Vol. LXIII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
HUGE STRIDES: Princeton High boys basketball senior guard Brian Dunlap gallops up the court in fifth-seeded PHSs 55-46 win over No. 1 Monmouth Regional in the Group III Central Jersey sectional semifinals. Last week, Dunlap scored 11 points but it wasnt nearly enough as the Little Tigers were beaten 72-44 by third-seeded Neptune in the sectional title game. The loss, though, couldnt diminish the strides made by the program as it went from a 7-15 mark in 2006-07 to an 18-7 record this winter.
After it was over, Brian Dunlap was the last player on the Princeton High boys basketball team to leave the gym.
As the players filed to their dressing room at Franklin High after falling 72-44 to Neptune High in the Group III Central Jersey sectional final, senior guard Dunlap lagged behind, walking with his head down and alone with his thoughts.
Trudging slowly past the bleachers and into the hallway, Dunlaps disappointment over the result was outweighed by his pride in PHSs thrilling run to the sectional title game, which saw the fifth-seeded Little Tigers pull upsets at No. 4 Point Pleasant and top-seeded Monmouth Regional before succumbing to No. 3 Neptune.
I am just really proud of the entire team, coaching staff, the starting five right down the line, said Dunlap, reflecting on the programs trip to its first sectional final since 1994.
Everybody came into this year knowing that it might be something special; there is no doubt that this school hasnt seen something like this in a long time. It is great to see the fan support.
Dunlap and the Little Tigers, though, hadnt seen a team like Neptune all season.
After taking a 15-13 lead over the Fliers in the second quarter, PHS found itself on its heels as Neptune utilized it pressure defense to go on a 16-4 run. By halftime, the Fliers had built a 46-31 cushion.
In the third quarter, Dunlap started the scoring by draining two free throws to narrow the gap to 46-33 but then Neptune exploded for a 20-4 run to break open the game. The Fliers cruised from there, building its lead to 30 points on the way to victory.
In reflecting on the game, Dunlap tipped his hat to Neptune. I thought we played them real tough in the first quarter, said Dunlap who ended the game with 11 points.
We were all excited; we were all ready to go. We played them even in their first quarter but they are a helluva basketball team. They are quick and athletic. We thought maybe size was going to be a strength for us but they crashed the boards harder than any team we have played so far. I am so proud of everybody. It was tough to get back in transition with a team like that. They played a really fantastic game.
For Dunlap, helping PHS make the transition from a 7-15 team his sophomore season to an 18-7 sectional finalist was a fantastic journey.
That was the farthest thing from my mind sophomore year, said Dunlap, referring to playing for a sectional championship.
We were struggling through a tough season. Quan [DeQuan Holman] was out with injuries. A.J. [Dowers] and I had to grow up pretty quickly from freshman to varsity. That makes it even more worthwhile looking back, seeing the difference that this team has made.
PHS head coach Jason Carter credited Dunlap and his classmates with making a huge difference for the Little Tigers.
I tip my hat to the seniors, asserted Carter. They have been dedicated; they have been loyal; they have worked their butts off for me. Those are the type of players that I would like to associate with this program. They are character guys; they are great role models for the younger guys to see.
Carter was proud of the character his team displayed in battling high-powered Neptune.
I am extremely proud of these kids, said Carter who got 11 points from Skye Ettin and 10 from Holman.
It was a fantastic effort regardless of the score. They played hard. Its my second year and to trust in me and to come together, no one thought we would be in the sectional final against Neptune, the No. 13 team in the state. My message was to keep your head high because you have nothing to be ashamed of; it takes a lot of courage to go out there and play against that team.
The Little Tigers showed special courage in the sectional semifinals when they stunned top-seeded Monmouth Regional 55-46 to earn the trip to the sectional title championship game.
I told coach Karim [Shahid Abdul-Karim] that the win on Saturday changed our lives, said Carter.
It changed these kids lives because something like that is so monumental. People value kids that can go out there and win. Its not about the win, its about the courage that it takes to go out there and compete, people value that.
PHS alum Carter valued the support the team attracted at the sectional title game as a throng of fans, students, parents, and many former Little Tiger players made the trek to Franklin High to cheer on the team.
I see guys in the crowd that I havent seen in 10 years. I havent been at a PHS basketball game since Bram [Reynolds] graduated and I was still playing, said Carter, a 1996 PHS grad whose assistant coaches Karim and Bobby Davison are also former Little Tiger standouts.
Its a dream come true. I never thought in a million years I would be coaching at PHS or coaching basketball, let alone coaching at a sectional final. Everything has happened so fast, I havent been able to take it in yet.
Dunlap, for his part, relished what he took in over his PHS career. I have had some of the best memories of my life here playing basketball for PHS, asserted Dunlap, with tears welling in his eyes.
This group of seniors, Coach Carter, we all came up together. It was tough coming out of the game (with 1:45 left) but at the same time, I felt a lot of pride and joy, it was an honor playing for this team.
And it has been a honor for PHS to have a player like Dunlap representing its program.
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