Parsons, Strickland help Mountaineers run over Spartans

By Tom Robinson - For Dallas Post
Dallas’ Matt Mathers (No. 21) fights the defense of Wyoming Valley West’s Devon Rhodes during Tuesday’s game at Pittston Area High School. - Sean McKeag | Dallas Post
Dallas’ Nick Kocher scores against Wyoming Valley West during Tuesday’s game. - Sean McKeag | Dallas Post
Dallas’ Jay Bittner runs up the court during Tuesday’s game against Wyoming Valley West. - Sean McKeag | Dallas Post

YATESVILLE – Joey Parsons started the postseason with a burst Tuesday night to make sure Wyoming Valley West never led against Dallas.

When Brody Strickland came off the bench to join Parsons for an extended run in the third quarter, it was clear the Spartans no longer had any hope of catching the Mountaineers.

Parsons did a little of everything with 19 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots and Strickland scored all 10 of his points in the second half as Dallas advanced with a 75-39 rout in a District 2 Class 5A boys basketball quarterfinal at Pittston Area High School.

Dallas scored the game’s first six points and opened an 11-2 lead.

The Spartans managed to gain ground slightly over the next 12 minutes to find themselves within 30-24 nearly two minutes into the second half.

Enter Strickland.

“I just try to help the starters out,” Strickland said.

He did.

Parsons scored eight points and Strickland added seven as Dallas closed the third quarter on a 22-3 run, then added the first basket of the fourth quarter to make it 54-27.

“He has his role and he does it well,” Dallas coach Mark Belenski said after putting Strickland in the pure sixth-man role, using him as the only sub for the first three quarters while giving each of the starters a brief rest. “Rebound the basketball, play defense and, if he has the shot, make it.

“He has a great shot.”

Although his first role is generally as a post player battling inside and getting rebounds, that shot keeps his coach comfortable when Strickland steps outside, as he did while making both his 3-point attempts.

“They were in a zone, so I was trying to work it inside at first,” Strickland said. “Once I saw everyone else going inside, they collapsed so I popped outside.

“The threes were open.”

Parsons started the decisive run by hitting a 3-pointer with 6:12 left in the third quarter to end a streak of seven straight misses by the Mountaineers from beyond the arc.

Strickland scored the next four points on a basket off an Alex Charlton feed, then two free throws.

Charlton then set up baskets by both Parsons and Matt Mathers before Jay Bittner drained a 3-pointer to complete a streak of 14 straight points in just 2:40.

Draig Ruff hit a 3-pointer for Wyoming Valley West, then Dallas ran off 10 more, including consecutive 3-pointers by Parsons and Strickland to end the third quarter.

The offensive outbursts were helped by extended stretches of strong defense by the Mountaineers.

“We started with our defense and we finished with our defense,” Belenski said. “We had a little lapse there at the end of the second quarter. We got a little funky there, but we went over some things at halftime and picked up our intensity.”

In the third quarter, the defense simply stopped Wyoming Valley West cold.

To begin the game, the Mountaineers stole and swatted the ball away at every opportunity.

Charlton and Bittner scored the first two baskets of the game off steals that produced layups.

The Mountaineers picked up momentum from blocking four of the first nine shots by the Spartans.

When Wyoming Valley West managed to score for the first time, Parsons had the next five points for the 11-2 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter.

First, he hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. Then, he provided the game’s most memorable play.

Parsons went up high to grab a rebound over two Spartans and slammed it through in one motion, hanging briefly on the rim while his opponents ducked below his feet.

“He’s a special athlete,” Belenski said.

Bittner finished with 15 points and six steals. Mathers had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Charlton had six assists.

Jack Farrell came off the bench to hit three of four shots in the fourth quarter, joining Nick Kocher and Charlton as the Mountaineers got at least six points from each of their top seven players.

The win advanced Dallas into Friday’s District 2 semifinals where it was playing for a spot in the finals at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township. If the Mountaineers won that game, they would also qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2006.

Dallas’ Matt Mathers (No. 21) fights the defense of Wyoming Valley West’s Devon Rhodes during Tuesday’s game at Pittston Area High School.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_DHSboys1-1.jpgDallas’ Matt Mathers (No. 21) fights the defense of Wyoming Valley West’s Devon Rhodes during Tuesday’s game at Pittston Area High School. Sean McKeag | Dallas Post

Dallas’ Nick Kocher scores against Wyoming Valley West during Tuesday’s game.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_DHsboys2-1.jpgDallas’ Nick Kocher scores against Wyoming Valley West during Tuesday’s game. Sean McKeag | Dallas Post

Dallas’ Jay Bittner runs up the court during Tuesday’s game against Wyoming Valley West.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_DHSboys3-1.jpgDallas’ Jay Bittner runs up the court during Tuesday’s game against Wyoming Valley West. Sean McKeag | Dallas Post

By Tom Robinson

For Dallas Post

Reach the Dallas Post newsroom at 570-704-3982 or by email at news@mydallaspost.com.

Reach the Dallas Post newsroom at 570-704-3982 or by email at news@mydallaspost.com.