Jeannette girls oust Deer Lakes from playoffs for third time in four years
Deer Lakes couldn't miss early, but Jeannette leaned on its can't-miss senior late to hand the Lancers another playoff exit.
Deer Lakes looked primed to make a run at its first semifinal trip since 1991, hitting 6 of 7 3-pointers in the first quarter, but Jeannette senior guard Ciara Gregory was outstanding in leading her team to a come-from-behind win Friday night.
Gregory scored a game-high 35 points — two nights after scoring 41 on the same Fox Chapel court — to power No. 5 Jeannette to a 64-56 WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal victory over No. 4 Deer Lakes.
Jeannette (17-6) overcame a hot-shooting first half by Deer Lakes and a 14-point deficit to advance to the semifinals where it will face No. 1 Seton-La Salle (23-1).
Deer Lakes (20-4) can still qualify for the PIAA playoffs since the top seven WPIAL teams advance.
“Our girls have to be able to handle the pressure better,” Deer Lakes coach Dana Petruska said. “Our younger girls are too soft. We have to get tougher, or next year will be a long year.”
Jeannette also knocked Deer Lakes out of the playoffs in 2010 and '11.
“We were down against Steel Valley (in the first round), too,” said Gregory a 2,000-plus-point career scorer and a Charlotte recruit. “Defense was the key to this game, and my teammates really stepped up.”
Jeannette gave Deer Lakes shooters space early, and the Lancers responded. Danielle Kearns and Nichole Kearns each hit a pair of 3s, and Becca Babincak added another as the Lancers took a 22-13 lead after one quarter.
Deer Lakes hit 14 3s earlier this season when it beat Jeannette, 76-56.
“They made 14 last time, so we knew they could shoot,” Gregory said. “We came out in a zone, and they hit shots. We had to make some changes.”
Gregory hit four of her five 3-pointers in the second quarter when she scored 14 points and helped the Jayhawks rally from a 27-13 deficit to take a 35-33 lead at the half. She hit three of those 3s in the final 4:53.
“She can do it all,” Petruska said of Gregory. “If she misses a shot, she doesn't let it bother her. She keeps shooting.”
Babincak, who led Deer Lakes with 15 points, made a three to open the second half and a layup to give the Lancers a 38-37 advantage. But sophomore Monica Carl scored inside to regain the lead for Jeannette, and a 10-0 run pushed Jeannette's lead to 47-38.
“We missed nine layups, too,” Petruska said. “That really hurt us.”
A tighter, more physical defensive effort by Jeannette in the third forced several Deer Lakes turnovers and easy transition baskets.
“I feel bad for my seniors,” Petruska said. “Nichole Kearns leaves it all out on the floor.”
Babincak led Deer Lakes with 15 points, Danielle Kearns added 13 and Nichole Kearns had 12.
Jeannette won a WPIAL title when Gregory was a freshman, beating Seton-La Salle, 39-36. This time won't be as easy with Seton-La Salle the prohibitive favorite.
“We'll need to play a perfect game,” Gregory said. “It would be unreal, as a senior, to make it back to the finals.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.