Parkland Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBSam Iorio and the Parkland boys basketball team look to make a playoff push in the second half of the 2016-17 season. Copyright - DON HERB PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBSam Iorio and the Parkland boys basketball team look to make a playoff push in the second half of the 2016-17 season. Copyright - DON HERB

PHS boys team is still searching for idenity

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 by CJ HEMERLY Special to the Press in Sports

It has been a different type of season thus far for the Parkland boys basketball team. A program that is used to being on top of the standings has started 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, which is good for fifth place in the Skyline Division out of six teams.

But the basketball regular season ends in early February, not in January, and the Trojans have time to figure things out and add some more victories to their resume.

After all, the five-time defending District 11 champions lost the core of their team after last year, including four starters.

“The game plan or philosophy hasn’t changed much from last year,” said head coach Andy Stephens. “We are actually still in the process of creating a new culture and identity for this year’s team. We will keep having competitive, structured practices to keep improving every day. We are gaining a lot of experience during the first part of the season that should help us when the games get more important.”

The league has a lot of parity this year, with several teams bringing back a ton of experienced players from last year, unlike Parkland. Allen (11-0 overall, 6-0 EPC) is ranked the top-ranked team in the state and hosts the Trojans on February 6. Division rival Emmaus (9-1, 6-1) is also ranked in 6A, with its only loss coming against the Canaries.

The Trojans also have the opportunity to play 5A state-ranked Whitehall (9-2, 7-1) again, after losing to the Zephyrs earlier in the year, and an improving Central Catholic (7-3, 4-3) team two times after Tuesday’s game was postponed due to weather.

Along with league foes, Parkland also faces Lancaser McCaskey and Scranton Prep, which is part of a difficult nonleague schedule that includes game already played against Lower Merion, Council Rock South and Hazleton.

“We have played some good teams and have had some close games,” said Stephens. “The league from top-to-bottom is really good this year. We need to keep working hard and stay positive, and things should be OK.

“We always want a competitive non-league schedule when it allows us to. We feel that that will best prepare us for our goals each season.”

Lone returning starter and senior Sam Iorio leads the team in scoring at 20.8 points per game. Junior Jake Bartholomew (10.8 ppg) and senior Michael Zeky (10.4 ppg) have seen their roles increase since last year, and are counted on to balance the scoring.

“Sam has been pretty solid this year,” Stephens said. “Some of the less experienced guys from last year are starting to build confidence, play better, and have really been finding their roles on the team. Collectively, they’ve been doing a good job.”

Parkland faces East Stroudsburg North Friday night before its rematch against Emmaus next Tuesday.