March 6, 2019

Senior Dyevich Enjoys Special Home Finale As PHS Girls’ Hoops Makes Sectional Semis

SENIOR SUCCESS: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Catherine Dyevich puts up a shot in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior star Dyevich posted career highs in points (25) and rebounds (17) to help fourth-seeded PHS defeat fifth-seeded Trenton 66-51 in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional quarterfinals in her home finale. Two days later, the Tigers fell 53-31 at top-seeded Middletown South in the sectional semis to end the winter with a 18-8 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline blared in the gym last Wednesday evening, members of the Princeton High girls’ basketball team belted out the lyrics, dancing and hopping in unison.

The song’s refrain “good times never seemed so good” perfectly described the emotions the PHS players were feeling as they celebrated after defeating visiting Trenton High 66-51 in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional quarterfinals.

The fourth-seeded Tigers trailed fifth-seeded Trenton 34-31 at halftime but came out roaring in the third quarter, outscoring the Tornadoes 23-10 in the period and never looked back on the way to the sweet win.

“I am really happy that we finished that way, that was probably the best all around team effort we have ever put forth,” said a smiling PHS senior star forward Catherine Dyevich.

“It is the greatest number of points we have ever scored as a team. Everyone contributed so much, we played so well together. We were so selfless with the ball.”

Having been defeated 53-35 by Trenton in late January, Dyevich and her teammates were primed for their rematch with the Tornadoes.

“We were just trying to shut them down on defense more because last time we let their leading scorers score over 20 points,” said Dyevich.

“The last time we struggled on offense too. In the second quarter we didn’t score, we were really frazzled. We didn’t set up an offense in that game, we were kind of all over the place. This time we stayed composed, we believed in ourselves. Even when they were up at the half, it hurt a little bit because we were winning most of the first half. We knew were so capable of it. We went out in the second half and we were ready to win.”

While PHS went on to lose 53-31 to top-seeded Middletown South in the sectional semis on Friday, that didn’t diminish what the Tigers accomplished this winter as they posted an 18-8 record.

“Coach [Dave] Kosa just told us that it most likely hasn’t been done since the 80s,” said Dyevich.

“Last year was the first stepping stone, winning the first round of states was a huge deal. This year we did that on Monday [with a 49-34 win over 13th-seeded Long Branch] and I think the fourth seed is the highest we have ever been and ranked. This is so incredible, so special.”

Dyevich is leaving with incredible memories of her home finale as she scored 14 points in the first quarter and ended up with a career-high 25 points and  a career-best 17 rebounds.

“I didn’t think that has ever happened for me; I was obviously thrilled,” said Dyevich, reflecting on her first quarter outburst.

“In the second quarter I didn’t score so I was a little down. I was a little nervous in the second half. I just believed in myself and my coaches were so supportive. It is a career high too, so I am really happy that I ended my high school career at home this way.”

PHS head coach Dave Kosa believed in his team, notwithstanding its previous defeat to the Tornadoes.

“I was looking forward to the matchup; I knew they beat us by 18 but it wasn’t really an 18-point game,” said Kosa, noting that senior star Erin Devine was sidelined for the first meeting of the rivals due to injury.

“We just needed to get into our offense; we wanted to handle their pressure because I know that they were going to come 94 feet for the entire game. In the first game they got us tired because we weren’t as deep. Having Erin back really helped because she can handle the ball as far as breaking their press. In the second half, we just relied upon our defense. They hit a couple but I was OK with that because in the last quarter when your legs get tired, they missed some 3s which really helped us. Then we just really passed the ball well.”

Kosa credited Dyevich with playing really well in the win last Wednesday. “Catherine is just a great, steady player for us; she has worked very hard as far as her left hand and her right hand,” said  Kosa, who also got 18 points from Devine with junior point guard Shaylah Marciano chipping in 11.

“When we penetrate, she looks to sneak out a little bit. We have been working on that, especially with Erin and her, just looking for her 10 footer. She is just really good in hitting that mid-range shot. She has long arms and she that to her advantage, on rebounding.”

The team’s senior group helped the program make steady progress over the last three years. “It is incredible to see them come together and take this program to a level which it has probably never been taken before as far as advancing to this spot,” said Kosa, whose seniors included the Intartaglia twins, Anna and Olivia, and Ella Kotsen along with Dyevich and Devine.

“They trust in one another. The going gets tough and today they bonded together. They didn’t get rattled or anything like that. Everybody just has such a trust and a belief in one another as far as what we are trying to do; it is great to see that from a high school team. That is what we were remarking on in the locker room, it is just a lot of hard work and the girls have been committed. We made some tremendous strides last year and I said this is the season where we can really make our mark.”

Dyevich, for her part, is proud to see that long-term commitment pay dividends.

“It is really meaningful because as seniors we have been playing together and working so hard since elementary school,” said Dyevich, who is headed to Cornell where she will compete for its women’s rowing program.

“It just means so much that finally our hard work is paying off and it is really showing. In sophomore year, we were a little nervous and we were 6-20. Last year, we were on the up and up and this year it has been the best.”