler, Deer Lakes; Jake Mull, Apollo-Ridge; John Hughes, Springdale; Gavin Croney, Freeport

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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