March 27, 2013
BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High baseball team has struggled in recent years, its players are excited for the 2013 season.

“There is a lot of renewed enthusiasm,” said Princeton head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 4-18 record last year.

“A lot of the guys love baseball and really focus on it. They play a lot in the summer and in the fall.”

Roberts has a lot of arms at his disposal to handle the pitching duties this spring with senior Mike Dunlap, senior Rohit Chawla, junior Ben Gross, senior Andrew Frain, junior Jeff Gleason, and junior Austin Taylor.

“Mike Dunlap will return as a starter; Rohit pitched 35-40 innings last year,” said Roberts, whose team opens the season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2.

“Gross is a welcome addition. Frain will round out the rotation. We can use four different starters depending on the week. Gleason and Taylor will be first out of the gate in weeks where we need relievers. I think the staff is very good. It is one of our strengths. They have a lot of experience and lot of talent in the junior class.”

The Little Tigers will need to use experience and creativity to manufacture runs. PHS will feature seniors Ellis Bloom and Zach DiGregorio at the top of the order with juniors Zach Tesone, Gross, senior Frain, and junior Colin Frawley providing punch in the middle.

“We will rely on Bloom and DiGregorio to be the tablesetters,” said Roberts.

“Tesone and Gross will be in three or four, they can get the ball to the gaps. Frain or Frawley in the five spot. We are going to need singles, stolen bases and sacrifice bunts to get runs.”

Around the diamond, the PHS defensive alignment will include Frawley and John Reid at catcher, Tesone and Taylor at first base, senior Matt Farinick at second, Chawla and Gleason at shortstop, Bloom at third with Christian Giles, DiGregorio, Gross, and Frain in the outfield.

The PHS players are hoping that their love of the game will translate to more wins this spring.

“We talked about goals the other day,” said Roberts. “They think of themselves as a .500 team and I tend to agree. If we could get to 10 wins, that would be a great step forward. They have more lofty goals this year.”

In order to achieve those goals, the Little Tigers have to execute better than they have in recent years.

“We need to win the games we are supposed to win or think we should win,” said Roberts.

“We have to close out one-run games; we lost five one-run games last year. If we steal a couple of those, that would be a big help. We need to prevent the bad inning.”

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of a disappointing 2012 season, Bill McQuade senses a renewed hunger around his Hun School baseball team this spring.

“They think they could have done better,” said Hun head coach McQuade, whose squad went 9-14 last spring after surging to the state Prep A title in 2011.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t have enough pitching depth and that hurt us. This team has a different feel. We have five or six newcomers who can really play. This is shaking the cobwebs off because people know they could lose their position. We are going to be as good as we can be as a team, not individuals.”

McQuade believes that this year’s team boasts a powerful one-two pitching punch in Wagner College-bound senior star Austin Goeke and sophomore Jason Applegate.

“Goeke is terrific, he looked great in Florida,” said McQuade, who took his team on its annual spring training trip earlier this month in preparation for his 43rd season at the helm of the program.

“Jason Applegate is a kid who has made a big jump. He really opened some eyes in Florida. He is vastly improved, his control and curveball are much better.”

The Raiders have plenty of arms to back up Goeke and Applegate. “We are still figuring out the rest of the staff,” said McQuade, whose team opens the 2013 season by playing at the Lawrenceville School on March 27.

“Mike Manfredi is not a power pitcher but he throws strikes. The freshmen, George Revock and Rob Huselid, throw strikes. Andy Douglas has a funky motion but he is effective. Brett Ender had some shoulder problems and was rehabbing in the fall. He can get it over 90 m.p.h. so he could be another power pitcher for us. If I had to say what our strength is, I would say it is depth on the mound.”

The Raiders have some depth around the diamond to provide defensive support for its pitchers.

“We have multiple people who can play multiple positions,” said McQuade. “It is causing the coaches a dilemma. We have a couple of people for each position and we may need to make cuts. We have a lot of moving parts.”

McQuade should have the ability to make a lot of moves defensively. “We have Stevie Wells at first, Shane Adams at second, Devon Birch at shortstop, and Eddie Paparella at third when he is healthy; we will have Nick Perez and Douglas at third for now,” said McQuade.

“In the outfield, we have Applegate, Manfredi, Douglas, Zach Roberson, and Bailey Hammer. We have five or six guys who could play in the infield and four or five in the outfield.”

The Raiders also have depth at catcher as Mike Edenzon, Gideon Friedberg, and Ryan Hayes are vying for time behind the plate.

“All are better than the other in one area, hitting, throwing, or blocking pitches,” said McQuade in analyzing his catching situation. “We have to figure out who will be the catcher.”

Hun’s batting order boasts a good balance of speed and punch that figures to give its foes fits.

“Birch and Adams can both lead off, they are identical to each other, they are both special players with a lot of speed,” said McQuade.

