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A-K Valley notebook: Deer Lakes girls not afraid to go outside

Doug Gulasy
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Deer Lakes’ Abby Buechel grabs a rebound between Shady Side Academy’s Nyla Rozier, Ella Benee and Catherine Jewart Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 at Shady Side Academy High School.

Amid cold and flu season, Deer Lakes’ girls basketball team is making hot shooting contagious.

The Lancers got career-best shooting performances over the past week from senior Abby Buechel and freshman Reese Hasley, leading them to a pair of Section 3-3A wins.

Buechel hit a career-high six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points in the Lancers’ 54-18 victory over South Allegheny on Jan. 16. Hasley followed that by scoring 28 points, including eight 3-pointers, in a 63-36 win over Valley on Monday.

“Abby’s night, that just got the whole entire team in such a great mood, and we were really happy for her,” Hasley said.

Although they arrived at the same destination, Buechel and Hasley took different paths. Buechel missed her first few shots and went to the bench, where coach Dave Petruska joked to her about banking in a shot — Buechel’s least favorite shot. When she went back in the game, Buechel scored eight points with two 3-pointers in the second quarter, then added four more 3s in the third — even, yes, banking one in and causing laughter on the bench.

“It was really strange because I came back out and hit the first one and was like, ah, we’ve got one,” Buechel said. “But then I just kept knocking them down and was like, I guess I picked it up.”

Hasley came out on fire against Valley, making four 3-pointers in the first quarter, and never cooled off.

“I guess I just had a hot hand,” Hasley said. “I really wasn’t thinking about it. I was just shooting, and it’d go in. It was just natural for me that night, I guess.”

The hot shooting carried Deer Lakes (12-3, 7-2) in those two games and helped the Lancers stay in a second-place tie with Carlynton (12-2, 7-2) heading into the teams’ showdown Thursday night. Deer Lakes is nearing a playoff berth.

“With our (55-36) loss to Shadyside (Academy on Jan. 13), we didn’t crumble,” Buechel said. “We know what we have to do to continue with our season.”

Playoff Knights

With its 54-42 win over Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday, the Knoch boys became the first Alle-Kiski Valley basketball team, boys or girls, to clinch a WPIAL playoff spot this season. The Knights (12-3, 6-0 Section 1-4A), ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, have won 10 consecutive games.

A couple of local teams also are facing clinching scenarios. The Freeport girls (13-2, 8-1 Section 1-4A), ranked fourth in Class 4A, had a chance to clinch Thursday night. the Yellowjackets needed a win over Burrell, plus potential losses by Apollo-Ridge at Indiana and/or Greensburg Salem at Knoch.

The Highlands boys (10-4, 5-1), one game behind Knoch in the Section 1-4A standings, can clinch a playoff spot Friday with a win at Freeport or a Mt. Pleasant loss to Derry. Fox Chapel (9-6, 4-2 Section 3-6A) can clinch with a win at Hempfield.

Deer Lakes (10-4, 8-0 Section 1-4A) can clinch without even playing a section game Friday. Losses by Shady Side Academy and Burrell would put the Lancers in.

Mike drop

Springdale senior Mike Zolnierczyk played a pivotal role in a crucial Dynamos win Tuesday, and he achieved a personal milestone in the process.

Zolnierczyk became the seventh player in Springdale history to reach 1,000 career points with a free throw in the Dynamos’ 65-56 Section 1-2A win over Sto-Rox.

“Springdale has a very rich basketball history and did some great things over the years here,” said Zolnierczyk, who has 1,017 career points. “To be able to join such great company, I’m truly grateful to be a part of it.”

Just as importantly, the milestone came in a win, and an important one. Springdale (9-6, 5-4) snapped a three-game losing streak despite missing two starters, staying in a fourth-place tie with Apollo-Ridge (9-8, 5-4) and moving within a game of second-place Sto-Rox (8-7, 6-3) and Winchester Thurston (10-5, 6-3). The Dynamos host Winchester Thurston on Friday.

“It was a little tough there for a few games,” Zolnierczyk said. “We started getting a little bit off track there, but we kind of kicked it into gear here and figured everything out.”

Up-tempo schedule

The Freeport boys basketball team has quite a stretch of games this week and next. Starting with Tuesday night’s game at Derry, the team will play four Section 1-4A games and four nonsection contests in less than two weeks.

All told, the Yellowjackets will play seven games in 11 days.

“We’re getting ready like an NBA team,” coach Wayne Greiser said. “There isn’t a lot of down time, and you’re on to the next one.”

Freeport played Wednesday at Armstrong, hosts Highlands on Friday, travels to South Park on Saturday, hosts Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday, returns home to play Shady Side Academy on Wednesday and visits Yough (Greiser’s former team) on Feb. 1.

It might seem like a semester break when the team takes three days off before its section finale Feb. 5 at home against Knoch.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.