The gym was packed as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team hosted archrival Pennington last week.
But the crowd grew restless as PDS fell behind 9-0. The Panthers did get their fans going as they went on a 14-6 run to narrow the gap to 15-14.
PDS head coach Paris McLean acknowledged that his team might have been too fired up at the outset.
“It felt like we got caught up in the moment; it was a huge crowd,” said McLean.
“Pennington is a good young team and they are a transition team so to dig a hole like that, it is going to be tough to get out of.”
Getting outscored 22-8 over the rest of the half, PDS found itself trailing 37-22 at intermission. McLean, though, still felt his team could produce some big moments in the second half.
“We said we are right in it,” said McLean, recalling his halftime message.
“We stressed that we needed to play better help defense and communicate better. We said that there is no 15-point shot; that we have to go on defensive runs, to get a stop and a bucket, a stop and a bucket.”
But things went from bad to worse for PDS in the third quarter as it got outscored 25-13 on the way to a 77-55 loss.
In assessing the defeat, McLean acknowledged that it was a Murphy’s Law evening for his team.
“We got two or three stops but then we let them get two or three buckets and the bleeding continued,” said McLean, who got 28 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the loss with junior guard Langston Glaude adding 11.
“We played uncharacteristically poor at both ends of the floor. We played out of character. We were doing things that we don’t do. It just wasn’t a good night. These nights happen sometimes; it was one of those nights. They were shooting well and we didn’t shoot particularly well. We didn’t play well.”
In McLean’s view, the setback could serve a valuable purpose heading into postseason play.
“We lost and you need that wake-up call sometimes,” said McLean. “I told our guys we have won a heck of a lot more than we have lost. We need to rebuild from this. There are teachable moments all throughout there. You have got to learn from it. We’ll talk about it but we are not going to dwell on it and we will move forward.
On Sunday in the state Prep B quarterfinals, the Panthers did move forward as second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in improving to 15-6 and earning a spot in the semis where it will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17.
In so doing, the Panthers heeded McLean’s advice in his post-game message after the Pennington game.
“I told them to just come back to practice and remember the body of work that we have and our resume and what got us there — hard work, effort, and focus,” said McLean, whose team will also be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16. “We talk about playing hard, playing smart, and playing together.”