Deer Lakes scurries to victory over OLSH
Deer Lakes girls basketball team hoped to race up and down the court during Tuesday night's WPIAL Class AA first-round game against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Ultimately, less than one half's worth of havoc sufficed for the No. 4 seeded Lancers.
After establishing a nine-point lead in the first quarter with tenacious defense, Deer Lakes (20-3) slowed but maintained its margin during a 52-43 win over OLSH (19-5). For the second time in three years, the Lancers advanced to the quarterfinals, where they'll meet No. 5 Jeannette (16-6) on Friday at a time and location to be determined.
“That's what we have to do, because we're so small,” Deer Lakes coach Dana Petruska said of the defensive press; her lineup's tallest players are 5-foot-8. “If we sit back in a zone or even man-to-man, these better teams will eat us up inside.”
Applying full-court pressure for most of the first half, Deer Lakes pushed OLSH into a pace of play the Chargers found uncomfortable. That led to 12 first-half turnovers for OLSH and eight fast-break points for Deer Lakes.
“I think it was a first-impression thing,” OLSH coach Don Eckerle said. “We knew they had speed, and we just needed to get used to it. By the time we did, it was an uphill battle from there.”
As both a presser and a major ball-handler in half-court sets, Danielle Kearns thrived through two quarters. She scored Deer Lakes' first six points: a 3-pointer, a fastbreak layup and a foul shot. Kearns added another 3-pointer late in the first quarter and managed another transition basket midway through the second.
“We came out fired up in the first quarter,” Kearns said. “We kind of slowed down later in the game. … We wanted to run the whole time.”
Kearns' field goals from beyond the arc were Deer Lakes' only ones of the half. The Lancers made 2 of 9 attempts from deep, while OLSH sank 3 of 6.
Jacqueline Mathews, who made two of those 3-pointers in the first half, cut OLSH's deficit to three points midway through the third quarter with a transition basket and two free throws. But Deer Lakes, paced by Nichole Kearns, responded with a 9-2 run to end the quarter.
Arguably a blessing for both fatigued teams, the fourth quarter included a sluggish pace, as both sides traded appearances at the free- throw line. Becca Babincak shouldered the bulk of the foul shooting, and she made 6 of 8.
Babincak finished with a game-high 21 points, Danielle Kearns followed with 15 points, and Nichole Kearns added 12. All three are seniors.
“When you have a senior-led group like we do, you expect them to do a lot of the things we did tonight,” Petruska said.
Mathews led OLSH with 17 points, which included three 3-pointers. She failed to earn a trip to the free-throw line in the final quarter, though. OLSH, leaning on its other shooters, sank 6 of 10 foul shots in the fourth.
“We shot the ball very well from the perimeter,” said Eckerle, whose Chargers finished with five 3-pointers. “So that helped us get back in the game.”