February 17, 2021

With Senior Center Garita Diversifying His Game, PDS Boys’ Hoops Produces Promising 2-1 Start

INSIDE PRESENCE: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ethan Garita puts up a shot in the paint over a Pennington School defender last week. Senior center Garita scored 14 points in the February 9 contest to help PDS prevail 50-49. The Panthers, who fell 62-51 at the Hun School last Thursday to move to 2-1, are slated to host Hun in a rematch on February 18 before playing at Pennington on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Ethan Garita struggled in the first half as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team hosted the Pennington School last week.

PDS senior center Garita managed just two points in the first half as the Panthers found themselves trailing archrival Pennington 24-23 at halftime in the February 9 contest.

“In the first half I was kind of getting frustrated, I wasn’t getting the calls from the refs,” said Garita. “You have to just keep fighting it out and keep working and it will come to you.”

At the break, PDS head coach Eugene Burroughs urged the Panthers to fight harder in the second half.

“He told us to keep working; we just wanted to be more aggressive, grab rebounds, and talk on the floor,” recalled Garita. “We had a lot of times where we were kind of selfish and we weren’t passing the ball and running our plays.”

Taking that message to heart, Garita poured in 12 points in the third quarter to help PDS forge ahead 43-35.

“I felt like I was getting into a rhythm,” said Garita, reflecting on his outburst. “I was setting hard body screens and rolling and going to the line. I have got to keep working.”

Weathering a Pennington rally, the Panthers had to work hard to pull out a 50-49 victory.

“We were getting tired; there were a lot of turnovers and a lot of bad passes,” said Garita, who totaled 14 points in the victory with classmate Dameon Samuels contributing 12. “They were beating us on the boards. I guess we just outhustled them when it came down to the wire.”

The nail-biter epitomized the intense local rivalry between PDS and the Red Raiders.

“It has been going on for a while now; last season, we played them at our home and we beat them and then the second time they beat us,” said Garita. “We had an overtime game against them last week. You have just got to fight it out and the best team wins. We came out and showed that we were better.”

New head coach Burroughs has showed Garita and his teammates different ways to look at the game.

“He has a great background, coaching in the G-League and the college level,” said Garita. “It is his first year coaching high school. There are a lot of times in practice where he calls out different plays that I am not used to so it is a learning process. It is helping all of us and it is preparing us for the next level. I am glad that he could be part of this.”

Garita is learning some valuable lessons from Burroughs. “Last year, I was mainly in the post,” said Garita. “He wants me to develop my game, shoot a little bit more, handle the rock, take it up the court. I have been working on my craft outside and in at practice. I just try to put that in my game.”

In reflecting on the win over Pennington, Burroughs credited his players with fighting gamely down the stretch.

“My biggest thing for our team is just playing together, I think our defense has been really good,” said Burroughs. “I am really impressed with our ability to defend. We are staying within our principles. Our kids are competing on the defensive end.”

Burroughs liked the way Garita competed. “Today he was a little more active and I think he could be even more active,” added Burroughs. “He has got to finish some plays around the basket. He is there, he has got to finish those plays.”

PDS also got some big plays against Pennington from junior Connor Topping, junior Anthony Stewart and senior Josh Colon as Topping and Colon each tallied four points with Stewart chipping in six.

“Connor has been defense, he competes and he has been putting the ball on the floor,” said Burroughs.

“He has been doing some great things, he got a big block at the end. Stewart is one of our tougher kids, he comes in and plays hard. Josh is that guy who knows where everyone is supposed to be on the floor. He knows where he is supposed to be, he is a veteran. If those kids do what they are supposed to do, I think we have got a chance to be good.”

While Burroughs was happy to see his squad pull out the win, he knows there is plenty of room for growth.

“I said to the guys this is how funny the game is, it is a game of runs,” said Burroughs, whose team fell 62-51 to the Hun School last Thursday to move to 2-1 and is slated to host Hun in a rematch on February 18 before playing at Pennington on February 23.

“We start out slow, we make a run and then weathered the storm. At the end, we held on. You can win games like that. It is a win so be proud of the win. I feel that our internal energy has to be better and we have to uplift ourselves a little more with a little more energy. Offensively I think we have some work to do, I think we can play better offensively.”

Garita, for his part, believes that PDS can build on the way it played in the third quarter of the win over Pennington.

“We need to be aggressive as a whole and not be selfish,” said Garita. “We put our heads down in the first half. In the third quarter, it was grabbing rebounds, shooting better as a team and just outworking everyone.”