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Fast start leads Apollo-Ridge past Deer Lakes

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
Deer Lakes' #35 Scott Ventura attempts to block Apollo Ridge's #23 Matt Hazi during the basketball game at Apollo Ridge High School on Friday January 4, 2013.
Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes' #35 Scott Ventura attempts to block Apollo Ridge's #23 Matt Hazi during the basketball game at Apollo Ridge High School on Friday January 4, 2013. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Apollo-Ridge set the tone early Friday night against Deer Lakes.

The Vikings turned five Lancers turnovers into 10 points in less than five minutes and rolled to an 87-69 victory in a showdown between two of three undefeated teams in Section 1-AA.

Sophomore guard Tre' Tipton scored a career-high 24 points, collected eight rebounds and dished out seven assists to lead Apollo-Ridge (9-1, 3-0).

Josh Reynolds added 19 points, while Alex Smith had 16 and Evan Davis 10.

Reynolds scored a basket off a steal and hit a free throw produced from another steal to put the Vikings in front, 15-1, with 3:30 left in the first period.

“Needless to say, it wasn't the start we wanted,” said Lancers coach Jon McKay, whose team fell to 6-4, 2-1. “(Down) 23-3 on the road in this section? Five points is a big hole, 20 points is a gargantuan hole.”

“We like to get after it defensively, and when you get people moving fast, you can do a lot of crazy things,” Davis said. “We like to get out on teams early and set that tempo with a fast-paced game.”

Davis also got after Lancers guard Tim Jaczesko early, holding the Alle-Kiski Valley's third-leading scorer without a point until the 6:34 mark of the second quarter.

“The past few games, Evan has shut down the other team's best player,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “He did a good job tonight. Naturally, Jaczesko's going to get his points. He's a great player. To hold him down for even a little while is a great accomplishment.”

Jaczesko recovered, however, to take game-high scoring honors with 29. The senior sharpshooter scored 14 of his team's 21 points in the second period.

The Vikings led, 23-3, at the end of the first quarter and took a 42-24 advantage at halftime. Deer Lakes managed to cut its deficit to 48-36 on a pair of free throws by Jaczesko with 5:02 left in the third period. But Reynolds answered with two off-balance shots as Apollo-Ridge recovered.

When Davis headed to the bench with four personal fouls, in came junior Mitchell Johnson to hit three quick baskets, and the Vikings were back in front, 63-41, as the third quarter concluded.

“We almost climbed out of the hole,” McKay said. “But to Apollo's credit, they didn't let us. Just when it looked like we might get it into single digits, they hit some big shots.”

A Tipton basket with 5:06 to go gave the Vikings their biggest lead, 76-47.

“We play together and always work hard,” Tipton said. “Deer Lakes is a very good team. We just had to come out and play our game.”

Lancers swingman J.J. Kowalkowski turned in a strong game, scoring 26 points. Though he's the Lancers' tallest player at 6-foot-1, Kowalkowski had to come outside and shoot as his team had to try and trim the Apollo-Ridge lead.

“Our guys stayed after it, and that's why I love them,” McKay said. “I told them before the game — and after the game — there's no locker room that I'd rather be in.”

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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