Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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TALKING POINT: Princeton High junior guard Brian Dunlap leads the way in a recent game. Last Monday, Dunlap chipped in eight points as PHS topped Florence 54-48 to improve to 9-7 on the season.

PHS Boys’ Hoops Qualifies for State Tourney Then Learns Lessons in 3 OT Loss to Ewing

Bill Alden

The Princeton High boys’ basketball team started last week by pulling out one of the most dramatic and significant overtime wins the program has enjoyed in years.

Hosting powerful Hamilton on January 29, PHS went 36 minutes to edge the Hornets 67-63 to clinch the program’s first berth in the state tournament since 2001.

Three days later, the Little Tigers ended the week by engaging a thrilling triple overtime contest with visiting Ewing.

This time, however, PHS came up on the short end, falling to the Blue Devils 83-76.

In reflecting on the loss, PHS head coach Jason Carter said the win over Hamilton may have led to a letdown on Friday.

“I think we were riding high after our big win Tuesday,” said Carter, whose team fell to 8-7 with the defeat.

“We got a little bit of school spirit and a following in the crowd and I think it went to their heads a little bit. We forgot how we got the school spirit; we got it by going out there and hustling and playing hard and playing together as a team.”

The Little Tigers went on a rollercoaster as a team in the battle with Ewing. With blue and white balloons flying behind the PHS bench from the Senior Night pre-game ceremony, the Little Tigers ended the first half clinging to a 26-25 lead.

PHS took a 48-45 lead into the fourth quarter but found itself trailing 56-51 after an 11-3 Ewing run.

Showing the resolve of a playoff team, the Little Tigers clawed back and took a 59-57 lead with 14 seconds remaining in regulation on two clutch free throws by Josh Gordon. Ewing then canned two free throws in the waning seconds to force overtime.

In the first extra session, PHS trailed until the very end when Gordon drained a big jumper with 25 seconds remaining to knot the game at 69-69.

The game went into second overtime and neither team was able to score in that four-minute session. In the third overtime, Ewing took the lead at 75-73 midway through the period and never looked back in earning the victory.

While Carter admired the resilience displayed by his team, he knows they have to learn to close the deal.

“This team definitely has character,” said Carter, whose team was led by junior DeQuan Holman with 22 points with classmates Brian Dunlap and A.J. Dowers chopping in 19 and 18 points, respectively.

“It’s young and it’s the sophomores and juniors that are stepping up. At the same time, we also have to have the killer instinct when we step out on the court and play with the lead, especially at home.”

Still, the defeat didn’t kill the excitement generated by PHS making it back to the state tournament after a seven-year absence.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” said Carter. “I’m a first-year head coach and making the playoffs is a first step; it’s nice. I’m lucky to have the players that I have. It could be years before I make the playoffs if I didn’t have the right players.”

Carter will tell you that his group of seniors has helped point the team in the right direction.

“I think the seniors have been great,” added Carter, who got 10 points from Young last Monday as PHS beat Florence 54-48 to improve to 9-7.

“Matt Young is our captain and he’s out there taking charge with a broken nose. There is a lot of heart. Zephrem does a good job going in and playing defense. We can stick Johnny Miranda in there; he also plays defense. They lead us on and off the court.”

Now, Carter is hoping to see his seniors go out on a high note as the team gets into tournament play.

“One of the reasons you play a sport is to be the best,” said Carter, whose team was seeded 10th in the Mercer County Tournament and will play at No. 7 Princeton Day School on February 12 in an opening round contest.

“The only way you see if you are the best is to go out and play the best teams in the state. You need to play in tournaments and see how good you are and test your team.”

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