Tweak to defense puts Deer Lakes boys basketball team in the zone

Friday, December 31, 2021 | 12:47 PM

For the majority of his coaching career, Terence Parham has favored a stack 2-3 zone defense, but this summer, he and his assistant Albie Fletcher made a change to their tactics.

The Deer Lakes boys basketball team is employing a 1-3-1 zone, and early returns show it has been a success.

The Lancers held opponents to fewer than 50 points in six consecutive games and are off to a 6-1 start.

“Something I’ve always preached going back to my days at Shady Side and now in my six years here at Deer Lakes is that if we could hold teams under 50 points that we could give ourselves a chance to pull a game out,” Parham said.

The change in strategy started when Parham asked Fletcher to handle the defensive calls.

Parham and Fletcher’s shared love for the way former Michigan and West Virginia coach John Beilein coached his 1-3-1 zone was part of the inspiration for the switch.

“Albie is doing some great things with his zone principles, and our guys have been in the system for a while, so there’s less thinking and more reacting,” Parham said. “We were both fans of coach Beilein and a lot of the principles with our stack 2-3 are kind of similar to the 1-3-1, so the kids are picking it up quickly.”

The Lancers held Avonworth, Knoch and Freeport under 50 points in consecutive games and yielded only 20 in a win over Springdale at their annual holiday tournament Wednesday. They finished the tournament with a 52-45 win over Armstrong.

Having a veteran team with four returning starters in Bryce Robson, Armend Karpuzi, Lucas Tiglio and Justin Brannagan has helped make it a seamless transition. Deer Lakes also has other players with experience such as Billy Schaeffer, Derek Burk and Michael Butler.

“Experience helps, but it is also about Basketball IQ,” Parham said. “We have some guys that have become students of the game. As a staff, we’ve prided ourselves on teaching them how to watch film and things of that nature. We have seven or eight guys that have started games for us and that goes a long way. These guys are close on and off the court.

“In years past, I’ve found myself pointing out every single option that you can do, where this year we have guys that can see those options without us breaking it down in practice or having to call a timeout to point it out. They’re reacting. The less thinking you have to do, the more athletic you can be. That’s the difference with this year’s team. I’m not knocking our team that came two games away from making it to Hershey (in 2019). It’s just different types of teams.”

Parham said he has to do a better job finding ways to get the Lancers more in sync on offense to complement the defense, but can sense it is coming together. He said this is the best all-around shooting team he has coached, and once they find their potential, the Lancers will be more dangerous as the season progresses.

“We’re not scoring the way we want to right now, the way that we’d like to. But I still stand by that this is my best shooting team that I’ve ever had,” Parham said. “We keep working on it in practice and sooner or later this is going to click. When it does click, I feel like we will be a tough out.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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