February 13, 2019

After Beating Pennington 3 Times This Season, PDS Boys’ Hoops Falls to Red Raiders in Prep Bs

HEART OF A CHAMPION: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jaylin Champion flies to the hoop last Sunday against Pennington in the state Prep B semifinals. Junior forward Champion scored 15 points but it wasn’t enough as the top-seeded Panthers fell 66-63 to the fifth-seeded Red Raiders. PDS, now 12-11, will be wrapping up the season by competing in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and slated to play at seventh-seeded WW/P-North on February 14 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was round four this winter as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team hosted archival Pennington in the state Prep B semifinals last Sunday.

Top-seeded PDS appeared to have the upper hand in the playoff meeting, having won all three previous contests this winter (65-59 on November 30, 61-50 on December 19, 67-60 on January 27) against the fifth-seeded Red Raiders.

But hungry to not suffer a fourth straight defeat to the Panthers, Pennington came out firing, jumping out to a 35-30 halftime lead.

PDS head coach Doug Davis sensed that Pennington brought extra motivation into the contest.

“They made shots early; our intensity don’t match theirs in the beginning and that set the tone for the game,” said Davis.

“That has been the story of our season, it takes us a while to realize, hey, this is a game. Playing this team three or four times, our guys took that approach in the beginning and it didn’t do us any good.”

Trailing 56-47 with three minutes remaining in regulation, the Panthers showed their game, going on a 16-8 run to narrow the Pennington lead to 64-63 with eights seconds to go. Pennington hit two free throws in the waning moments and a three-point attempt by PDS at the buzzer bounced off the rim to give the Red Raiders a 66-63 win.

“We stepped up, we had a sense of urgency,” said Davis, who got 17 points from senior star David “Diggy” Coit in the loss with junior forward Jaylin Champion chipping in 14 and sophomore guard Freddie Young Jr. adding 14. “It is tough to have that urgency in the third and fourth quarter and not bring it for the rest of the game.”

There was a feeling of emptiness at the buzzer for the Panther players as they went through the postgame handshake line looking dazed with heads down.

“I feel for guys like Diggy, that was his last shot for another Prep title,” said Davis of Coit who helped PDS win the Prep B tourney in 2016. “It is a really good Pennington team. I knew going into this game that they were a better team than their record showed (now 5-18). It is tough.”

With PDS, now 12-11, competing in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and slated to play at seventh-seeded WW/P-North on February 14 in an opening round contest, Davis will be looking for his players to be tougher all game long.

“It is a learning experience for our younger guys,” said Davis. “It is putting four quarters together so we can play a full game with that urgency and that will to win.’