For Lior Levy, things have come together in his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.
The 6’8 center is averaging a team-high 14.0 points a game for PHS and has contributed a slew of assists, rebounds, and blocked shots.
Having dealt with injury and illness over much of his high school career, Levy is savoring his success this winter.
“It has been fun,” said Levy, who had mono as a freshman and suffered an ACL injury the next season.
“I have been injured the past few seasons and even last year my knee was hurting me. I am healthy so I have been able to take advantage of that this season.”
Enjoying good health has positively impacted Levy’s mindset and training. “I think I am more confident; I have been in more of a leadership role this year,” said Levy.
“I worked hard over the summer. I went to a bunch of camps so that is where some of the confidence came from. I think just my skill is up from last year.”
Last week, Levy displayed his confidence as the Little Tigers battled state Prep B champions Pennington, scoring 13 points and making some key assists and blocked shots as PHS dropped a 59-57 nailbiter to the Red Raiders.
Even though the Little Tigers lost on a last-second layup to fall to 11-10, Levy was encouraged by the team’s performance.
“We executed great tonight, Ellis [Bloom] was hitting every shot,” said Levy, reflecting on a game which saw PHS heading 31-27 at halftime and 44-43 entering the fourth quarter. “We were moving the ball well, we just needed one more shot here or there.”
Triggering the offense from the high post, Levy helped keep the PHS offense on the move.
“I love it, around the free throw line, top of the key, that is where I am best,” said Levy.
“We were moving the ball well, cutting off of me. They were overplaying sometimes and we got some nice looks.”
With PHS starting play in the state tournament this week, Levy believes the game against Pennington will be good preparation for that competition. PHS is seeded fourth in the Central Jersey Group III sectional and was slated to host 13th-seeded Hopewell Valley on February 26 with the winner advancing to the sectional quarters on February 28.
“That is a really good team, they have had a great season and you have got to give them credit,” said Levy.
“Playing a good team like that is definitely going to help us for the state tournament. If we played the way we played today, it will be tough to beat us.
PHS head coach Mark Shelley feels his team’s performance against Pennington is a good sign going into state competition.
“We feel really good about the way we are playing,” said Shelley. “That was as well as we have played offensively since the Trenton game. Defensively we played well, they just hit some big shots with hands in their face.”
Shelley is heartened by Levy’s excellent play in his final campaign.
“I think Lior has done really well; he has really battled through some things,” said Shelley.
“He has really enjoyed playing this year. He is a leader; not just in scoring. He leads us in blocked shots and is among the leaders in assists. We run everything through him; if we are under pressure the ball goes to him. Lior has been shooting the ball well and he has been more assertive down low.”
The PHS seniors have become more assertive collectively as the season has headed into the homestretch.
“When the end is in sight for seniors, sometimes they give a better effort,” said Shelley, whose group of seniors includes Elliott Golden, Ellis Bloom, Christian Giles, and Scott Bechler in addition to Levy.
“It is nice; they have been leaders by example and in word. Today I was going to give them the day off but they got everyone to come down for a shootaround. They set a standard, they are always working.”
Shelley is hoping that work will pay off this week in the state tournament.
“We are excited about it,” said Shelley. “The pressure is there and we don’t have to talk about it. We just want to take it one game at a time and see how it goes. We are going to focus on the fundamentals in preparing.”
Levy, for his part, is focusing on enjoying a big finale with his classmates. “I have been playing with these guys my whole life so it will be good to go out like this,” said Levy, who is looking to continue his hoops career as a post-graduate with a prep program next year.