For Dan Van Hise, seeing his Princeton High girls’ basketball team defeat Lawrence High 35-24 in its season finale was a case of better late than never.
“They finally played the way I wanted them to,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, reflecting on the victory which came in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.
“I told the girls this is going to be it, let’s go out and play basketball the right way, I want 100 percent effort. We blitzed them from the start, it was good to see. Julia Ryan played well, she got a lot of free throws at the end to get 16 points. Mira Shane and Haley Bodden did a great job defensively. We were very intense and very determined.”
With PHS ending the winter at 3-16, Van Hise rued what might have been. “I think, like any coach, I would say we left a few on the table,” said Van Hise. “We won that buzzer beater against Nottingham and we lost our way a little bit after that. There were a few games that we should have won that we didn’t. I was hoping for more progress in terms of wins and losses.”
In Van Hise’s view, the team made a lot of progress when it came to intangibles.
“In terms of our motto, establish the culture, I think we did that,” said Van Hise.
“Anyone who saw our Lawrence game would know that. We were all over the floor, we were diving for the ball, we were sharing the ball. We talked afterward and the girls thought we had done what we wanted to turn this into a positive thing. What we found is that Princeton girls can play tough, we don’t have to be anyone’s doormat.”
Van Hise credited seniors Liz Jacobs and Stephanie Hauer with impacting the culture.
“Liz was a presence inside, for a lacrosse player playing basketball, she did what she could do,” said Van Hise.
“Steph knew she wasn’t going to play much and she was a great team captain and team leader. She did hit two shots in our last game so that was nice to see.”
As he looks ahead to the offseason, Van Hise wants his girls to play a lot more basketball.
“We are saying that we established a culture but we won’t really know until we show up next December,” said Van Hise.
“If we are the same players, then nothing will have really changed. We are going to have open gyms and we are hoping to go to Princeton’s team camp.
I know a lot of the girls play other sports but they need to stay connected to basketball. We want to hit the ground running next December.”
With six seniors returning, Van Hise believes his players will have a good connection with each other.
“I couldn’t be more excited for next year,” asserted Van Hise, whose group of rising seniors includes Mary Sutton, Mira Shane, Catherine Curran-Groome, Bryanna Blue, Mia Levy, and Ellie Maltby.
“I think the chemistry is going to be off the charts with girls like Mary, Mira, and Catherine. I am expecting them to show a lot of leadership. Julia [Ryan] will be a junior and a three-year starter. I really think that we can improve.”