“Wells gives us a lot of power. It is a mistake to pitch him inside so we have him working on going to the opposite field. We just need him to get singles or doubles to left to keep the line moving. Applegate is better and Manfredi has a good bat. Paparella at third is a special player, a lot of college scouts were looking at him last year. When he gets healthy, he will bat third. He is a switch hitter.”

In order to rebound this spring, the Hun players will have to come together as a unit.

“If we can get the right people in the right places and work together, we could be good,” said McQuade.

“The kids can’t worry about individual statistics. We have a lot of kids going on to play in college but it is about what are you going to do now. Some kids may have to play different positions if that is what is best for the team. These are the little things that we have to do well and we talk about them everyday.”

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk didn’t have to wait until this spring to see something special in her Hun School softball team.

“They did a weightlifting program over the winter with our new trainer,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk.

“The kids are pumped up. The three seniors [Carey Million, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal] are good leaders on and off the field. They were getting people to come in for the weightlifting.”

Quirk is confident she has two starting pitchers in freshman Alexis Goeke and Beal who will get a lot of people out this spring.

“Goeke is going to help us,” asserted Quirk, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.

“She is strong and young and can only get better. She wants to be out there, she is a competitor. Beal pitched well in Florida. We are going to use both of them. They complement each other and are supportive of each other.”

The Raiders should be able to provide good defensive support to the pitchers. Hun will feature Elon University-bound Million at catcher with sophomore Caitlin Hoagland at first base backed up by Goeke and junior Kameron McNair, Crivelli at second, sophomore star Julia Blake at shortstop, and Beal at third. Across the outfield, Quirk will use junior Alexa Fares in left, junior Kristen Manochio in center, and junior Lauren Moonan in right.

Over its recent preseason trip down south, Hun showed some hitting punch that impressed Quirk.

“In Florida we were hitting very well, we swung the bats as well as I have seen us do down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-7 in 2012 and advanced to the state Prep A semis. “We will lead off with Blake, followed by Beal, Goeke, Million, and Manochio.”

The Raiders will be relying on its trio of seniors to take the lead this spring. “They have the desire,” said Quirk.

“Our seniors have been in the semis or the finals the past few years and we have lost by a run or in extra innings. They have to believe in themselves and that they can do it.”

Quirk, for her part, believes the squad can do some special things this spring. “I have high hopes, I hope they meet my expectations of going for Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state championships,” said Quirk.

“We have to stay focused. We won all seven games in Florida. I know it wasn’t the greatest competition. We have to take that experience and build on it and get better.”

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling to a 0-5 start last spring, the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team caught fire and ended with a 9-9 record.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas believes her team can build on last season’s late surge.

“We want to start where we left off last year and work on getting better everyday,” said Thomas, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Stuart County Day School on April 2.

Thomas believes her corps of nine seniors will make sure that the team works hard on a daily basis.

“These seniors are bound and determined, “ asserted Thomas, whose Class of 2013 includes Ellen Bartolino, Zeeza Cole, Lizzie Frieder, Louise Hutter, Carolyn Kossow, Hannah Levy, Cami McNeely, Sarah Trigg, and Corinne Urisko.

“They have really brought the group together. The juniors have responded really well.”

Thomas likes the way her offense is coming together. “We have six guys who will be on attack or midfield,” said Thomas.

“Hannah Levy had almost 100 points last year and she is looking good. She is heading to MIT, I think she will be a star there. Corinne Urisko is building on last year; she has got a shot that just rips the net. Lucy Linville had a good offseason; she has worked really hard. Sarah Brennan is looking good in the midfield; she will score goals. Kirsten Kuzmicz will be key in the midfield. Morgan Foster is 100 percent and she is looking fine. We have a lot of balance.”

The Panthers feature some battle-tested veterans at the other end of the field.

“The low defense will be Louise Hutter, Cami McNeely, and Lizzie Frieder,” said Thomas. “Zeeza Cole will move between midfield and defense.”

Senior goalie Sarah Trigg is looking good as PDS’ last line of defense. “Sarah gets better everyday; she is committed to going out on top,” added Thomas.

The Panthers will look to start the season at top speed, having displayed their commitment to excellence by going to Florida earlier this month for a preseason trip.

“We have already had two weeks of preseason up here,” said Thomas. “The trip is a good opportunity to get things going. It is an exciting group; it is going to be a lot of fun.”

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Caitlin Grant, things are running like clockwork in her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team.

“I think last year was a lot of learning for me and the players,” said Grant, who guided Stuart to a 4-11 record last spring.

“This year there is no messing around. At 3:15, the kids are ready to go and run laps. The captains took it upon themselves to have captain’s practices before the season so that was a big help.”

In Grant’s view, her team should get some big help from its group of freshmen.

