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Deer Lakes seals victory with late surge

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Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes' J.J. Kowalkowski takes a shot around Apollo-Ridge's Connor Billingsley (34) during their game at Deer Lakes on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.
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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 11:32 p.m.

Not only is Deer Lakes finding ways to win, but it's doing so in an economical fashion.

And, while getting contributions from each of their eight seniors, the Lancers closed this deal, scoring the game's final 15 points and holding visiting Apollo-Ridge scoreless for the final 2:58 to seal a 55-42 victory Tuesday night.

The win keeps the Lancers (12-5, 6-1), who have won five in a row, in first place in Section 1-AA. Their march toward their first section title since 1992 continues.

Apollo-Ridge, which had a 14-0 run early in the fourth, falls to 12-5, 4-3.

“This game was a testament to our seniors,” Deer Lakes coach Jon McKay said. “We were tested, and I was very impressed with the way we responded.”

Tim Jaczesko scored a team-high 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, J.J. Kowalkowski added 13 and Cody Keenan had 11, all in the first eight minutes for the Lancers, who hit seven 3-pointers.

Deer Lakes built a 39-28 lead after three quarters and appeared ready to pull away. But Apollo-Ridge rallied, sparked by junior forward Mitchell Johnston, who scored seven straight points. Evan Davis made a 3-pointer to give the Vikings their first lead, at 42-40, but it was all Lancers from there.

Deer Lakes' Zack Burke made a 3-pointer to retake the lead, and Jaczesko had two steals and scored five straight points to push the advantage to 50-42 with 1:03 to go. His two free throws made it 52-42.

Jaczesko, Kowalkowski and Tim Cresta all hit two 3s.

“We turned the ball over at critical times,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “We're getting better in our half-court, but we need to take better shots. ”

Deer Lakes allowed its lead to dwindle. But it stayed patient until its game-clinching run.

“When we go cold, we tend to let teams make a run,” McKay said. “We knew tonight the key was stopping Tre (Tipton). We did a good job from that standpoint.”

Apollo-Ridge won the teams' first meeting, 87-69, controlling the up-and-down tempo from the start.

In that game, Tipton scored a season-high 24 points.

This time, Deer Lakes slowed things down and forced the athletic Vikings to be more deliberate.

“They were taking the ball to the hoop and we were taking it off of them,” Kowalkowski said. “We went to our 2-3 (zone) and closed out on their shooters.”

Alex Smith led Apollo-Ridge with 13, 10 in the first half. Tipton was held to two, although he tried to be more of a facilitator than scorer in the half-court.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at

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