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Burrell beats Deer Lakes on last-second bucket

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Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch Burrell's #34 Matt Hess powers through blocks by (from left) Deer Lakes' #21 J.J. Kowalkowski and #23 Tim Jaczesko during the basketball game at Deer Lakes High School on Friday February 8, 2013.
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Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

All Burrell's Pete Spagnolo wanted was another chance to be a hero.

On Friday night, with a section championship on the line, he got that chance.

Spagnolo drove the lane and scored with 1.8 seconds remaining to lift the Buccaneers to a 47-46 victory over Deer Lakes to share the Section 1-AA championship with the host Lancers.

Spagnolo finished with a game-high 20 points, including nine in the see-saw fourth quarter, which saw six lead changes inside the final 4:34.

“Pete is the most underrated guard in our section,” Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. “I am so proud of our seniors and the way they played tonight.”

After Spagnolo's basket, Burrell players, coaches and some fans stormed the court, but the officials apparently saw Deer Lakes coach Jon McKay signal a timeout and put 1.5 seconds back on the clock.

Deer Lakes (16-6, 8-2), hoping for a last-ditch thriller of its own on its senior night, went to its leader, Tim Jaczesko. But the senior's deep jumper missed as time expired.

The Lancers saw a nine-game winning streak end, while Burrell (15-6, 8-2) won its sixth straight.

Jaczesko scored 18 points and J.J. Kowalkowski added 16 for Deer Lakes, which led, 44-41, with two minutes to play.

Earlier this season, Spagnolo missed a late shot in a 48-44 loss to Deer Lakes.

“That wasn't going to happen twice,” Spagnolo said. “Joey Cox gave me a nice pass on a cross-cut and I knew I was taking the shot.”

One of the A-K Valley's top soccer players, Spagnolo was asked if his game-winner compared to any soccer accomplishments.

“Yeah, the time I beat my dad's (Freeport) team, 2-1, on a penalty kick,” he said with a smile.

Last night's game was physical and both teams were in foul trouble late.

“They wanted a layup or foul there at the end and they got the layup,” McKay said. “Our streak ended, yes. But everyone's streak ended tonight.”

McKay said Burrell handled the Lancers' matchup zone much better, particularly early, which forced Deer Lakes to go man-to-man. Burrell presented size problems with forwards Cole Bush and Matt Hess.

“I know Rob (Niederberger) well and he came out with some stuff,” McKay said. “We had to make some adjustments.”

After a Deer Lakes timeout, Spagnolo hit a runner to make it 45-44 with 22.8 seconds to go. Bush fouled out with 8.6 seconds and Jaczesko made two free throws to put the Lancers back up, 46-45.

Spagnolo did the rest and probably gave Burrell's playoff stock a boost in the process. The WPIAL will lay out its playoff brackets on Tuesday in Green Tree.

Both coaches believe Burrell will get the higher seed of the two.

“People talk about Deer Lakes winning only four games two years ago, but we only won four that year, too,” Niederberger said. “No one thought we could be in this position to win the section. Our kids worked and worked over the spring and summer and got so much better.”

Burrell led, 14-5, late in the first quarter. The lead never got above five after halftime for either team.

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

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