With the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team leading visiting Morrisville High (Pa.) 31-14 heading into the second half last Wednesday, there wasn’t much of a buzz permeating the gym.
PDS senior forward B.J. Dudeck sensed that the Panthers needed a jolt. “When the environment isn’t as electric as it may be on a typical basis, it takes you a while to get going,” said Dudeck. “You have to say ‘alright, let’s get going.’”
The gritty Dudeck helped provide some electricity in the second half, hustling all over the court, making a steal and an assist on consecutive possessions in one stretch as the gym came to life and the Panthers pulled away to a 57-35 victory.
“I think our defense predicated our offense,” said Dudeck, reflecting on a third quarter that saw PDS outscore Morrisville 22-8.
“We got a bunch of stops, we got some turnovers, and we got some easy transition baskets. That is the best way to get a run started.”
Acknowledging that basketball is not his main sport, Dudeck is happy to do the dirty work for the Panthers.
“I am not a big, huge basketball guy, I play a lot of baseball,” said Dudeck, who is headed to Virginia Military Institute where he will be playing for the school’s baseball team.
“I scrap as hard as I can so if that is the easiest way for me to get on the floor, I will take it. It is a lot of fun.”
Dudeck’s scrappiness, though, has led to some nice offensive nights as he scored 20 points in a recent loss to Hun and tallied 10 points to help PDS top Robert Vaux (Pa.) in the opening round of the PrimeTime Shootout in late December.
“I feel like my teammates are finding me in the right spots on some days,” said Dudeck.
“They will just hit me in a perfect spot and I can lay it off the glass easy. They do a great job of setting me up.”
For Dudeck, spending his winters playing hoops gives him a chance to enjoy a different competitive experience than what he sees on the diamond.
“Baseball is a sport where you are 60 and 90 feet away from guys,” said Dudeck.
“This is a sport where you are competing up close. It is physical, it is a good change of pace.”
PDS head coach Paris McLean liked the way his team competed against Morrisville as it bounced back from a tough 62-58 loss to Curtis (N.Y.) two days earlier in the Big Apple Classic.
“I thought we played really well on Monday and I think that carried over into today,” said McLean, who got 25 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the win over Morrisville with junior standout Langston Glaude contributing 14.
“On Monday we were down early and we went on a 22-4 run. We are capable of strings and spurts of play but we need to string those together. If we can string those together for 32 minutes or even the majority of the 32 minutes, we could be special.”
The Panthers showed how special they can be as they produced the second-half spurt that put the game away.
“I said we have to bring our own energy,” added McLean. “Thankfully we found that in the late second and early third. If we can force turnovers and get out in transition and slow the other team down and get some easy buckets, we are going to be good. We haven’t been shooting particularly well from the outside. I think the guys realize if that is not falling, we have to get to the rim and get to the hoop.”
In McLean’s view, Dudeck provides a lot of positive energy for the Panthers. “Every team needs a player like B.J. Dudeck,” asserted McLean.
“He is going to leave it on the floor. He’s diving for the loose ball; he’s going to box out. He’s going to do the little things and those things can be the catalyst to spark your team.”
With PDS topping Hightstown 71-44 last Friday to improve to 12-5, McLean believes his team is well positioned for a big stretch drive.
“It is a great spot to be in,” said McLean, whose team plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.
“We have played some tough teams this year. To be sitting where we are, we are lining ourselves up great for preps and for counties. We have to finish strong. We kind of sputtered down the stretch last year and I think that is kind of lingering in the back of our minds. We are using that as motivation to get started.”
Dudeck, for his part, believes that the Panthers are motivated to end the season with a bang.
“I think we can put together something special at the end here with our county and our prep tournament,” said Dudeck.
“It will be something special to see Davon get 2,000 points. It has been a heck of a ride for PDS basketball here.”