The Parkland boys basketball program saw itself in an unfamiliar spot two weekends ago at the Stellar Catch A Rising Star Showcase. The Trojans were eliminated before Sunday’s playoff action. Champions the year prior, the team had an earlier exit than usually expected of the Trojans.
But last weekend was a different story. Parkland was back to playing deep into the summer premier tournaments, advancing to the Elite 8 before dropping a seven-point game to eventual champ Liberty at the Sportsfest A-town Throwdown event held at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown.
With the growing phenomenon that AAU basketball is, the high-profile showcase tournaments, where players can be scouted by college coaches, have been a must-attend for prospects that want to play college basketball. These events happen on many different weekends during the summer months, mostly in July. That has hurt local teams from the Lehigh Valley when it comes to the two major basketball tournaments that the District 11 teams are able to showcase their teams and what they will look like come the winter season.
AAU basketball is not just a huge phenomenon for high school boys anymore, it has begun to grow more and more popular in the girls game, too.
That was evident in the Parkland girls basketball roster at the 21st annual Stellar “Catch A Rising Star” Showcase Tournament at Cedar Beach last weekend. Head coach Wes Spence has always had to deal with his players being multi-sport athletes, but even more so this year, he dealt with key personnel missing due to AAU tournaments.
One couldn’t tell the Parkland and Liberty boys basketball teams that last Thursday night’s game was just a summer league game. The two teams battled all game and into an extra frame in the regular season finale of the Stellar Summer League at Cedar Beach Park. The Trojans were the only team to score in overtime, and took the game 66-64.
Rising junior Jake Bartholomew led the way with a team-high 19 points. Senior Sam Iorio tacked on 16 points, and classmate Michael Zeky added 10 for the hot-shooting Trojans, who hit 12 three-pointers in the game.
Northern Valley head coach Brad Rauch explained how his team got out of a 2-5 hole to start the year, to being tied for third place entering Tuesday night’s game against second place South Parkland.
“After we started 2-5, our coaches sat down with the players and just preached focus,” Rauch said. “Our pitching really stepped up over the last eight games (6-2) and our hitting picked up. But we had some trouble holding leads, and made too many mistakes on the field.”
A mistake came back to haunt the Chargers last Tuesday evening at Parkland High School.
It was an exciting game. But that is expected when North Parkland meets South Parkland in any sport.
Each team had a four-run inning, and some great plays on defense, but it came down to starting pitching. Trojans starter Matthew Mellinger pitched a complete-game six hitter and gave up five runs to lead his team to a 7-5 victory last Tuesday night against the Buffaloes at Parkland High School in a Lehigh Valley Legion baseball game.
According to many of the Parkland boys lacrosse players, 2016 was a successful year. Even though the Trojans did not achieve their end goal of a District 11 championship, they were one goal away from that elusive title, and advanced further than some Lehigh Valley lacrosse fans thought that they would.
“Playing for the Parkland program has truly been a blessing,” said senior goalie Joey Stevenson. “The coaches were awesome and the guys were a lot of fun through all four years.
Andrew Hillman graduated Tuesday night and is headed to Columbus, Ohio, in two months. But before that the Trojan alum can reflect on his boys volleyball career, one which saw the Ohio State commit accomplish a lot of success and garner a ton of accolades along the way.
Hillman was one of 12 graduating seniors from the 2016 Parkland team that won four straight league titles, three consecutive District 11 titles and a PIAA championship. They were three match wins from back-to-back state titles, but fell in the last game to eventual state champ Hempfield two weeks ago.
When Parkland boys basketball fans last saw their team, the Trojans were playing in the PIAA tournament with a team that featured four seniors who were all returning starters from the previous season.
Head coach Andy Stephens is tasked with replacing those four and two other seniors who gave him minutes off the bench.
Last Thursday night at Cedar Beach park in the Stellar Summer League, one of those returning players stepped up and help lead Parkland (5-1 overall) to a 56-35 win over Nazareth.
They knew they were bound to meet each other again. The Parkland and Hempfield boys volleyball teams played in a tightly contested four-match set a year ago in the PIAA state semifinals. They met in the same gym this year in the quarterfinal round. But this time, there was a different result.
The Trojans (20-2 overall) could not get out of an early hole in the fifth game, losing to the Black Knights 18-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19 and 15-5 last Saturday afternoon at Exeter High School, ending their quest at a second straight state championship.