By MATTHEWS PEASLEE
Deer Lakes coach John McKay set his alarm clock for 6 a.m. on Monday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary.
But for his kids, an early wake-up call and 75-minute bus ride at 9:30 a.m. may not have been the ideal situation on a scheduled holiday off school.
“I saw a little bit of sleep in the kids eyes when they got on the bus,” McKay said.
Oh, and they had to play a basketball game against an unfamiliar opponent.
The Deer Lakes Lancers, located 17 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, came into the Covelli Centre and handled the Springfield Tigers, 43-33, in the first game of Day 2 in the Lariccia’s See Them Rise Showcase.
They never led by more than six points until the closing minute, but forced seven Springfield turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very common of the way we play,” McKay said. “We don’t blow anybody out and we don’t panic. They’ve been down this road a number of times.”
All eight players in Deer Lakes’ rotation are seniors. Tim Jaczesko, a Division II prospect, is averaging nearly 30 points a game and dropped 45 in a game where the Springfield coaching staff was scouting earlier in the month.
He scored a game-high 19 points with four assists and three steals.
“Tim’s shooting 45-percent from 3-point range,” McKay said. “They keyed on him pretty well. He made four [3-pointers], but he really had to work to get them.”
Jaczesko’s heave from near mid-court at the third quarter buzzer put the Lancers (10-5) up 31-25.
Brandon Chamberlain converted two foul shots at the 4:55 mark of the fourth quarter that made it 32-31, the closest the Tigers would get.
“We didn’t execute and we didn’t come with the energy,” said Springfield coach Eric Fender. “Still, to keep the game that close, for that long, we can live with it.”
A Cody Keenon 3-pointer jump-started an 11-2 Deer Lakes run to close it out.
“We don’t have anybody over 6-feet,” McKay said. “When you have a team the size that we have, you know foul shooting is going to be key.”
Eoghan Bees led the Tigers (10-3) with 15 points, four steals and two assists. Jared McTigue added 10 points with 11 rebounds and Mark Schuler had 11 rebounds with four points.
“We’ve got some tough [games] coming up,” said Fender, whose team is 9-0 in Tier One of the Inter Tri-County League. “This was a tough loss. We didn’t play very well. But it’s not going to affect us in the league standings.”