Lady Trojans beat Central Catholic
Consider a major message sent from Parkland to the rest of the Lehigh Valley Conference girls basketballl teams.
Not only are the Lady Trojans now 10-0 in the LVC and 13-4 overall, but they've notched a win against Central Catholic (14-2 overall, 6-2 in the LVC) to help send that message.
"We've done a great job against teams that are our tier or below us, but as far as rising to the challenge and beating the league powers, that's something that we've struggled with," said Parkland head coach Wes Spence of the 42-38 win over the Vikettes.
"We hadn't beaten Central Catholic before and I know I have a losing record against Nazareth. Beca we were able to get last year in the league tournament and so, with this win, I'm hoping that's starting to turn the tide and that we are able to compete with that top tier program."
This week will go a long way in helping Parkland determine how well it can compete with those programs, because the Trojans are on another stretch of four games in five days and all of the games are against tough opponents.
The win over Central Catholic started the week on the right note, but still remaining this week are Bethlehem Catholic (14-2, 9-0), Nazareth (12-3, 6-2) and Cumberland Valley (15-2), who ranks as the top team in Pennsylvania. The Lady Trojans defeated Nazareth 40-26 at home early in the season, but the Blue Eagles are playing much better basketball and have gone 12-1 since that game, with their only loss being to Bethlehem Catholic by two points.
Even with the tough schedule that the team faces, Spence doesn't believe his players are at all intimidated. In fact, he thinks it's just the opposite and is glad to see his team having fun through what could have been a season made much more difficult by a batch of postponements due to bad weather.
"I think the girls embrace it," he said. "When we had that challenge of playing eight games in 10 days, they embraced it; they were looking forward to it and were excited to be playing basketball. There's been plenty said about Central Catholic.
"There's been plenty said about Bethlehem Catholic and Nazareth is one of the hottest teams in our league right now and Cumberland Valley is a fantastic team. I think they've heard about these teams and for us, it's a chance to see how we stack up."
Things could have gone very badly for Parkland against the Vikettes when Erica Bross missed her first five shots of the game, but senior Olivia Brown was there to help pick up the slack, scoring seven first-half points and a game-high 18 points.
Parkland went the last 6:15 of the second quarter without scoring, but the Trojans' defense also held down Central Catholic's offense. When Bross started to hit her shots in the second half, everything fell into place and Parkland grabbed some control over the game.
Bross finished with 10 points, including hitting two key foul shots down the stretch, while Erin Bross hit a foul shot with :05 remaining in the game to put her team up by four points, effectively sealing the win.
"I knew that I was short on my shots and I needed to pick it up," said Erica Bross. "I just started to get more confident and I wanted to get that win.
"This is such a big win because they're Allentown Central Catholic and they're such a great basketball team. We're ready to play Beca and beat them, too."
The win was made a little bigger because Bross and her twin sister, Erin, gained bragging rights in the household with the win over the Vikettes, who are led by older sister Ashley Bross, a senior.
Spence believes that Brown and Erica Bross are key players on the team and has been impressed with how they've approached the season.
"They're both good players," said Spence. "Olivia's been constant, not just tonight, but the whole year, she's been very steady. Earlier in the year when we were having trouble finding points, she was that steady point producer.
"Erica has done a great job over the last couple of weeks of sort of coming into her own and finding her niche within what we're doing and you're seeing it payoff. Her points per game production is steadily going up from about three points per game to about six points per game now and I expect that to increase as she progresses and gains more confidence."
The win over Central Catholic also clinched an LVC playoff spot for Parkland and another conference win or a conference loss by Nazareth would assure them of the North Division title.