Parkland avenges OT loss to Allen
Coming into last Saturday night's District 11 Class AAAA quarterfinal matchup against Allen, Parkland head coach Andy Stephens expected it to be a tight contest, especially with the two teams battling for six quarters the last time they met on January 24.
But this time around was a completely different story, and was seemingly over after the first eight minutes.
Parkland (19-5) used a combination of a balanced offense and a smothering defense to open up a 29-9 lead midway through the second quarter, and rout Allen 59-44 at Easton Middle School.
The Trojans outscored Allen 19-9 in the quarter to take a 34-16 halftime lead. The Canaries (14-10) made just 7 of 26 shots in the first half and committed seven turnovers.
"We've always focused on defense going back to the beginning of the year, but at the end of the year we've added some drills and done some different things in practice that have improved the defense," Stephens said. "We've made the kids understand that if we're going to win and be good, we have to turn it up a notch defensively. The way we've been practicing has converted to games."
Senior Nick Rindock, who was second on the team with 14 points, believes defense was the reason the Trojans were more successful agaisnt Allen this time.
"Earlier in the season we weren't playing as great of defense as we are now," said Rindock. "We've really been focused in on our defense. That's what gets us going. We're not having trouble scoring the ball, so we have to get it started with good defense."
Parkland has never had a tough time scoring the ball. Rindock, along with his senior teammates Jimmy Hahn (10 points) and Justin Zajko (15 points), paced the Trojans on both ends of the court.
"It's huge to have the experience we have," said Rindock. "We're used to playing in environments like this. The pressure doesn't get to us."
There was never much pressure on the Trojans in this one. Midway through the second quarter, Zajko hit a milestone. His free-throw gave him 1,000 career points.
"It's a big thing for me because there's not many [1,000 point scorers] at Parkland," Zajko said. "I think I'd rather get another district championship with my team. I thanked my teammates, my coaches, and my family for supporting me."
Allen actually made a late push, outscoring Parkland 21-8 in the fourth quarter to make the final score a bit deceiving. But as a whole, the Trojans accomplished what they wanted to by showing the Canaries the last game was a fluke and by advancing to the district semifinals.
"The first game with them was really close, and tonight we just wanted to really stick it to them," Zajko said. "Our defense was very good and the offense came around. We played well and we're happy about that. This is when you want to play your best basketball. We're coming together as a team."
The Trojans will now face No. 6 seed Stroudsburg on Wednesday night at Allen. The Mounties were 71-42 winners over No. 3 seed East Stroudsburg North,last week.
Parkland needs just one win in its next two games to earn a trip to states. A semifinal win would put the Trojans in the district title game and clinch the state berth. A semifinal loss will put them in the third-place game with the winner and advancing to states.