It’s not often when you talk about an overtime game with less than 80 combined points as an instant classic, but nobody who attended a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal between No. 1-seeded Deer Lakes and No. 9 Ellwood City Thursday night will forget it any time soon.

The game featured Wolverines senior Joseph Roth, a high-flying 6-foot-5 forward and multi-sport star who finished third in the WPIAL in scoring with 25.6 points per game in the regular season, attempting to lead Ellwood City (16-8) past the defending WPIAL champion Lancers in an anticipated showdown at North Allegheny High School. Roth was every bit as good as advertised, posting another double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds while showcasing his elite athletic ability on several occasions — including a thunderous fast-break dunk to surpass 2,000 points for his career.

But in the end, the hero was a little-known sophomore named Collin Rodgers, a 5-9 guard who sent Deer Lakes back to the WPIAL semifinals with an off-balance bucket at the buzzer after a wild scramble for the ball, lifting the Lancers (19-4) to a miraculous 39-38 overtime win.

“I didn’t see the basket go in, but you hear the screams, and you know something went well,” Rodgers said. “I couldn’t look at the clock and dribble at the same time. I knew I just had to go up and make a play.”

Although it was a low-scoring game, it still featured plenty of action and swings of momentum, with Deer Lakes opening up a 13-8 lead after controlling most of the first quarter. Roth then began to take over in the second quarter, asserting his dominance on the glass and driving coast-to-coast for several tough baskets in the lane. His 3-point play late in the half gave Ellwood City an 18-17 lead going into the break.

After the Lancers briefly retook the lead in the third, Roth tied it with his fast-break dunk to spark the Wolverines fans, and all the momentum seemed to shift in Ellwood City’s favor.

The Wolverines stretched their lead to seven early in the fourth, but that’s when the championship mettle of Deer Lakes began to reveal itself. Aiden Fletcher and Billy Schaeffer each knocked down a 3-pointer to trim the Lancers’ deficit to one at 29-28, then an assist from Fletcher to Wayne Love tied it at 32-32 with 56.6 seconds to play.

Roth had a chance to give Ellwood City the lead after a questionable foul call in the final 10 seconds, but he missed both free throws. Love then nearly won it for Deer Lakes at the buzzer, but his baseline jumper bounced off the rim, sending the game to overtime.

After the Wolverines raced to a 37-32 lead in the extra period, the Lancers quickly erased the deficit with a 5-0 run. Nate Williams then made 1 of 2 free throws with 15 seconds left in overtime, and an offensive rebound after the second attempt gave the ball back to Ellwood City — setting the stage for Rodgers to steal the show.

Collin Rodgers converted a miraculous winning shot in overtime to lift the Lancers to a 39-38 win Thursday night in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals against Ellwood City. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

With the Wolverines inbounding the ball underneath their basket with 9.6 seconds left in overtime, junior forward Nathaniel Moore deflected the pass near midcourt for Deer Lakes. Rodgers somehow managed to corral the loose ball and bank it in, all while falling to the court just before the final buzzer. Rodgers scored 4 of his 6 points in overtime, while Schaeffer registered a team-high 12 points for the Lancers.

“All week coming into this, I said, this is one heck of a second-round game,” said Deer Lakes coach Albie Fletcher. “What a game. I knew it was going to be a good one, but I wasn’t expecting that. That was something else.”

Pandemonium ensued as his teammates mobbed Rodgers on the court, with the Lancers now a win one away from a trip to Pitt’s Petersen Events Center to defend their WPIAL Class 3A title despite having only one returning starter from a year ago.

“We may not have the same roles we have last year, but we were part of the run,” Rodgers said. “We were there. We were practicing. We knew what it took to get to a WPIAL championship, to get to Hershey. … We knew what we were capable of.”

Aiden Fletcher scored 7 points to help Deer Lakes return to the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals with a 39-38 overtime win Thursday night against Ellwood City. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 3A quarterfinals

• No. 2 Mohawk advanced to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time in 54 years and only the second time in school history, outlasting No. 7 Yough (19-5) for a 54-48 win at Pine-Richland. Sophomore Bobby Fadden finished with a game-high 28 points and Jay Wrona added 16 for the Warriors (16-7). Terek Crosby had a team-leading 23 points for the Cougars.

• Fresh off an upset win against No. 6 Seton LaSalle, No. 11 Burrell pulled off another stunner with a 48-44 win against No. 3 Shady Side Academy at Fox Chapel. Macky Bennis led the way with a game-high 23 points for the Buccaneers (15-5), who also defeated the Bulldogs Dec. 14, 46-41, in the first of three meetings between the section rivals. Eli Teslovich finished with a team-leading 18 points for Shady Side (16-8).

• Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter against No. 12 Derry, David Kwiat buried three 3-pointers in a row to lead No. 4 Neshannock to a 64-57 victory at North Hills. Tyler Anderson tallied a game-high 21 points for the Lancers (20-3), while Kwiat finished with 16 and Anthony Bonner added 10. John Wasnick scored 19 to pace three players in double figures for the Trojans (14-7).

Shaler’s Kaden Orga (13) and Sam Himrod high-five in their WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal against Bethel Park Thursday night at Mt. Lebanon High School. Shaler won, 35-26. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 5A quarterfinals

• No. 3 Shaler used its stifling defense and and some timely free throws to outlast No. 11 Bethel Park for a 35-26 win at Mt. Lebanon Keegan Smetanka scored a game-high 12 points and Brandon London contributed 9 for the Titans (22-2), who made nine free throws in the final quarter while limiting the Black Hawks (12-12) to just 2 points in the fourth.

• Cam Rowell led all scorers with 21 points for No. 2 Franklin Regional (21-2), and Cooper Rankin followed with 19 to help the Panthers pull off a 53-35 win over No. 7 Gateway at Norwin. Bryson Pavlik led the Gators (17-7) with 10 points.

Bethel Park’s Shawn Davis tries to get past Shaler’s Joey DeSabato (3) and Keegan Smetanka (2) Thursday night at Mt. Lebanon High School. Shaler won, 35-26, to advance to the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Class 5A quarterfinals

Franklin Regional 53, Gateway 35

Moon 63, Fox Chapel 50

Shaler 35, Bethel Park 26

Thomas Jefferson 73, Kiski Area 57

Class 3A quarterfinals

Burrell 48, Shady Side Academy 44

Deer Lakes 39, Ellwood City 38 (OT)

Mohawk 54, Yough 48

Neshannock 64, Derry 57

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at