February 20, 2019

PHS Girls’ Hoops Reaches MCT Quarterfinals, Senior-Laden Squad Primed for State Tourney

FAST AND FURIOUS: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Anna Intartaglia races upcourt last Thursday as PHS hosted Allentown in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. Senior point guard Intartaglia contributed six points, four assists, and two steals as the seventh-seeded Tigers defeated the 10th-seeded Redbirds 37-30. Two days later, PHS fell 66-50 at second-seeded Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals. The Tigers, now 15-7, are next in action in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional where they are seeded fourth and slated to host 13th-seeded Long Branch in a first round contest on February 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High girls’ basketball team trailing Allentown 23-22 entering the fourth quarter of their Mercer County Tournament opener last Thursday, Anna Intartaglia took matters into her hands.

PHS senior guard Intartaglia drained a three-pointer from the corner in the first possession of the quarter to give the seventh-seeded Tigers a 25-23 lead over the 10th-seeded Redbirds.

“I feel like threes are always a huge momentum shift, especially when someone hits one at a time like that,” said Intartaglia. “It was really cool.”

PHS never trailed after Intartaglia’s three, pulling away to a 37-30 win, a victory that was particularly sweet since the Tigers had lost to Allentown 40-30 on January 18.

“There were a couple of quarters in the first game where we struggled a little bit,” said Intartaglia.

“We went through some droughts, so today we just wanted to keep our intensity up the entire game and just stick with it and I think we did a really good job of it. In this game we were just so focused and wanted it so badly. I think the fourth quarter and coming back really showed that.”

In addition to her clutch shooting, Intartaglia assisted on a pair of key three-pointers in the quarter by classmate Erin Devine, who was returning to action after being sidelined by a leg injury.

“Erin hit a bunch; that was really helpful,” said Intartaglia, who contributed six points, four assists, and two steals on the evening. “Once she hit there first one I knew  they would fall for her today. She came back; she has been working so hard.”

Intartaglia also helped lead the defensive charge for PHS, putting the clamps on Allentown star guard Lauren Coliante, holding her to two points.

“She is a very good player, she is very talented,” said Intartaglia of Coliante. “We have focused on our defense the entire season. We have really wanted to focus on being the best defense in the county so today we just wanted to prove that.”

The senior-laden Tigers desperately wanted to advance in the county tourney.

“It is so important; we have played them before in the MCTs and have lost pretty badly,” said Intartaglia, who is joined in the starting lineup by her twin sister Olivia along with classmates Catherine Dyevich, Devine, and junior Shaylah Marciano. “It is really nice to get this win senior year.”

PHS head coach Dave Kosa liked the way his team grew from its previous loss to Allentown.

“In the locker after the first time we played them, we had a heart-to-heart,” recalled Kosa, who got 13 points from Dyevich in the win with Devine adding 11.

“We had our shot; we lost our poise in the first game. Today, we were home which helped. It was just keeping our poise, making sure that we didn’t turn the ball over and not force anything. These are going to be low-scoring games and we just grinded it out.”

The presence of Devine was key for the Tigers. “Having Erin back was big,” said Kosa. “That really gave us some momentum and confidence, knowing that we had her.”

Intartaglia’s intensity also helped give PHS momentum. “She has just continued to work hard, she hasn’t been shooting the ball that well lately, but she continues to work hard in practice,” said Kosa.

“She is always the first one in and the last one to leave. It paid off today with a couple of big ones.”

Being home was big for the Tigers as they been sent on the road in their last three MCT first round games, losing all three by large margins.

“It is big for them, we have really have had a great season up until this point, but it is tournament time now,” said Kosa. “This is a new season for us. We worked hard to get to this point. We got ourselves a home game, we took advantage of that.”

While PHS fell 66-50 at second-seeded Pennington in the MCT quarters on Saturday to move to 15-7, the Tigers still have work to do as they will be starting play in the state tournament next week.

“This is the time to put it together,” said Kosa, whose team will be competing in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional, where it is seeded fourth and slated to host 13th-seeded Long Branch in a first round contest on February 25.

“That senior group is relying upon one another, they are trusting one another. Shay [Marciano] is really finding the open player. It was really nice to get this one.”

Intartaglia, for her part, is hoping to end her career with a nice run in the sectional.

“We are really excited about states,” said Intartaglia. “It should be a good one, we get a home game first.”