Story first appeared in the Dec. 15, 2016 edition of The Parkland Press and on thelehighvalleypress.com.
The Parkland boys’ basketball team lost four starters to graduation this offseason.
The fresh lineup showed its inexperience in the team’s 2016-17 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference opener as the Trojans lost to the Bethlehem Catholic, 61-58, on Tuesday night in Bethlehem.
Parkland (0-2, 0-1 EPC) never led in the game as the Hawks (3-0, 1-0) jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it, including an 18-5 lead after the first quarter of play. The Trojans scored just one field goal in the opening frame, which made it 3-2 with 6:15 remaining in the quarter. That was the closest Parkland got to Bethlehem Catholic in the contest.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Parkland head coach Andy Stephens said. “We dug ourselves a hole. To be down 24-6, I don’t care who you are playing, it is a hard thing to overcome.”
The Trojans seemed poised to overcome it as they ended the second quarter on a 15-6 scoring run in the final five minutes of the period. Heading into the locker room, Parkland cut the deficit to just eight, 30-22.
Parkland got the score to 37-34 midway through the third quarter after an old-fashioned three-point play by junior Jake Bartholomew, who finished with 10 points. Following that sequence, Bethlehem Catholic went on a 7-0 run over the next three minutes to extend its lead to back 10 points.
In the final frame, the Golden Hawks were able to keep the Trojans at bay. The closest Parkland got to Bethlehem Catholic was three points in those final eight minutes.
Senior Sam Iorio led Parkland with a game-high 22 points. Michael Zeky finished with 18 points. Iorio is the lone returner from last season’s starting lineup, which Stephens cites as one of the reasons for the way this season has started.
“We are playing four new starters and we are trying to find the right guys to compete and get in [the game]. It’s really challenging right now,” he said.
Bethlehem Catholic was led by the duo of sophomore Justin Paz and junior Ryan Young. Paz finished with a team-high 21 points while Young finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
“The bottom line is we weren’t ready to play and we have to be better prepared,” he said. “We have to shoot better, but it doesn’t come down to just shooting better. Our mindset needs to be different before games and different guys have to step up.”
The team continues its season-opening road trip on Friday night when it visits Stroudsburg at 7 p.m. and Council Rock South on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. before hosting Emmaus on Dec. 20 in its 2016-17 home opener at 7 p.m.
“They played well,” Stephens said of Tuesday’s opponent. “Give Beca credit. They played well and we didn’t. We have to figure it out or it’s going to be a long season.”