Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 10
 
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
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CLEAR SKYE: Princeton High boys’ basketball sophomore star Skye Ettin races past a foe in action earlier this season. Last week, Ettin and PHS made the program’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2001. Despite 13 points from Ettin, the 13th-seeded Little Tigers fell 71-58 at No. 4 Monmouth Regional in the NJSIAA Group III Central Jersey sectional. The loss left PHS with a final record of 12-11, a marked improvement from the 7-15 record posted in 2006-07.

PHS Boys’ Hoops Falls in State Tournament but Ettin Sees Loss as Growing Experience

Bill Alden

It was the opportunity that Skye Ettin and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ basketball team had worked for all year.

With the PHS hoops program having not been in the state playoffs since 2001, the 13th-seeded Little Tigers were happy to get a shot at No. 4 Monmouth Regional last week in the NJSIAA Group III Central Jersey sectional.

Showing jitters and sluggish from an hour and 20 minute bus ride, PHS didn’t look much like a playoff team in the early going as it fell behind 8-0.

But with sophomore star Ettin contributing six points and juniors DeQuan Holman and Brian Dunlap contributing 11 and six, respectively, the Little Tigers clawed back into the contest, trailing 38-26 at the half.

In the beginning of the third quarter, Monmouth Regional went on a 5-0 run to build a 43-26 lead and seemingly seize control of the game.

The 6’3 forward Ettin took matters into his own hands, repeatedly going to the hoop and drawing fouls, hitting seven free throws to help PHS narrow the gap to 52-44 after three quarters. The Little Tigers got within four early in the fourth but ran out of gas as the Falcons pulled away for a 71-58 win.

While Ettin was disappointed with the result, he saw the performance as something PHS can build on.

“This is a great experience to go to a playoff game against a quality team,” said Ettin, who ended the night with 13 points. “We gave them a run for their money.”

Ettin acknowledged that falling behind at the outset put the Little Tigers on their heels.

“It was our first playoff game in a while and I guess we had some jitters in the beginning,” said Ettin.

“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and it hurt us. If we didn’t dig ourselves that hole, it could have been a different game.”

In Ettin’s view, it was character more than anything that helped the Little Tigers get back into the game.

“I think it was just heart,” asserted Ettin. “You have to have heart and we have heart as a team. We just kept on fighting. They went on a big run and then we went on ours. We knew we had to come harder.”

Ettin went out of his way to go harder to the basket in the third quarter as PHS put the heat on the Falcons.

“I knew I had to try to get them in foul trouble,” said Ettin. “I just tried to go to the hole to get an opportunity to get them into foul trouble. I was just looking to help the team any way I could.”

For Ettin, focusing on doing whatever the team needs helped him put together a superb debut campaign.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this,” said Ettin, who averaged 10.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game this season.

“I tried to do what the coach told me and work really hard. I try to be as a aggressive as I can and bring as much energy as I can to the team.”

PHS first-year head coach Jason Carter liked the energy his team showed as it fought from behind.

“We did battle,” said Carter, whose team ended the season with a 12-11 record, a marked improvement on last season’s 7-15 mark. “All year long, these guys have not quit, they just don’t give up.”

Carter acknowledged that PHS put itself behind the eight ball by letting Monmouth Regional stretch its lead to double digits.

“The unfortunate part is that you can’t go down 17 points against a good team,” said Carter, who got 20 points from Holman with Dunlap adding 14.

“We can go down six or eight points with the type of guys that we have who hustle and have the character to battle back but not in the playoffs and not against a good team. We dug too deep a hole.”

PHS used defensive pressure to get back into the game. “We mixed things up, a lot of the time I just go with the feel of the game,” said Carter.

“We had a three-quarters trap and then we switched to a half-court trap and then we went to a zone where we trapped in the corners. We have fast, strong, good athletes and when we use that we can create a lot of turnovers. Tonight was a situation where we were a little tight at the beginning and we weren’t as aggressive as we naturally are. I think in parts of the third quarter, you saw us at our best.”

Carter sees Ettin exemplifying the best aspects of the developing PHS squad. “Skye is like just about every other player on this team,” said Carter, whose core of returning players includes Holman (15.3 points a game this season), Dunlap (10.9 points a game), and center A.J. Dowers (8.7 points and 12.4 rebounds a game), in addition to Ettin.

“He has a great attitude. I am very lucky to have players with the work ethic who come to the gym everyday ready to improve. They improve every time they come into the gym. Skye is extremely coachable. You tell him one thing and he can adjust. He’s smart; he loves basketball and he’s becoming a great basketball player.”

The rookie head coach believes that his team has just scratched the surface of what it can achieve.

“It’s been awesome; it’s been a fun ride,” said Carter. “We had this expectation at the beginning of the season and any time you meet your goal, it’s satisfying. I’m hoping we can take it to the next level. We have a nice group of players. In college, I played for a national championship and I’ll never forget it. It changed my life and it made me want to do this. I hope I can get these guys in a position to win a state championship.”

Ettin, for his part, believes the team is hungry for another shot at the state tournament.

“We are a young team and we will come back and we will be ready,” vowed Ettin.

“We’re going to be working hard over the summer to get back here and make a run next year. We’re going to try to stay as long as we can.”

With an emerging star like Ettin in the fold, the sky is the limit for PHS.

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