March 20, 2013

Winter Review: PDS Boys’ Hoops Star Reed, PHS Girl Swimmers Get Nod as Town Topics’ Leading Winter Performers

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Davon Reed had to deal with a lot of hoopla as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star was the object of an intense recruiting battle among several top college programs.

A number of big-time college coaches made their way to the PDS gym and Reed ended up receiving around 20 offers from D-I teams.

This past September, Reed committed to the University of Miami, clearing his plate to focus solely on his senior season with the Panthers.

“The foot is still on the throttle; I still have personal goals I want to achieve at the high school level,” said the 6’6 Reed in December.

“I am not looking to college, that is there and we know where that is. I am just here to encourage my team and look for us to get better and finish this season out on top. The goal is to win a state championship and to win a Mercer County Tournament so we are looking to do that.”

Reed kept his foot on the gas all winter, producing a senior campaign that solidified his status as one of the greatest players ever to play in Mercer County high school circles. He averaged 23.2 points this season and helped the Panthers take second at the Hill School tournament in December and win the PrimeTime Shootout’s Flight I title after Christmas.

After passing the 2,000-point mark in his career, making him just the third player in county annals to achieve that milestone, Reed led PDS on a memorable postseason run.

In the county tournament, the Panthers topped Steinert and defending state champion Ewing before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame in the semis.

Reed helped the Panthers go one step further in the state Prep B tournament. After taking down Golda Och and defending champion Rutgers Prep, PDS earned its second straight title to the Prep B title game where it faced archrival Pennington in mid-February.

Giving his all in his final high school game, Reed scored a game-high 24 points. His heroics weren’t enough as PDS fell short 47-45 as a last-second layup rolled off the rim to clinch the win for the Red Raiders.

In the wake of the disappointing loss, Reed was able to put things in perspective.

“We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up,” said Reed, who ended his career with a program-record 2,102 points. “I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean credited Reed with putting the program back on the map.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 19-8.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

For making his senior season a shining final chapter in an epic career, Reed is the Town Topics’ choice as the top male performer of the winter high school season.

Top Female Performers

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio have been a lethal one-two punch since joining the program together as freshmen in the 2009-10 season.

In their debut campaign, the pair emerged as key contributors, piling up wins from the start for the Little Tigers.

With Deardorff focusing on the sprint events and Giglio concentrating on the breaststroke and individual medley, the pair complemented each other and gave coach Greg Hand balance in putting his lineup together.

In addition, they fed off of each other when they joined forces in relay events, often giving PHS an edge right from the start in the meet-opening 200 medley relay.

Over the years, their blend of talent, composure, and consistency made them akin to a swimming version of the former pair of aces for the Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavin.

In their sophomore year, the pair helped the Little Tigers go 12-2 and earn a sectional title. Last season, they starred as the Little Tigers went 13-2 and made it to the sectional finals.

This winter, Deardoff and Giglio saved their best for last, sparking the Little Tiger girls to one of the best seasons in program history.

In early January, they helped PHS beat powerful WW/P-S in a dual meet for the first time this century. In topping the Pirates 94-76, Deardorff took first in the 50 and 100 freestyle races and helped the 200 medley relay to victory. Giglio, meanwhile won the 100 breast, took second in the 200 free and helped the medley relay to victory.

“We have never beaten them but instead of coming into the meet planning on winning, I think the upperclassmen focused on just getting the underclassmen psyched to do their best,” said Deardorff, reflecting on the breakthrough win. “We wanted them to do their best times in the pool and just have fun with it.”

The triumph set a positive tone for the Little Tigers as they headed into postseason action.

“This definitely got the girls’ team psyched for what is to come,” added Deardorff.

“Now we know we can go really far and hopefully to states and just see how things go. We are not going to go into any meets focused on winning.”

The Little Tigers kept on winning, posting an undefeated regular season and entering the Mercer County Swimming Championships as a top contender.

After a few near misses in recent years at the county meet, PHS came through with the title, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

Afterward, the understated Giglio acknowledged that the Little Tigers weren’t sure if they could pull off the county victory.

“We knew we were strong this year but again, we have never done it before so we really wanted to just try our best and see if we could do it for the first time,” said Giglio, who placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke at the county meet while Deardorff took third in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 butterfly.

The Little Tigers showed their championship intent by opening the meet with a resounding victory on the 200 medley relay, setting a school record in the process.

“We really wanted to get another first in the relays,” said Giglio, reflecting on the quartet’s mindset as they approached the race.

“We weren’t completely confident that we had won. We wanted to break the record again. We were all filled with nervous excitement and energy. We were ready to go.”

PHS kept going in the state Public B Central Jersey sectional final where it fell to Chatham to suffer its only loss of the season in producing a 13-1 campaign

After that defeat, Hand acknowledged the key role played by his pair of senior standouts.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

For giving so much to PHS together and leading the Little Tigers to a breakthrough season, Deardorff and Giglio are the joint choice as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

As Mark Shelley took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ varsity basketball program this winter, he recognized that a major challenge would involve melding the team’s veterans with its new faces.

