Neshannock High boys drop heartbreaker to Deer Lakes in Class 3A semifinals

Feb. 27—PITTSBURGH — The Neshannock High boys basketball team dropped a heartbreaker Monday night.

The Lancers, who trailed much of the game, couldn't seal the deal down the stretch of regulation and ultimately dropped an 84-73 WPIAL Class 3A semifinal-round encounter against Deer Lakes at Fox Chapel.

"I really felt our guys played tremendous tonight," Neshannock coach John Corey said. "I'm very proud of each of them individually and I'm equally as proud of them as a group.

"My big message to our guys after the game was I'm really proud of their effort. Their toughness was on full display tonight. On a personal note, I apologized to them. There were some things I thought I needed to do better. I was impressed with how hard they played and how much heart they played with."

Fourth-seeded Neshannock (20-4) will take on Mohawk (17-8) in a third-place consolation game on Wednesday on the Warriors' home floor at a time to be determined.

Top-seeded Deer Lakes (20-4) advances to meet Burrell (16-8) at 5 p.m. Friday at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center in the championship game.

LJ Keith drained a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to give Neshannock its first lead of the game at 56-54. Neshannock pushed it to 58-54.

Keith scored all 16 of his points in the second half.

"I thought he played tremendous," Corey said of Keith. "He hit a couple of big 3s for us.

"Early in the overtime period, he had four of our eight points. I thought he played a tremendous second half."

Collin Rodgers buried a 3-pointer for Deer Lakes and Billy Schaeffer added one for a 60-58 advantage.

Deer Lakes led 62-59 with 2:01 to play and Talan Anderton made a three-point play for Neshannock to knot the count at 62 with 1:48 to go.

Ashton Allison fouled out with around 1:30 left in regulation and the game tied at 62. However, Nathaniel Moore missed both ends of a two-shot foul.

Wayne Love Jr. grabbed the rebound with 1:23 remaining for Deer Lakes and the team called timeout. Rodgers was fouled, but he split a pair of freebies with 1:14 left for a 63-62 Deer Lakes lead.

Keith gave Neshannock a 64-63 lead and Matt Sopko gave the team possession again with a steal. Anthony Bonner had a chance to widen Neshannock's lead, but he missed both ends of a two-shot foul and the lead remained 63-62.

Deer Lakes turned the ball over with 10 seconds left and Neshannock again had a chance to improve its position. But, Keith made just one of two free throws with eight seconds to play and Neshannock held a 64-62 margin.

Moore made a bucket on the other end for Deer Lakes and Sopko was called for a block to tie the game at 64 with three seconds left. Moore, though, missed the foul shot and Deer Lakes snared the rebound. Deer Lakes' attempt at the buzzer was no good, forcing overtime.

"We trailed and fought back," Corey said of the flow of the game. "It was kind of the same script in the third quarter, too.

"We regained a little bit of our swagger in the third quarter. I just think that our guys fought back and we were able to take the lead."

The teams traded field goals to open overtime before Aiden Fletcher put Deer Lakes up for good at 68-66.

Deer Lakes was just 22 of 42 at the foul line for the game.

"We talked a lot to our guys about their size advantage," Corey said. "We told them if we found ourselves in a bad predicament, if we needed to burn a foul we were OK to put them on the line. It was part of our game plan in dealing with their size."

Deer Lakes scored the game's first eight points.

Moore netted 10 points for Deer Lakes in the first quarter and David Kwiat tallied seven markers in the first frame for Neshannock.

Neshannock, which trailed by as much as 11 in the first half, trailed 22-12 after one quarter. Kwiat buried a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to tie the contest at 30. Kwiat finished the opening half with 13 points.

"I just thought we started in the hole a little bit. It's not so much that I don't think we weren't playing hard," Corey said. "Early on, we got caught in some bad matchups and bad situations.

"It was clear their mentality was to really take advantage of the size mismatch. I thought they did a good job forcing the ball in the post. Our guys came back fighting in the second quarter. To really fight and have great effort, to be able to tie it up at halftime, I can't say enough about our toughness and guys stepping up. When Dave hit that one right before halftime, it felt like we had a lot of momentum, even though it was tied."

Kwiat finished with a game-high 29 points.

"He played great; he was very balanced with his scoring," Corey said of Kwiat. "This was the Dave we needed tonight.

"He faced some faceguarding from them. I thought he did a great job of staying active and not just trying to accept the fact he was being faceguarded."

Moore scored 24 points for Deer Lakes.