Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 52
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010
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LATE SHOW: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hoffman heads to the hoop last Thursday against Notre Dame. Junior guard Hoffman scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help PHS rally to a 52-42 win over the Fighting Irish. The Little Tigers, now 2-1, will take part in the Vaughn Stapleton Classic at Bridgewater-Raritan High on December 28 and 30.

Junior Guard Hoffman Erupts in 4th Quarter, Helping PHS Boys’ Hoops Beat Notre Dame

Bill Alden

For Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hoffman, the first three quarters against Notre Dame last Thursday night were a bit of a nightmare.

The junior guard had just one bucket as PHS blew a halftime lead to fall behind the Fighting Irish 38-35 heading into the fourth quarter.

While Hoffman was frustrated, he was buoyed by the support of his teammates.

“I was cold the first three and half quarters of the game,” said Hoffman. “Ben [Harrison] and Davon [Holliday-Black] told me to look for my shot.”

With PHS clinging to a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Hoffman found his shot in a big way. He canned a three-pointer from the corner and then contributed a driving lay-up and a jumper to score seven straight points for the Little tigers.

Hoffman’s outburst proved decisive as PHS went on to a 52-42 victory and improved to 2-1.

“I was in the corner and Davon gave me a good pass and I hit it,” said the 5’10 Hoffman, reflecting on his late surge. “In the last half of the fourth quarter I was feeling it. I was living the dream.”

While a dreamy ending seemed unlikely for PHS as it fell behind by six points at two junctures in the third quarter, Hoffman wasn’t fazed.

“I was a little worried but I know our team,” said Hoffman. “We have a lot of fight in ourselves. We have a lot of faith and we trust each other.”

The Little Tigers mixed in some execution to go with their spirit. “We had to straighten up the defense,” added Hoffman, who ended up with 10 points on the evening. “We had to move the ball better and run our plays.”

In Hoffman’s view, the win over Notre Dame exemplified the team’s better play since a 73-63 opening night loss to Hightstown on December 17.

“We are a bunch of young guys so I felt like in that first game, we didn’t really know what to do,” said Hoffman, who also stars in cross country for PHS.

“After getting our butts kicked, we got into shape. Coach [Jason] Carter did a great job in the next couple practices. Now that we have a two-game winning streak, we are starting to understand how to play better team defense. We are getting the ball to Eamon [Cuddy] in the post and moving the ball on offense better.”

Head coach Carter, for his part, believes his team is moving in the right direction.

“We have a bunch of guys who can make plays,” said Carter. “It is just a matter of us keeping our poise and remaining patient. I thought we did a good job of staying patient on offense and moving the ball around and looking for good opportunities.”

Carter liked the way junior guard Holliday-Black took advantage of an opportunity at the end of the third quarter, hitting a three-pointer to cut the Notre Dame lead to three.

“It was a big shot; he was wide open,” said Carter, who got nine points from Holliday-Black. “He has been out shooting in the rain; he has been running on the track. He worked with Johnny Bailey all summer. He’s been training really hard for that moment right there and he was able to make it.”

With Hoffman moving up to the varsity this year after spending time on the JV team last winter, Carter has been looking for the junior to be assertive in his new role.

“We are trying to find his niche and I made a comment to him that it is time to make some plays,” said Carter.

“He was swing guy last year. We lost a lot of talent at the guard position. He knew he had big shoes to fill and he had to step up.”

Hoffman stepped up with flair down the stretch last Thursday. “He was like Vinnie the Microwave Johnson tonight; coming off the bench scorching,” said Carter with a laugh. “He was hot; I didn’t want to touch him when he came off. He was burning.”

Senior center Eamon Cuddy has been PHS’s hottest player, scoring a game-high 17 points last Thursday.

“He actually surprised me,” said Carter of the 6’7 Cuddy who is averaging 17.3 points a game this season.

“I know that he had a really good summer. He’s becoming really reliable; you can count on him.”

After the rough start against Hightstown, Carter is getting the feeling that PHS could have a really good winter.

“We dug a hole against Hightstown; we had to come back and respond,” said Carter, noting that he hadn’t posted a win in his hoops coaching career against Notre Dame until last Thursday. “I am really proud of this group to dig in and say we know we are better than that and let’s go out there and prove it.”

The Little Tigers can prove a lot this week as they take part in the Vaughn Stapleton Classic at Bridgewater-Raritan High on December 28 and 30, opening the tourney by playing a formidable Piscataway squad.

“We have a tough test in front of us; it is going to give us an opportunity to see what we can do against a Group IV powerhouse,” said Carter, referring to the matchup with Piscataway.

“We have to just do some things we did tonight — make plays, stay patient and play together.”

Hoffman, for one, is up for the challenge. “I am very excited; we are playing Piscataway and they are a tough team,” said Hoffman.

“They are usually in the Group IV championships. We are looking forward to this because I feel we can be a Group III championship factor so we need to be playing the best.”

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