“The biggest thing is mixing the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley.

“There is chemistry within each group and now I need to develop chemistry between them.”

Having coached the JV team the previous season, Shelley knew he had something special in junior forward Peter Mahotiere.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley. “He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three.”

Mahotiere stepped up all winter long for the Little Tigers, developing into a solid performer who played a key role at both ends of the court.

The 6’1 Mahotiere ended up averaging 8.2 points a game and was among the team’s leaders in rebounds. His athleticism also helped make PHS zone defense stifle foes as the Little Tigers led the CVC in fewest points allowed per game during the regular season.

Playing in his first state tournament game, Mahotiere produced one of his best efforts of the season as PHS topped visiting Hopewell Valley 62-42 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Mahotiere scored 15 points to help the Little Tigers pull away to the win.

In assessing Mahotiere’s effort that night, Shelley summarized what the junior brought to the table this winter for the Little Tigers.

“He finishes well,” said Shelley. “He is the kind of player who once he scores a little bit, he gets some confidence and that elevates his game. I can’t tell you how many deflections he had tonight. Even when he didn’t get a rebound, his hands were on things.”

Mahotiere’s all-around contribution in his debut campaign for PHS makes him the pick as the top male newcomer this winter.

Madeleine Deardorff didn’t wait long to make an impact this winter in her freshman season on the PHS girls’ swim team.

The precocious Deardorff helped the 200 medley relay to victory in the first event of PHS’s season-opening win over Nottingham. In the Little Tigers’ next meet, Deardorff won the 100 butterfly in a 108-62 victory over Robbinsville.

Deardorff kept piling up wins all season as PHS went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

For Deardorff, learning how to keep calm in the blocks helped pave the way to her superb campaign.

“The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Deardorff played a key role in helping PHS win its first-ever county title, taking second in both the 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Even in PHS’s only defeat of the season, a loss to powerful Chatham in the state Public B sectional final, Deardorff was outstanding. She took first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 breast.

Getting the chance to swim with her older sister, senior star, Serena, helped inspire Deardorff.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

For providing excitement and wins in her first season with PHS, Deardorff gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the winter season.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli acknowledged that his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team faced a minefield of challenges this winter.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts and the Hill School (Pa.) tournament.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

The senior-laden Panthers proved that they were one of the best teams in the state. After winning their Henry Rulon-Miller Invitational in early December, PDS placed third in the Barber Invitational in Massachusetts over the holidays.

Over the course of the regular season, PDS posted a string of impressive victories, knocking off such high-powered foes as Kinnelon High, LaSalle Prep (Pa.), Notre Dame, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Don Bosco.

The Panthers tied for the state Prep title, skating to a thrilling 2-2 overtime draw against rival Morristown-Beard. The Panthers ended the season by taking second in the Hill tourney, topping Portledge and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on the way to the title game.

PDS ended its stellar season with a 21-3-1 record and the knowledge that it could compete against all comers.

Bertoli tipped his hat to his core of seniors. which included Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

“They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question about that,” said Bertoli.

“It is one of the top two or three programs in the state for the last two years. You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them. There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”

For being the architect of the program’s renaissance, Bertoli is the top coach of a male team this winter.

Last winter, Greg Hand guided the Princeton high boys’ swimming team to a breakthrough campaign as the Little Tigers went undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B state title.

While much of the attention this season centered on the boys’ team and its quest for a title repeat which fell short with a loss in the state semis, Hand performed a brilliant coaching job with his girls’ squad, which thrust its way into the limelight as the winter unfolded.

After cruising to some routs in December meets, the Little Tiger girls faced perennial nemesis WW/P-S in early January. Having not beaten the Pirates this century, PHS ended that jinx in style with a 94-76 triumph.

Hand was hoping the win would prove to be a harbinger of good things to come.

“The more you get into the season, the more you pay attention to who is slightly faster than somebody else,” said Hand.

“There was just a lot of learning going on today because the great thing about our rivalry is that we always come to swim fast on that day. We always know that the other team is going to be classy and they are going to come to race.”

PHS kept racing well, going undefeated in regular season dual meets. In the Mercer County Championships, PHS broke through again, winning its first county title and breaking WW/P-S’s 12-year stranglehold on the meet.

“To win a championship is always going to depend on who else was there that day,” said Hand, reflecting on the county crown. “To swim to win it is a very special thing.”

While PHS didn’t win a sectional title as it fell to Chatham in the Public B Central Jersey championship meet to suffer its only loss of the season, Hand liked what he saw from his girl swimmers to the end.

“We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand, whose team finished with a 13-1 record.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water.”

Hand’s role in helping PHS produce one of the most exciting seasons in its history makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team this winter.