July 25, 2018

Pulling Out Summer Hoops Series Opener, NJ Spiritwear Turns the Tables on LoyalTees

HIGH SPIRITS: NJ Spiritwear guard Troy Jones flies to the rim against LoyalTees last Monday as the teams met in the opening game of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League’s best-of-three championship series. Jones scored 19 points as NJ Spiritwear edged LoyalTees 70-67. Game two is slated for July 25 with game three, if necessary, to be played on July 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In its regular season finale in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League earlier this month, NJ Spiritwear had a chance to clinch first place when it faced LoyalTees.

But failing to rise to the occasion, NJ Spiritwear lost 66-51 as LoyalTees earned the top seed for the playoffs.

“At beginning of the last game, we didn’t stretch,” said NJ Spiritwear guard Troy Jones, whose team had also lost 60-55 to LoyalTees in the season opener. “We were sluggish coming out and they slapped us in the mouth, basically.”

With the foes, who each went 6-2 in regular season play, both advancing to the league’s best-of-three championship series, Jones and his teammates were determined to come out strong and turn the tables in the series opener last Monday night.

“Today we were pumped up, I was ready to play,” said Jones. “When we got on the floor, we were yelling and all of that. It helps a lot.”

NJ Spiritwear had a lot to shout about as it got out of the gate with a sizzling 16-0 run, tallying 14 points in the first 1:45 of the contest, which was played in the Princeton High gym as evening showers moved the game inside from the Community Park courts.

LoyalTees fought back to narrow the gap, but NJ Spiritwear still led 36-31 at halftime with Jones tallying 10 points and former Princeton Day School standout John McArthur chipping in 11.

In the second half, NJ Spiritwear weathered the storm, pulling out a 70-67 win in a heated contest that featured physical play all over the court.

“We were just playing a lot smarter and we wanted it,” said Jones. “We wanted the loose balls more than them and we just believed more than them.”

A critical factor in the win was Jones’ deadeye free throw shooting as he drained six attempts from the charity stripe in the second half on the way to totaling 19 points for the evening.

“I have been working hard since the last time we lost to them” said the 6’0, 170-pound Jones, a former star at Notre Dame High who is heading into his sophomore season with the East Stroudsburg University men’s Division II hoops program. “I am working out for my school, but I take this seriously too.”

Although this is NJ Spiritwear’s first season in the summer league, Jones is not surprised that the squad is making a serious title run.

“We can all score at will,” said Jones, in assessing the team’s strengths in looking ahead to game two of the series which is slated for July 25, with game three, if necessary, to be played on July 27. “It is knowing when to take someone off the dribble and when there is an extra pass to make.”