Opposing coaches in Class AA Section 1 will likely be relieved when the Deer Lakes trio of Rebecca Babincak and Nichole and Danielle Kearns graduates after this season.
That threesome has formed the nucleus of a Deer Lakes program that has won back-to-back section titles and has a chance to do it again this season.
Deer Lakes is 11-2 overall and 4-1 in section play this year, in second place in the section behind Burrell (9-1, 5-0). Dating back to their sophomore season, Babincak and the Kearns twins are a combined 30-3 in section play.
Babincak, a 5-foot-6 senior guard and returning all-section player, leads the Lancers averaging 17 points per game. She plans on playing in college next season and Saint Vincent, a Division III program, is one of the schools interested in her.
Nichole Kearns, a 5-4 senior guard, has already accepted a scholarship to play next season at Saint Vincent. Her twin, Danielle, a 5-8 senior who can play guard and forward, has accepted a soccer scholarship to play at California University of Pennsylvania next season.
"Becca, Nichole and Danielle understand what their roles are," Deer Lakes coach Dana Petruska said. "Sometimes they have to do more than what a normal player would have to do for us. This group has been very, very versatile."
This year they have been very successful, too. They won the Springdale tipoff tournament title, beating the host team and Apollo-Ridge. They won the St. Joseph holiday tournament title with wins against the hosts and Avonworth.
They also own non-section wins against Winchester Thurston, Knoch and Mohawk. Their lone blemishes came in back-to-back losses after an 11-0 start. They lost to Class AAAA Shaler in the Gateway Hoopfest and lost on the road in section play to Burrell, 47-32, on Monday night.
"Our goal every year is to make the [WPIAL] playoffs," Petruska said. "Then we want to make a statement in the postseason."
The two new starters this year for Deer Lakes are junior guard Christine Grzybek and senior forward Hope Schreiber. Petruska keeps a short bench and relies heavily on her starting five, which includes four seniors.
"I have been very, very fortunate with these seniors," Petruska said. "Especially with Rebecca, Nichole and Danielle, those three have been making an impact since their freshmen year with the varsity program.
"They are experienced and they are good athletes. They understand the game. They are not quitters -- that's the biggest thing. They like to compete."
Any shot at a section title this season for Deer Lakes will likely come down to their section finale, a rematch against Burrell on Feb. 7. That game will be played at Deer Lakes. As important as that game is likely to be in terms of postseason seeding, do not expect the Lancers to look ahead.
"I say this a hundred times about this group of girls -- they never look ahead," Petruska said. "They look at the game directly next on the schedule and that is the game they are most concerned about and have to prepare for. They know they need to take care of business as best they can."
Deer Lakes is back in action on Monday when they play host to Ford City (7-5, 3-2), another playoff-caliber team. The Lancers won the first meeting with Ford City, 41-36, on the road.