In almost every game of the 2014-15 season, the Parkland boys basketball team was clearly the better of the two teams. Even in a last-second loss to Saint Joe's Prep, their only loss on the year, the Trojans could have seen themselves on the winning end.
But last Wednesday night at Souderton High School, Parkland (28-2) ran into a buzz saw that was Pennsbury High School (24-6).
The Falcons were the better team on the court in every aspect. They were bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive on the evening, and took down the District 11 champ 57-41.
In the days leading up to their PIAA Class AAAA first-round matchup against District One's eighth-place team, Conestoga, boys basketball head coach Andy Stephens reiterated that this was not an ordinary eighth seed from the district. And they showed why last Saturday afternoon at Allen High School.
The Pioneers entered their conference tournament as the top seed, but lost their way and dropped in the rankings.
It was a different group of players that took the court at Freedom High School's gymnasium last Saturday night, but they brought home the same result. The Parkland boys basketball team defeated Whitehall 46-38 to win its third consecutive District 11 Class AAAA championship.
It was another game that the Trojans are unaccustomed to, a slow-tempo pace to keep them from doing what they do best. Pocono Mountain West did it to them a week earlier in the quarterfinals, and Saturday night was the fourth time Parkland (27-1) faced the Zephyrs in the last month and a half.
You won't usually hear their names announced in the starting lineup, and you usually won't see them as the high scorer of the game, but seniors Kevin Delourie and Justin Jones are integral parts of the Parkland boys basketball program.
They are the two lone seniors for the Trojans, and they bring a lot more to the table than just their statistics. Spending three years as varsity members, and four years in the Parkland program, head coach Andy Stephens has been able spend a lot of time with the two and knows what they can do for his team.
Good teams win games even when things become challenging. In a game against Southern Lehigh Monday night at Steel Ice Center, Parkland (14-0-1) was down two defensive skaters, and was forced to play two players who aren't normally on the ice full-time as defensemen.
Nick White missed the game due to illness and David Van Horn left early because of an injury, so head coach Matt Chandik was forced to rely on two forwards to help anchor the defense.
Just over a year ago, while a junior on the Parkland wrestling team, Jacob Lizak was able to share a milestone with his older brother.
Ethan Lizak, now a freshman wrestler at the University of Minnesota, picked up win number 100 last year to join an elite wrestling fraternity.
Then, one year later, in a January match against Emmaus, Jacob Lizak followed in the footsteps of hi older brother by earning win number 100.
Pocono Mountain West head coach Brad Pensyl must have watched game tape on the latest Parkland-Whitehall basketball game.
The Panthers (14-10) used a similar approach to the slow-down tempo that the Zephyrs tried against the Trojans to keep the scoring down and remain in the contest.
Before the start of the 2014-15 season, coaches, media and fans alike believed that the Parkland boys basketball team was the clear favorite in the new Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
The Trojans followed up those high expectations by winning all 16 of their games in the EPC regular season. They grabbed a pair of EPC tournament wins to the league title game, all while taking the best shot from each opponent.
The Parkland boys basketball team has had a successful run as of late. The Trojans are the two-time defending District 11 Class AAAA champions, and are favorites to bring home a third straight in two weeks.
But even with the good teams, and the district titles, Parkland could not get over the conference tournament hump.
After not winning a title in the 12-season history of the Lehigh Valley Conference despite five appearances in the championship game, the 2015 Parkland squad wouldn't be denied.
The Parkland ice hockey team had size in numbers, and used that as an edge. Freedom just did not have the numbers to throw out onto the ice at the Trojans.
With nine healthy skaters, including their goalie, the Patriots could not even rotate two full shifts.
Even with those low numbers, Freedom (5-10 overall) kept the game close until the last half of the final period.
Trailing just 2-1 midway through the third period, all of those minutes of ice time may have finally caught up to the Patriots.