December 26, 2018

Sparked by Jackson’s 2nd Half Scoring Outburst, PHS Boys’ Hoops Tops Robbinsville for 1st Win

JACKED UP: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Jay Jackson puts up a shot in recent action. Last Thursday, junior forward Jackson scored 17 points to help PHS defeat Robbinsville 62-48. PHS, who improved to 1-2 with the victory, is next in action when it plays in the Kearny High tournament from December 27-28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having lost its first two games of the season by narrow margins, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team wasn’t about to take it easy after building a 31-15 halftime lead against visiting Robbinsville last Thursday evening.

“At halftime, we had a conversation saying that we need more energy, we need to play together,” said PHS junior forward Jay Jackson.

Scoring just two points in the first half, Jackson was determined to bring more energy after intermission. “I thought I had to pick it up a notch and put more effort into it,” said Jackson.

Picking up his game, Jackson scored six points in the third quarter on some nice inside moves to help PHS pull ahead 49-25 on the way to a 62-48 win and improving to 1-2.

“That is my strongest spot, being in the post,” said Jackson, who added nine more points in the fourth quarter to end up with 17 on the evening. “I was being as aggressive as possible and putting in all of that work and grinding.”

Grinding out the win over Robbinsville was critical for PHS, which had lost 55-47 at Hopewell Valley in its season opener and then fell 54-53 to WW/P-North.

“We needed it badly, hopefully we are going to stay on the winning side and stay as a unit,” said Jackson. “We have a tournament for the next couple of games (at Kearny High from December 27-28), and we want to win that.”

Reflecting on his progress, Jackson is more focused on being part of the unit.

“I feel like I have grown; I have matured more,” added Jackson. “I don’t shoot every time I touch the ball, I move the ball more and I am more of a team player.”

PHS head coach Pat Noone acknowledged that his squad badly needed a victory. “We had to learn how to win, in the first two we got so close,” said Noone.

“We lost by one to North; we ended up losing by eight to Hopewell, but it was a three point game with a minute left. We have been battling.”

Noone made sure that his players battled to the end against Robbinsville.

“I did get nervous with our energy there, we were packing it on defense a little; we had to keep going the whole time,” said Noone. “I really wanted to get a lot of intensity out of them, just so they knew that we couldn’t rest.”

Jackson’s intensity and production down the stretch was a big plus for the Little Tigers.

“Jay has had rough starts, especially with foul trouble and missed shots early,” said Noone. “Tonight he was able to come back after the rough start and had a great second half. He also got a couple of turnovers as well as the points.”

The team’s corps of guards, senior Brendan Rougas, junior Riley McMahon, junior Jack Suozzi, and sophomore Tim Evidente, did some great things against the Ravens.

“They all played well tonight,” said Noone, who got 14 points from Suozzi with Evidente chipping in 14.

“We had that rough stretch in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth where we turned it over. We were able to settle down. We had a nice little lead.”

Locking things down on the defensive end was another key to the win for PHS.

“I loved the defensive effort; with Hopewell and then again tonight, they are all great shooters,” said Noone, noting that Robbinsville had previously defeated HoVal.

“I think they had 12 3s against Hopewell. We are really getting into detail on how to close out the correct way. We work on that everyday; I think that really paid off tonight.”

Noone was happy to see his squad’s hard work pay off with the win. “We have been so close; I think it felt good to finally get a lead early tonight,” said Noone.

“Most of the time we have been fighting back. At Hopewell, we were down 10-1 and against North we were up early and then it was downhill from there. Tonight was a little different, playing with the lead.”

Jackson, for his part, knows that PHS can’t afford a letdown going forward.

“We have put in a lot of work in our practices, so there is no coming back lackadaisical just because we won this game,” said Jackson. “We can’t be lacking aggression out there.”