February 12, 2020

With Bar-Cohen Undeterred by Broken Nose, Surging PHS Boys’ Hoops Routs Lawrence

RAISING THE BAR: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Gefen Bar-Cohen goes up for a bucket last Friday as PHS played at Lawrence. Battling through a broken nose, senior forward Bar-Cohen scored a game-high 19 points to help the Tigers prevail 63-37. PHS, which improved to 10-10 with the win, hosts Phillipsburg on February 13 and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Gefen Bar-Cohen’s face was covered by a plastic mask to protect a broken nose as he took the court for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team at Lawrence last Friday evening.

In the early stages of the contest, senior forward Bar-Cohen looked like the injury may be hampering him as he missed several shots, going scoreless as PHS found itself trailing the Cardinals 8-6 at the end of the first quarter.

But getting into the groove, Bar-Cohen tallied 10 points in the second quarter as the Tigers built a 24-18 lead by halftime

“Once the ball starts going through the basket you get that momentum,” said Bar-Cohen, who broke his nose in a 63-57 loss to North Brunswick on January 18.

“You start making shots and you hype up your teammates. Everybody is hyping you up and getting into that mindset of keeping your foot on the gas pedal.”

In the second half, PHS kept its foot to the pedal, going on a 27-0 run to break open the game and cruise to a 63-37 win.

“We knew we could do it, we weren’t up by that many in the first half,” said Bar-Cohen. “We knew we could close it out and push it to double digits. It feels great.”

With the Tigers having won six of their last eight games in improving to 10-10, Bar-Cohen is feeling good about where the team is at.

“We are trying to ride the momentum right now, we started out the season a little sluggish,” said Bar-Cohen. “We really picked it up towards the end of the season.”

In reflecting on the recent surge, Bar-Cohen attributes the hot streak to more cohesive play. 

“Our offense has really come along,” said Bar-Cohen. “At first, we were struggling to get cuts and get movement. I think everybody is really fitting into the system and we are starting to move the ball more.”

As Bar-Cohen goes through his final weeks of his high school career, he is determined to go out in a high note.

“I am just trying to get the team a boost and do anything I can to help the team win,” said Bar-Cohen, who has committed to attend Kenyon College and play for its Division III men’s hoops program. “I want to put in a good senior season and finish out strong.”

PHS head coach Pat Noone credits Bar-Cohen with coming on strong down the stretch.

“Gefen has been great; we talked before the North Brunswick game,” recalled Noone.

“We have a great relationship; it was one of those talks that has been the turning point this season for him. He has been really on since then.”

In the win over Lawrence, a defensive switch helped turn the tide for the Tigers.

“We got some buckets there and you could see the momentum shifting in our direction,”said Noone.

“Our guys are pretty good at riding that wave when they get the momentum going. I think that our 1-3-1 defense really hurt them in the middle of the third quarter. That really turned the momentum of the game.”

In Noone’s view, team unity has helped the Tigers develop momentum collectively. 

“The guys are just playing together so well,” said Noone. “We have got good chemistry, everyone is picking up each other; they are there for each other. It is a really good group. They are all excited right now that is where we are at; it is a team effort.”

Draining some key buckets also helped get PHS going in the right direction. “The only difference is that we made shots,” added Noone.

“If you look through our season, we had Rumson on the ropes and we faltered, turning the ball over with 10 seconds left. We had Allentown and we missed a shot with 30 seconds left. Now we are starting to make those shots. It is confidence, once you see that ball going through. You ride the momentum.”

With the Tigers hosting Phillipsburg on February 13 and then starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, Noone believes his team has a shot at a good postseason run.

“It is such a good conference, it is so well coached and everybody is always really prepared,” said Noone.

“You don’t know what is coming, night in, night out. It is good talent and great coaches. It has been such a battle. We have been able to ride the wave, which is really cool. The guys enjoy each other. That is the fun part, seeing how excited they are and how much fun they are having.”

Bar-Cohen, for his part, is excited to keep battling for as long as possible.

“We just want to play hard and give it our best every game,” said Bar-Cohen. “We have the potential to beat anyone; people don’t know our name yet.”