With young roster, Deer Lakes boys are hoping to return to playoffs in 2020

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Thursday, November 26, 2020 | 5:07 PM


After losing nine seniors to graduation, the Deer Lakes boys basketball team will be young in 2020, but the Lancers don’t lack experience.

A season ago, the Lancers recorded an overall record of 12-10 and sneaked into the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs as the No. 16 seed. They earned a matchup with No. 1 seed Lincoln Park and lost 68-50. But the Lancers had the defending state champions on the ropes until their youth and inexperience showed.

“We got to go against the defending state champs in Lincoln Park, and we gave them everything we had,” Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham said. “Their head coach (Mike Bariski) came up to me after the game and said, ‘If you don’t miss those layups, you’re making the biggest upset in the WPIAL,’ and that was all because of youth. We played all young guys in that game, so, hopefully, that experience, now the lights won’t be too big.”

As a freshman last season, Bryce Robson burst onto the scene and forced his way into the starting lineup. The guard made a name for himself with his ability to break down defenses and find his way to the basket.

With several seniors on the team, though, Robson didn’t necessarily have to be a vocal leader. He just played his game.

Now, with the graduation of that large senior class, Parham is looking forward to seeing Robson step into that role.

“We definitely don’t want to put too much pressure on his shoulders, but we always say, ‘If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,’ ” Parham said. “He’s a gym rat type of kid, so he understands what is at stake in order for us to have success. He didn’t have to be the vocal guy last year, so this year he just has to understand what it takes to be a vocal leader.”

Robson won’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Junior Armend Karpuzi is the other returning starter, and he also will take on part of that role this season.

As a sophomore last season, Karpuzi broke into the starting lineup over Deer Lakes’ last 10 games and gave the Lancers energy on both ends of the court. Now, Parham is looking for Karpuzi and Robson to step up as leaders and expand their roles.

“He became a double-double machine for us, and he’s an athletic kid who really has a great basketball IQ and another gym rat,” Parham said. “I think he’ll be more of the vocal leader than Bryce, but the team really seems to respond to both of those guys.”

The Lancers also are going to rely on juniors Lucas Tiglio and Justin Brannagan, along with their lone senior, Paul Zalus, who should provide a presence in the paint at 6-foot-5.

With the talent they return, the Lancers might not be a team that can beat their opponents from the perimeter, but Parham knows they will be aggressive when it comes to getting to the rim.

“I can’t say that we are going to be the top outside shooting perimeter team, but I think we will be able to put pressure on defenses with the way Bryce, Armend and Brannagan can get to the hoop,” Parham said. “If they can do that, then I think it will make for easier shots for a guy like Tiglio.”

After playing in Class 3A last season, the Lancers jump to 4A and play in a section with Burrell, Derry, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Knoch and defending WPIAL Class 3A champion North Catholic.

The Lancers won’t get a chance to play a game until at least late December, though, as they decided to postpone the start of winter sports until Dec. 7. Teams must hold at least 15 practices before being able to play in a game.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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