The Morning Call (Sunday)
Lloyd, Barbosa finally square off
Two former Lehigh Valley high school all-stars are now coaching area programs in unique circumstances
Jerry Lloyd and Ray Barbosa met near the scorer’s table for a brief pregame chat Friday. Postgame, they posed for a photo.
After missing one another by a couple of years during their high school careers, two of the Lehigh Valley’s best boys basketball players from the past 25 years shared a court at last, this time as coaches.
The ensuing 70 minutes revealed a gulf between their current programs.
Barbosa, the former Allen great in his third season as Executive Education Academy Charter’s coach, wants to guide the Raptors to a third straight District 11 title. Lloyd, a Whitehall legend in his first season at Northwestern Lehigh, hopes to build the Tigers into consistent competitors.
Northwestern Lehigh couldn’t keep pace with Executive’s perimeter shooting and athleticism Friday. The Raptors led by 27 points at halftime and 38 after three quarters in rolling to a 66-31 nonleague win.
Lloyd expected a challenging night for his Northwestern Lehigh debut. Unlike the Tigers, Executive (2-1 overall) had two games under its belt before Friday. The Raptors split a doubleheader Dec. 11, the day before a three-week statewide ban on youth and high school sports began as Pennsylvania sought to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Northwestern Lehigh’s players exited that three-week pause in decent playing shape, which pleased Lloyd. The Tigers’ early effort Friday reinforced that his program-building remains in its infancy.
“Ray does a really nice job,” Lloyd said. “He had his kids prepared tonight. We knew that they would be prepared coming in. Credit to them. He does a really nice job
with a good group of kids.”
Friday’s result aside, Lloyd knows what it takes to win in high school basketball.
He scored 1,544 points at Whitehall and was The Morning Call Player of the Year as a senior in 1998. He played college basketball at Mount Saint Mary’s before going into coaching, first as an assistant at several schools and then as the head coach at Phillipsburg (N.J.). He went 40-38 in three seasons there before departing for Northwestern Lehigh.
Lloyd, of course, never played through a pandemic. Taking over a program during one — Northwestern Lehigh hired him in May — has provided challenges aplenty.
The Tigers played no summer basketball but spent some time together in the fall. Three weeks of preseason practice had them ready to start their season in mid-December. Then came the three-week pause that took them through the holidays and into this week.
“We set some things up for them to do on their own,” Lloyd said. “The seniors did a really nice job monitoring things through the phone and stuff like that, then we had some Zoom meetings.
“Look, this stuff is going to take a while. We’ve practiced together as a team for three weeks. Offensively, defensively, things aren’t going to look pretty all the time — we understand that.
“We’re just trying to get to the point of playing hard and competing every night — that’s the main goal. Once we can do that, the other stuff will come.”
Barbosa expects Lloyd to have Northwestern Lehigh winning sooner than later. While Barbosa never played against Lloyd, he remembered watching Lloyd win a 1997 District 11 Class 4A title with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a five-overtime game against Parkland.
Having Lloyd bring Northwestern Lehigh to Executive mattered to Barbosa, The Morning Call Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003 while at Allen. His first two seasons at Executive were filled with road trips to Philadelphia and other parts of the state as most Lehigh Valley teams declined to play the Raptors.
Executive has already played two Colonial League programs this year — Notre Dame-Green Pond visited Dec. 11.
“It was great to coach against him,” Barbosa said. “I love coaching against peers that played on the same level I did. It’s kind of awesome for us to come back to the area and teach the kids what we know, give them life lessons and teach them the game the way that we learned it when we were growing up.
“We thank Jerry for coming down and wish him luck the rest of the way.”
While Lloyd looks to make Northwestern Lehigh competitive in the Colonial League, Barbosa has a different mission with Executive. The Raptors don’t play in a league. Their goal is continuing to win District 11 titles and earn PIAA playoff berths. They have jumped to 3A this season after spending the past two seasons in 2A.
Senior wing Jevin Muniz, a Morning Call all-area first-team selection last season, gives the Raptors one proven performer. Barbosa wants to build the young group around Muniz during whatever regular-season games Executive plays. It has three home games scheduled in the next nine days, provided it doesn’t endure any COVID19 complications.
“Our kids want to play basketball,” Barbosa said. “They were excited to get back. The first practice that we had on Monday, we had a ton of energy. I think they were just happy to be out on the court.
“We always try to tell them, ‘You can’t take these things for granted.’ You know, 2020, with all this coronavirus stuff going on, you can’t take anything for granted. So we’ve just got to go out there and try to win games.”