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Billy Schaeffer from Deer Lakes leads the list of the top boys basketball players in the Valley News Dispatch

Player of the Year

Player of the Year

Billy Schaeffer

6-2, Sr., G, Deer Lakes

Last year, Billy Schaeffer excelled as a 3-point shooter and helped Deer Lakes secure its first WPIAL basketball championship.

This year, as the only returning starter, he knew he needed to improve his game.

Schaeffer realized that with his success as a 40% 3-point shooter, defenders would challenge him more, so he worked on adding new skills to his game.

He made it a point to drive into the lane effectively and make defenders acknowledge his capability.

He not only achieved that goal but went even further.

With an average of 16 points per game, Schaeffer led Deer Lakes to a second consecutive WPIAL Class 3A title, earning him the title of 2023-24 Valley News Dispatch Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Although becoming more versatile was a priority, Schaeffer's main goal was to win the WPIAL championship again.

The Lancers succeeded in this endeavor after an exciting playoff journey, ultimately defeating their Alle-Kiski Valley rivals Burrell at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center in the 3A final.

In the 3A final, Schaeffer led with 20 points, and Deer Lakes triumphed over the Bucs with a score of 55-49.

Schaeffer expressed his elation at achieving the repeat victory against their biggest rival, bringing the title back to the community that had supported them throughout the year.

Another objective for Schaeffer was to score 1,000 points, a milestone he aimed for even before joining the varsity team.

He reached this milestone during the state playoffs against Forest Hills, scoring his 1,000th point with a free throw in the final minute of the game.

Schaeffer described reaching 1,000 points as a long-held ambition, a reward for his dedication to basketball over four years of varsity play and three years as a starter.

Deer Lakes’ PIAA playoff journey concluded in the quarterfinals with a loss to Franklin, who went on to become the state runner-up.

Despite falling short of a return to Hershey, Schaeffer closed out his high school career with two district gold medals and a PIAA silver.

He is currently weighing his options for continuing his basketball career in college and has been approached by the United States Merchant Marine Academy, with a scheduled visit. The Merchant Marine Academy participates in NCAA Division III.

Whether or not he chooses the Merchant Marine Academy, Schaeffer's intention is to pursue a military career, a path deeply rooted in his family history.

Schaeffer's primary goal is to serve his country, following in the footsteps of his parents and grandparents. He appreciates the challenges that come with it and views it as a way to transition from adolescence to adulthood, shaping him into a strong man, father, and adult overall.

First team

Macky Bennis

6-1, Senior, Guard, Burrell

Bennis was part of a strong pair of guards for Burrell, and he played a key role in their journey to the WPIAL Class 3A championship game as the 11th seed. He scored 20 points in a crucial semifinal win over Mohawk and reached 1,000 points against Apollo-Ridge on Jan. 12.

Tucker Bitar

6-0, Junior, Guard, Burrell

Bitar, the other talented guard for Burrell, averaged 15 points and five assists per game. He had several important moments during Burrell’s playoff run, notably scoring 21 points in their surprising victory over Seton LaSalle in the first round.

Bradyn Foster

6-8, Senior, Forward, Highlands

Foster had an impressive season with an average of 21.3 points, leading the Golden Rams to the playoffs. He reached 1,000 points against Shady Side Academy on Dec. 12 and will continue his basketball career at Penn.

Isaiah Gonzalez

6-2, Senior, Guard, Kiski Area

Gonzalez guided the Cavaliers to their first playoff win since 2014, upsetting Peters Township in the WPIAL 5A first round. He averaged just over 19 points per game and finished his career with 1,259 points.

Nathaniel Moore

6-4, Junior, Forward, Deer Lakes

After recovering from a football injury, Moore made a strong impact in the paint. He averaged a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and played a crucial role in the Lancers' return to the WPIAL 3A championship game, particularly by scoring 23 points in the semifinals against Neshannock.

Second team

Jackson Bauman

6-2, Sophomore, Guard, Knoch

Cam Reigard

6-2, Sr., G, Highlands

Grant Rochkind

6-5, Sr., F, Cheswick Christian

Nate Sprajcar

6-5, Sr., G, Riverview

Brady Sullivan

6-0, Sr., G, Freeport

Third team

Teegan Finucan

6-2, So., G, Knoch

Mason Gent

6-4, Sr., F, Springdale

Wayne Love

6-3, Sr., F, Deer Lakes

Jefferson Moorefield-Brown

6-0, Sr., G, Fox Chapel

Jordyn Tavarez

6-1, Sr., G, Highlands

Honorable mention

John Hughes, Sr., G, Springdale; Colin Keller, Jr., G, Kiski Area; Derek Lang, So, F, Knoch; Collin Rodgers, So., G, Deer Lakes; Will Siegel, Sr., F, Fox Chapel

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