(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
ELEVATION: Princeton High senior star Erin Cook, right, and Liana Dorman leap for a rebound in a game this winter. Cook ended her career on a high note, averaging 19.8 points a game and passing the 1,000-point mark in her career in the process. She is just the third player in progam history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau.
Even though the Princeton High girls' basketball team struggled out of the gate, PHS head coach Nikki Inzano was not discouraged.
"We lost to Nottingham by seven and to Hopewell Valley by nine," recalled Inzano. "The girls saw that they could compete with good teams and that gave them confidence."
That confidence proved to be justified as the Little Tigers caught fire in January. "We turned it around, we won nine of 11," said Inzano, who pointed to her team's win over WW/P-S as a turning point. "The girls finished every game strong. There are so many good quarters that are in my head."
The Little Tigers' late surge left the team with a 10-15 final mark, as the program achieved double figures in wins for the first time this century.
"That definitely meant a lot," said Inzano, referring to hitting the 10-win plateau. "We haven't won that many in a long time."
Senior guard Erin Cook had a season that PHS hasn't seen in a long time, achieving the 1,000-point career mark as she spearheaded the PHS offense.
"She had an amazing season, I'm proud of her," said Inzano of Cook, who averaged 19.8 points a game and fired in 41 three-pointers on the season. "She just started playing in eighth grade and she has improved so much. She wasn't on the varsity until she was a sophomore."
In Inzano's view, Cook's success was due as much to hard work as her talent. "Last year, she mainly shot three-pointers, so she knew she needed to improve in her driving," explained Inzano. "She worked on that all summer. She also picked it up on defense and really helped us with her rebounding."
Inzano will be looking to junior star Kelly Curtis to fill some of the void left by the graduation of Cook, who is just the third player in program history to hit the 1,000-point milestone.
"Kelly isn't filling Erin's shoes; she's taking it on her own," asserted Inzano of the versatile Curtis who averaged more than 10 points a game. "She knows what she needs to work on. She played point guard for us and she played in the post. She needs to see the whole court when she is playing point. She went to shooting camp last summer and that helped her."
PHS has a solid core of returners in addition to Curtis. "Stephanie Grubb and Liana Dorman improved a lot," added Inzano, who has now completed three seasons at the helm of the PHS program.
"Casey Moran really showed a lot; she came in as a freshman and learned our system. Amanda Santamaria moved to shooting guard when Casey started playing more at point. She knows both positions now."
Those returners appear determined to build on the progress they made this winter. "We had a team meeting after the season and the talk was about what we are going to do this summer to improve," said Inzano. "We're hoping to go to a team camp in North Carolina. I will be running a camp again in July."
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