Parkland Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBParkland’s Lindsay Berger goes up for a shot during a recent win over East Strodsburg North. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_ PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERBParkland’s Lindsay Berger goes up for a shot during a recent win over East Strodsburg North. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_

Girls face late-season challenges

Friday, January 19, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

The final three weeks of the regular season are going to be very interesting in Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls basketball.

There are three teams – Bethlehem Catholic (5-1 EPC, 9-2 overall), Easton (7-1, 11-2) and Parkland (7-1, 8-4) – with just one conference loss and four others – Allen (4-2, 8-2), Freedom (6-2, 10-2), Northampton (6-2, 9-3) and Stroudsburg (6-2, 9-3) – with just two losses.

Some of these teams have wins against each other, including Freedom’s big win over Beca last week. Easton team has eight wins in a row overall. Central Catholic (5-3, 7-5) and Nazareth (5-3, 9-5) have just three conference losses and a number of teams, like Emmaus (2-5, 5-7), are playing better in the second half of the season and are fighting for enough wins to reach districts.

Parkland has one game against Northampton and two against Nazareth over the final three weeks, which will determine a lot about how they finish the regular season. They were set to play Emmaus Tuesday night before that game was postponed and moved to Monday. The Trojans will now host Nazareth Friday night before facing Emmaus Monday and Central Catholic the next night.

“We weren’t overlooking Emmaus at all,” said Parkland head coach Wes Spence. “Now, when we can get back into the gym though, it’s going to be all about playing Nazareth. I’m sure the girls will be ready for that game.”

The Lady Trojans jumped right into the fire this season with an opener against Central Dauphin followed by the game at Bethlehem Catholic that saw them start 0-2 this season. They also had a tough trip to Florida – at least as tough as a winter trip to the Sunshine State can be – where they played some of the best teams in the country.

It would have been understandable if the players came out of all of that a little shell-shocked, but they didn’t. They understood that they lost to good teams and that there was way too much season left to start hanging their heads. They went back to work and have picked up six straight wins since their Florida trip and have themselves in a good spot for the rest of the season.

“We thought this team would be pretty resilient, but you never know for sure,” said Spence. “They’ve just went on about their business and it hasn’t rattled them and in fact, they just worked harder because of the early losses.”

Nazareth and Parkland are constant opponents who face each other at least twice per season because they’re division rivals. It’s not uncommon for the two to see each other in the EPC playoffs and/or in districts as well.

Gone are the Blue Eagles’ big guns from last season in graduates Tessa Bruglar and Jess Durnin, but they have reloaded with Talya Brugler and a stash of tall, athletic players. They also have twins Madison and Morgan Amey returning.

“They have a very nice group and they always seem to have these girls who are long and athletic come through and they get around the offensive boards well,” said Spence. “They always have guards who shoot the ball well from the outside, so they can do a little bit of everything.”

Last season, the two teams met twice in 11 days with Nazareth winning each game by just three points. The last time that the Lady Trojans beat Nazareth was on the final day of the regular season two years ago.

“If you look at their scores, win or lose, they’re playing everybody tough,” said Spence. “They played Easton tough twice and they were tough with Northampton [41-40 loss] and Central [26-24 loss].”

Three of the Eagles losses this season, including two EPC losses, have come by just one point and a fourth was by just two points. Their biggest loss of the season was when they dropped a 48-34 game at Easton last week.