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A-K Valley basketball notebook: Deer Lakes eyes more history

Doug Gulasy

Deer Lakes already made school history this week, but the Lancers boys basketball team has an opportunity for more before the conclusion of the regular season.

With wins over Steel Valley, Valley and Shady Side Academy in its final three Section 3-3A games, Deer Lakes (13-4, 9-0) would secure its first undefeated section record.

The Lancers already set the school standard by beating Burrell, 55-33, on Tuesday to move to 9-0 in the section for the first time.

That win also clinched at least a share of the section title, the Lancers’ first since 2013, when they shared it with Burrell. Deer Lakes would claim the crown outright with one more victory.

“It’s amazing,” senior Brad Perrotte said. “I only came here as a freshman, so I haven’t even been a part of this community for long, but it feels great. I love everyone in this community. It’s a great team, great community. Everyone comes out to support us. It’s awesome.”

The chill of victory

Subzero wind chills Thursday wiped out the WPIAL’s slate of girls basketball section games, so schools are looking to find new dates.

Plum (at Hampton), Kiski Area (hosting Gateway) and Highlands (at Indiana) pushed their games back one day to Friday night. Deer Lakes rescheduled its game against East Allegheny to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and Riverview will visit Brentwood at 2 p.m. Knoch’s home game against Burrell was moved to 6 p.m. Tuesday, and Apollo-Ridge was considering a similar move for its postponed game against Freeport.

Playoff update

With about a week remaining in the regular season, 11 Alle-Kiski Valley basketball teams have clinched WPIAL playoff berths. The top four teams in each section, plus ties that can’t be broken, advance to the postseason.

Boys playoff teams are: Fox Chapel in Class 6A; Highlands, Knoch and Freeport in Class 4A; Deer Lakes and Valley in Class 3A; and St. Joseph and Leechburg in Class A.

On the girls side, Fox Chapel (6A), Freeport (4A) and Deer Lakes (3A) are in.

Playoff scenarios still remain for several A-K Valley teams.

Apollo-Ridge’s boys (11-8, 7-4) can clinch a playoff spot in Section 1-2A with a win Friday at Springdale (9-8, 5-6). Springdale and Riverview (6-11, 4-7) sit on the outside of the playoffs but remain alive. Burrell (5-11, 4-6), in fifth place in Section 3-3A, and Plum (4-14, 4-7), in fifth place in Section 3-5A, also are still alive but need help to reach the playoffs.

Riverview’s girls team (7-9, 5-4), tied for third place in Section 2-2A, can clinch a playoff spot with one win in its final three section games. Leechburg (5-11, 2-6) likewise needs just one win to clinch a spot in Section 3-A, and St. Joseph (1-17, 1-7) remains alive. Plum (8-10, 4-5) sits a half-game behind Armstrong for fourth place in Section 2-5A. Apollo-Ridge (14-5, 6-5) and Knoch (8-10, 6-5) are in a three-way tie for third place in Section 1-4A with Greensburg Salem (10-8, 6-5).

Better late

Even teams already in the postseason are searching for improvement.

With little time remaining before the playoffs, any setback can loom large for seeding purposes or provide a bad omen going in.

“Mentally is a place where we’re looking to grow tremendously,” Deer Lakes girls coach Dave Petruska said after a loss last week to Carlynton. “Especially these games where they mean something more than just, oh, we need to make playoffs, which we’re used to doing.”

‘Revenge tour’ continues

Some narrow losses in Section 3-5A left Plum in a bind as the end of the season approaches, but the Mustangs aren’t going quietly into the night.

Plum (4-14, 4-7) upset No. 5 Franklin Regional, 54-49, on Tuesday, giving the Mustangs two wins in their previous three section games and keeping them alive for the postseason in Section 3-5A. They’re in fifth place, two games behind Hampton, with three section games remaining, beginning Friday night against first-place Mars.

Tuesday’s win over rival Franklin Regional, coupled with a four-point victory over Kiski Area last week, allowed Plum to let off some steam: Four of the Mustangs’ section losses and seven of their defeats overall have come by single digits.

“I think it’s just a culmination of the frustration of the season,” coach Hart Coleman said. “The guys, we’ve kind of put it as the ‘revenge tour’ as far as going through the section the second time around and just really locking in and focusing on beating the teams we unfortunately gave a couple games away to, as well as a couple teams that actually beat us.”

Grand old time

Two A-K Valley senior boys basketball standouts reached 1,000 career points in winning efforts Tuesday.

St. Joseph’s Grant Bendis hit his mark right away in the Spartans’ nonsection win over Saltsburg. He needed just one point and scored 24 in the victory. Plum’s Lamar Whiting also reached 1,000 in the Mustangs’ win over Franklin Regional, scoring 17 to eclipse the total.

New game on tap

Highlands will host Nazareth Prep in a previously unscheduled boys basketball game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Senior citizens holding a Highlands Gold Card will be admitted free and get a free hot dog. This replaces the canceled Johnstown game on the Golden Rams’ schedule.

William Whalen and George Guido contributed. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.