Deer Lakes girls basketball hopes for continued success
After extensive success the last three seasons, the Deer Lakes girls basketball team is back for more.
Compiling a 55-14 record and grabbing a pair of section crowns in each of those three years, the Lancers have three starters returning and hope to make another run at a WPIAL playoff berth.
Guards Becca Babincak and sisters Nichole and Danielle Kearns will form the nucleus of seventh-year coach Dana Petruska's lineup.
Still, there are enough losses from last year's 17-5 squad to cause concern for Petruska.
“When you lose players like Candace Scanga, Emily Casell, Alexa Vercelli and Hannah Rosselle, there's a lot of points lost,” Petruska said. “The three (returners), with all the experience they have, really helps.”
Despite the three key seniors, Deer Lakes will again be a young roster, with a combination of nine sophomores and freshmen on the 14-player roster.
“So far it's been a good start,” Petruska said of pre-season camp. “Probably the most athletic group I've ever had, and that helps during drills. But skill-wise, we're not where we have to be.”
Also missing for the first time in several years is assistant coach Brian Nee, who's following his son Jameson's progress as a freshman at Vincentian Academy. Nee had been vital in coaching the junior varsity players up to the point where they could move up and become contributors.
Petruska's youngest son, David, will be the new assistant.
Vying for the two open starting positions are senior forward Hope Schreiber, junior guard Christine Grzybek and sophomores Kristen Stanko and Katie Gozzard. Some of the contenders had limited varsity game experience last season, when the Lancers won the Section 1-AA title with a 13-1 record.
Petruska said she believes she'll be able to change some starters from game-to-game depending upon the opposition that night.
Like many section coaches, Petruska thinks Burrell is the team to beat on Section 1-AA after Freeport moved up to Class AAA Elderton High School closed.
Elderton's demise leaves Deer Lakes with two openings on the schedule that school officials are trying to fill.
The Lancers open the season Dec. 7 at Springdale's Dynamo Tip-off Tournament against Apollo-Ridge in a 3:30 p.m. game.
Deer Lakes' first section contest will be Dec. 17 at Ford City.
George Guido is a freelance writer.