Boys make deep run
Before the final of the varsity boys basketball game on Sunday night, Tony Stellar said it best when he stated that, "All of these teams played against the best, because this is the number one basketball tournament in the country."
The Parkland boys basketball team was able to take part in the annual double-elimination Stellar Catch A Rising Star Tournament, which began on Thursday and concluded Sunday.
The weekend consisted of many of the local teams in the Lehigh Valley Conference, Colonial League, and Mountain Valley Conference, but also featured teams from outside the Lehigh Valley, and Pennsylvania. This year, Glens Falls from New York, the alma mater of NBA player Jimmer Fredette, and Faith Christian from Orlando Florida highlighted the out-of-town teams.
The goal for every team heading into this event is to make it to Sunday, to get as much playing in as possible. The Trojans did just that, and more.
On opening night, Parkland defeated Warwick out of District 3 by a score of 60-42. Justin Zajko tallied 17 points in the win.
Next up on Saturday morning, the Trojans had little work to do as Delaware Valley forfeited, and gave Parkland the valuable rest it would need to make a deep run. That may have gone against the Jrojans as they came out slow and were taken down by eventual tournament runner-up Faith Christian Academy (Florida) 55-43.
Parkland had a long road to climb through the elimination bracket. With the sun beating down and exhaustion kicking it, the Trojans kept winning and advancing, playing a total of six games in a span of less than 12 hours.
Parkland head coach Andy Stephens had the rough task of trying to keep his players rested and healthy in the heat.
"It reaches the point when you get in the losers bracket on Sunday [and] you have to be careful with injuries and dehydration," he said. "That takes not only a physical toll but a psychological one, too."
Parkland ran through its first three games, beating Easton, Bangor, and Lower Dauphin all by double digits. There were three different leading scorers (Zajko 16, Devante Cross 9, and Nick Rindock 12) each game.
Then, as expected, it got a bit tougher. The Trojans were taken to overtime in a 50-46 win over Pius X, which was followed by a 47-46 win against Trinity, one that Cross and Zajko missed due to injury.
The long ride came to an end in the tournament semifinals. A well-rested Wilson West Lawn team took it to Parkland, 54-16.
"I think the biggest thing is we got better," said Stephens. "Guys on the bench got a lot of playing time. Some guys got the opportunity to showcase their abilities. I feel pretty good about playing until [late afternoon] on Sunday."
The Trojans will now look to defend their Sportsfest crown this weekend at Cedar Beach. Rindock was named to the All-Tournament first team.
The Parkland JV team also won two games at the Stellar tournament, losing one round before facing off against the varsity.
"I'm loving coaching the guys I have right now, but I'm really looking forward to the future too," said Stephens. "They play well together and they have great attitudes. They're going to be a pretty good team."