Parkland Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Sam Iorio tried to get around a Liberty defender during last week's game. PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Sam Iorio tried to get around a Liberty defender during last week's game.

Trojan defense leads to win over Freedom

Thursday, January 23, 2014 by CJ HEMERLY Special to the Press in HS Sports

For much of the season, the Parkland boys basketball team has gotten off to slower starts but eventually turned it on later in the game. Last Friday night at Freedom High School was no different.

The best teams are those who go into the locker room and make the needed adjustments to pull out victories.

After leading by only four at the intermission, the Trojans outscored the Patriots 29-16 over the final 16 minutes en route to a 55-38 win.

"We like to focus on our defense if our offense is struggling," said senior forward Justin Zajko, back after missing the Emmaus game with an illness. "We wanted to hold them to less points. And good defense leads to transition points."

After defeating Liberty the next night (Saturday), Parkland (11-2 overall, 6-2 Lehigh Valley Conference) finished off a rough stretch of playing seven games in 10 days. The Trojans went 6-1 in that stretch.

"I think every coach probably does it differently," said head coach Andy Stephens. "We had a hard practice Wednesday, and that was after playing five games in six days. And (Thursday) we only went for about an hour. But all high school kids want to do is just play. It's more mentally than anything. We just have to keep them focused."

Both teams struggled from the field early. Parkland shot 5-for-14 and the Patriots went 4-for-12 during the first eight minutes.

Zajko and fellow senior Nick Rindock had all of their team's points, combining for 12.

Senior forward David Williams did his part to keep his team in it. He tallied nine of the 11 first-quarter points, scoring three different ways (a three-pointer, two field goals, and two free throws). Najee Cash had the other two points for Freedom (5-8 overall, 4-3 LVC), as the Pates trailed 12-11 after one.

It was more of the same in the second quarter for the Trojans. Along with Rindock and Zajko, freshman Sam Iorio chipped in four points, but the shooting woes still haunted Parkland. Luckily for the Trojans, they weren't alone.

Freedom matched their point total in the second quarter with five different players scoring. Dashaun Neufville, Nigel Long, Williams, Nick Sharpe, and Jeff Toronto all chipped in points, and the Patriots still were hanging around, down 26-22 at halftime.

But things changed in the final 16 minutes.

Freedom only scored 16 points, shooting 7-for-25 from the field. Parkland, on the other hand, tallied 29 points over the final two quarters and had no problem finding a rhythm offensively.

The Trojans moved the ball more, and shot the ball better. Ryan Keller (six points), Alex Mitton (two points) and Justin Jones (three points) all contributed to the scoring effort in the second half.

There were only six Trojan players to score points, but their defense, leading to 15 Patriots turnovers, made up for an off night from the field by the offense.

Zajko led the way finishing with a game-high 22 points. Rindock tallied 15, and Iorio added seven.