Boys set foundation for bright future
After a district title and a state playoff win, a lot of coaches would be bracing for an upcoming rebuilding season. Maybe for a few rebuilding seasons.
But Parkland basketball isn't just any program.
Not in the eyes of fifth-year head coach Andy Stephens or his players. They don't expect a rebuilding season any time in the near future.
"You want to compete for leagues and districts," Stephens said. "But we really do want to get in a position that we can compete for a state championship. That may sound crazy to some people, but we got to the second round this year. A few years ago we got to the third round.
"We have a lot of kids coming up that are going to work real hard. Hopefully we can keep progressing and make it to the fourth round and then, hopefully the championship game."
The Trojans went 22-8 this season, including an 11-3 Lehigh Valley Conference record and an appearance in the league title game.
Instead of seeing this year as a benchmark, they see it as a steppingstone to sustained greatness.
"Our seniors push the younger guys every year," said Austin Beidelman, who will play at Kutztown University next year. "And [the coaches] pushed us. They got us better every day at practice. I'll be back working out with these guys over the summer and hopefully they can win a state title."
Parkland has been one of the area's top programs for years. It's been a district qualifier for 17 of the past 19 years and a district camp in 2000, '01, '03, '09 and this year.
The Trojans missed districts in 2010 and 2011, but rebounded by winning more than 20 games each of the past two seasons and making it to states both years.
This year's team went into districts as the No. 6 seed after losing in the LVC title game. It ran off five straight wins, its second-longest streak of the season, to reach the second round of states.
"We were playing at a really high level," said Beidelman. "We won a district championship. That was probably the best feeling of my life. We won a game in states, which Parkland hasn't done since 2009.
"I wouldn't trade playing with these guys for anything. I'm definitely very proud."
Beidlelman and classmates Nate Case and Astin Jones graduate from this year's team. Beidelman, the team's leading scorer, was the only senior starter.
While Stephens was disappointed his team dropped last week's state playoff game to Great Valley, he liked the effort the Trojans gave.
They trailed the Patriots by 11 points with 3:22 left in the game last Wednesday before making a push against District 1's fourth-place team. Parkland cut the lead to two points and had chances to tie the game late before falling 64-61.
"If we weren't going to win the game," said Stephens, "the way they played the second half of the fourth quarter kind of epitomizes what these guys stood for all year.
"They could have easily chalked it up as a loss. They're not the type to do that. When push came to shove they really, deep down, felt that they could win all the time. Even [down 11 against Great Valley] they felt they could win. I saw it in their eyes. We came pretty close. We just ran out of time."
Stephens credits his seniors for setting the tone for the season, and giving his team its never-say-die attitude.
"Austin, Astin and Nate, I thought they went out the right way," he said. "We try to preach the right message all year long. Sometimes kids respond to that and sometimes they don't. I think these kids really did respond. I think they epitomized the team.
"Everyone wants to play, that's why you are part of the team. But there was never a chip on anyone's shoulder. They all stuck up for one another. It was a good year."