Boys basketball marches on in states
The Parkland boys basketball team had plenty to celebrate last week after getting revenge against Liberty and then later beating Freedom to win the District 11 4A championship - the first for each player on the roster.
But with the state playoffs looming, they also had a lot of work to do.
The Trojans came prepared and showed no hangover effects in defeating District One's eighth seed Ridley 63-53 on Saturday night at Allen High School.
"We always play to win the next game," said junior Justin Zajko. "We don't look past anyone. Obviously we just want a district championship, but we want to see if we can get some wins in states too."
Zajko scored all but two of his 13 points in the first half, and fellow junior Nick Rindock tallied 14 of his 17 in the second half for the Trojans, leading a balanced, team effort that also saw seniors Austin Beidelman (14) and Astin Jones (10) reach double figures.
"It was a good, overall team win," head coach Andy Stephens said. "I felt like we were playing better than they were, but the score didn't reflect that. Ridley hung around. They play really well together and run a very good man offense."
Parkland (22-7) got off to a fast start, leading 18-10 after one, and took a double digit lead in the second quarter.
Both teams made runs in the first half. The Green Raiders, fueled by freshman point guard Brett Foster (12 points) and Jon McGill (15), brought a six-point halftime deficit to one twice in the third quarter.
Jones, who notched his second-highest scoring total of the season (16 points at Liberty on Jan. 8), scored seven second half points, and along with Rindock, helped the Trojans stave off a Ridley (18-10) rally.
"My teammates found me, I couldn't have done it without them," said Jones. "I've been in a slump shooting-wise ever since the Liberty game. Once I hit my first three, I had the confidence to keep shooting."
Jones hit two three-pointers on the night and each one meant a whole lot to the Trojans. Both baskets in the third quarter came after the Green Raiders pulled to within one. Jones finished 4-for-5 from the field.
"That's kind of what high school sports are all about," said Stephens. "You kind of stress to stay in it mentally until your number is called. Our whole team has really done that, and so has Astin. The energy he gave us was really positive."
The same could be said for one of the heroes in the district final two weeks ago, Nick Selvaggi, who finished this game with four points and three rebounds. Jimmy Hahn also added eight assists and five points scored.
Rindock finished the game off in the fourth going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line, and secured a second round berth for Parkland, who lost in this same round to Roman Catholic last year. This year, the Trojans took on Great Valley, a 39-32 winner over Wilson West Lawn, on Wednesday night. The winner will likely face two-time defending state champion Chester, who faced Williamsport Wednesday night.
"We're looking forward to Wednesday and we're going to see what we can do," Zajko said. "We just want to keep moving on."