Deer Lakes girls basketball set for AAA competition |

Deer Lakes girls basketball set for AAA competition

Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Deer Lakes' Maureen Hutchinson balances the ball during basketball practice on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Deer Lakes' Katie Gozzard runs the ball during basketball practice on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

The Deer Lakes girls basketball team acquired a new address during the offseason.

After a considerable number of seasons playing in Class AA, the Lancers reside in Section 1-AAA.

The good news is that veteran coach Dana Petruska has guided successful teams in both classifications and knows what it takes to win.

“Just the overall strength,” Petruska said when asked the difference between the two classes. “We’re a real small triple-A, and when you’re going up against a Hampton, or even a Mars, they have about 200 more girls to select from. In a game like basketball, that’s a huge advantage. In the larger schools, you see kids specializing, where my kids play all the sports.”

Another positive factor in the move to a higher class is a larger turnout. There are 19 girls in the program as opposed to 12 last season when Deer Lakes finished 2-8 in Section 1-AA, 8-12 overall.

“A lot of younger players,” Petruska said of the higher numbers. “They’re athletic. Not sure if they’re basketball players yet. But we’re just real excited about how hard they’re working. With 19 kids, there’s competition, and competition is good and it’s making each one work really hard.”

The Lancers return junior forward Maureen Hutchinson, who led the team in scoring with nearly 15 points per game.

The holdovers also include seniors Katie Gozzard, Kristen Stanko and Marissa Hilinski. Junior Mackenzie Kaczur gives the Lancers an inside presence, and Gabby Cunningham will be counted on to make a notable contribution.

Kaczur debuted last year after missing her freshman season with injuries.

In Petruska’s offensive system, multiple players have shooting opportunities, as opposed to counting on one or two scorers.

“The shots are there for everybody,” Petruska said. “You’ve just got to knock them down. Every kid that plays for me has the opportunity to do good things.”

The Lancers begin the season Dec. 5 at Springdale’s Dynamo Tip-off Tournament against Aliquippa at 3:30 p.m. Deer Lakes will make its official return to Class AAA with a game at Kittanning on Dec. 11.

“All the schools are competitive for us,” Petruska said of the section teams. “You can’t have a night off. You just got to figure out a way to get your kids to believe and get them to be prepared as best we can to give them a chance to be in there at the end of a game and win.”

Petruska’s son, David, is back as an assistant coach along with newcomer Corey Miller, a former Knoch guard.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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