Strong effort nets district crown
The Parkland boys basketball team wanted it more, and they showed it.
Diving for loose balls, playing more physical, and running Freedom out of the gym with fast-break layups and open jump shots, brought Parkland to a 65-50 win the District 11 4A final last Saturday night at Easton Area Middle School.
It is the first district gold for the Trojans since 2009, and the third straight victory over the Patriots since losing to them the first game of the season back on December 8.
Parkland (21-7) avenged two silver medals, one in the league tournament this year, and one in this same game last year, losing to Pocono Mountain West.
"It's a feeling you can't even describe," the recent Kutztown University commit Austin Beidelman said. "We worked our butts off all off-season in practices and games, and it finally paid off. A silver medal in leagues and in districts last year just wasn't good enough."
Beidelman talked about the competition that fuels this team from each player's perspective, and that competitiveness showed. From Nick Rindock (18 points) and Justin Zajko (10 points, 10 rebounds) diving on the floor and soaring above the bigger Patriots, to Nick Selvaggi (eight points, 12 rebounds) and Jimmy Hahn (12 points) pumping up the crowd and their teammates after big plays, Parkland showed up with one thing on their mind - to bring a district title back to Cedar Crest Boulevard.
It was a complete team effort. Beidelman, the team's leading scorer, was held to just two points after the half.
"We said in the locker room that we wanted to exceed their energy out there," Rindock said. "We wanted to outwork them, and we did. We got more loose balls, more stops and more rebounds. We just pushed the tempo against them."
It took a little bit for the Trojans to reach that tempo. They did not take their first lead of the game until Selvaggi floated a layup over David Williams with 1:34 left in the first quarter. From there on, Parkland never trailed.
Parkland built a 30-18 halftime lead using a 19-5 spurt late in the first quarter and into the middle of the second. The Trojans held Freedom to 7-for-19 shooting in the first half, and were there for seemingly every rebound on the missed shots.
"We just used what got us to this position all year, driving and kicking to open shooters," said Rindock. "We knew a lot about them, and we just wanted to use that to our advantage."
Parkland held a 51-27 advantage late in the third, and then Freedom tallied the next seven points to end the quarter. The Patriots found themselves down 53-42 early in the final quarter, but the Trojans pulled away late from the charity stripe, going 10-for-12 from the free throw line.
"One of the things I said to them is that at the beginning of the year they [Freedom] were ahead on us 15, 16 points," said head coach Andy Stephens. "And I said please don't get down on this. We'll probably see them again, and at the end of the year we want to improve and play for things that really matter. I think the kids played hard and smart defensively and offensively, and I'm proud of them."
The Trojans will meet Ridley, the eighth seed from District 1, this Saturday night at Allen High School at 7:30 p.m.