Jocabed Muflam was not about to give up even though the Princeton High girls’ basketball team trailed Hopewell Valley by more than 20 points in the waning moments of last Friday’s season opener.
The senior forward made a steal with 1:05 left in the game and raced as hard as she could up the floor. Moments later, Muflam wrestled for a rebound on the way to scoring the last basket in PHS’s 63-37 loss to the Bulldogs.
For Muflam, showing effort to the final whistle was a matter of applying lessons she has learned over her PHS career.
“Over the years, I have learned a lot from my freshman year to my sophomore year to my junior year,” said Muflam.
“A lot of what I have learned has been from on the court but also from the older people I have played with, girls like Molly Barber, Julia Maltby, and Tara Thomas. I want to be that influence on my team and have the underclassmen look to me and take a lot from me as I took a lot from my upperclassmen. Like Talya Nakash, every game she had a whole lot of heart and I thought that was really inspirational and I definitely took from that.”
The Little Tigers showed heart collectively last Friday as they fought hard against powerful HoVal, a finalist in the Mercer County Tournament last year.
“Hopewell is always a definitely a really good team,” said Muflam, who scored a team-high 13 points in the contest.
“We knew that they were a quick team, an athletic team and a team with a lot of shooters. It was definitely challenging like it always is. It is really motivating to play a team this good because it shakes you and gets you ready for the rest of the season.”
PHS showed improvement within the game, culminating with a superb fourth quarter, which saw the Little Tigers outscore HoVal 16-15.
“We just want to come out stronger; we were just talking about it in the locker room,” said Muflam.
“The way that we got intense in the fourth quarter is how we need to start the games. So we are going to change our warm-ups to get us an intense start right away.”
Coming off a season that saw PHS post just one victory as the team broke in some new faces, Muflam believes the Little Tigers can win more games this winter.
“Last year was new for us because we lost so many players, it was a transition year for us,” said Muflam.
“Having the opportunity to play with the new girls, I think we were definitely learning a lot from each other. We are still learning. We have got two new players on varsity and they look pretty solid.”
PHS head coach Steffanie Shoop saw some solid work from her team in the opener.
“Throughout the game, they consistently got better,” asserted Shoop, whose team plays at Hightstown on December 21.
“I think every quarter my girls improved. Obviously you can see that they don’t have quit in them. They don’t stop, they could have rolled over and played possum. They didn’t stop. They worked hard. I am proud of their work ethic, I am proud of their hustle. I am proud their no-quit attitude. All of my girls contributed in one way, shape, or form.”
Shoop liked the contribution she got from junior forward Liz Jacobs, who chipped in 10 points.
“Liz is strong, she is capable, she is an athlete,” said Shoop. “You could see that she really gained confidence in that game. Hopefully she maintains that.”
PHS draws confidence from Muflam’s intensity. “Jocabed is an incredible kid,” said Shoop.
“She is not only an amazing student, she is an incredible athlete. I think one of the girls in the locker room, Catherine Groome-Curran, said ‘come on guys, it’s not fair that Jocabed is always the one on the box.’ We need to step up our game and that’s something a player like Jocabed does, she inspires the other kids to do better.”
Muflam, for her part, is determined to leave everything she has on the court for the Little Tigers.
“I definitely try to do what I can; I try to give my team as much of me as possible,” said Muflam.
“I know that sometimes my shot is off and rather than getting down on myself for missing a layup, I try to hustle because that is something I always have control over. That is something I can always give to my team so I really try to focus on that every single game.”