“Last year none of the freshmen had played lacrosse,” said Grant, whose squad hosts Princeton Day School on April 2 in its season opener.

“This year we have five freshmen who have played outside lacrosse before. We have two freshmen who are new to the game but are picking it up so quickly that I can’t believe it.”

Grant is confident the Tartans will pick it up offensively this spring. “Isabel Soto played well last year and is at attack again,” said Grant.

“Amy Hallowell is always going to be a good one for us. We have three freshmen, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser and Sam Servis, who are doing well and are going to be really good. Rose Tetnowski is also doing well.”

The Stuart defense will be spearheaded by two veterans. “Isabel Lapuerta and Meghan Shannon are the two starters coming back there,” said Grant.

Sophomore Harlyn Bell came on strong last year at goalie and Grant is expecting her to be even better in 2013.

“Harlyn just tried out for a travel team and made it; she played over the summer too,” said Grant. “She is really quick and is able to clear the ball a long way down the field.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans have the potential to come a long way this spring. “I think this group is going to do well,” asserted Grant.

“We are young but we are going to be tough to beat. They push each other hard in practice and hold each other accountable. I am really excited for the season.”

March 20, 2013
EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Davon Reed had to deal with a lot of hoopla as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star was the object of an intense recruiting battle among several top college programs.

A number of big-time college coaches made their way to the PDS gym and Reed ended up receiving around 20 offers from D-I teams.

This past September, Reed committed to the University of Miami, clearing his plate to focus solely on his senior season with the Panthers.

“The foot is still on the throttle; I still have personal goals I want to achieve at the high school level,” said the 6’6 Reed in December.

“I am not looking to college, that is there and we know where that is. I am just here to encourage my team and look for us to get better and finish this season out on top. The goal is to win a state championship and to win a Mercer County Tournament so we are looking to do that.”

Reed kept his foot on the gas all winter, producing a senior campaign that solidified his status as one of the greatest players ever to play in Mercer County high school circles. He averaged 23.2 points this season and helped the Panthers take second at the Hill School tournament in December and win the PrimeTime Shootout’s Flight I title after Christmas.

After passing the 2,000-point mark in his career, making him just the third player in county annals to achieve that milestone, Reed led PDS on a memorable postseason run.

In the county tournament, the Panthers topped Steinert and defending state champion Ewing before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame in the semis.

Reed helped the Panthers go one step further in the state Prep B tournament. After taking down Golda Och and defending champion Rutgers Prep, PDS earned its second straight title to the Prep B title game where it faced archrival Pennington in mid-February.

Giving his all in his final high school game, Reed scored a game-high 24 points. His heroics weren’t enough as PDS fell short 47-45 as a last-second layup rolled off the rim to clinch the win for the Red Raiders.

In the wake of the disappointing loss, Reed was able to put things in perspective.

“We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up,” said Reed, who ended his career with a program-record 2,102 points. “I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean credited Reed with putting the program back on the map.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 19-8.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

For making his senior season a shining final chapter in an epic career, Reed is the Town Topics’ choice as the top male performer of the winter high school season.

Top Female Performers

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio have been a lethal one-two punch since joining the program together as freshmen in the 2009-10 season.

In their debut campaign, the pair emerged as key contributors, piling up wins from the start for the Little Tigers.

With Deardorff focusing on the sprint events and Giglio concentrating on the breaststroke and individual medley, the pair complemented each other and gave coach Greg Hand balance in putting his lineup together.

In addition, they fed off of each other when they joined forces in relay events, often giving PHS an edge right from the start in the meet-opening 200 medley relay.

Over the years, their blend of talent, composure, and consistency made them akin to a swimming version of the former pair of aces for the Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavin.

In their sophomore year, the pair helped the Little Tigers go 12-2 and earn a sectional title. Last season, they starred as the Little Tigers went 13-2 and made it to the sectional finals.

This winter, Deardoff and Giglio saved their best for last, sparking the Little Tiger girls to one of the best seasons in program history.

In early January, they helped PHS beat powerful WW/P-S in a dual meet for the first time this century. In topping the Pirates 94-76, Deardorff took first in the 50 and 100 freestyle races and helped the 200 medley relay to victory. Giglio, meanwhile won the 100 breast, took second in the 200 free and helped the medley relay to victory.

“We have never beaten them but instead of coming into the meet planning on winning, I think the upperclassmen focused on just getting the underclassmen psyched to do their best,” said Deardorff, reflecting on the breakthrough win. “We wanted them to do their best times in the pool and just have fun with it.”

The triumph set a positive tone for the Little Tigers as they headed into postseason action.

“This definitely got the girls’ team psyched for what is to come,” added Deardorff.

“Now we know we can go really far and hopefully to states and just see how things go. We are not going to go into any meets focused on winning.”

The Little Tigers kept on winning, posting an undefeated regular season and entering the Mercer County Swimming Championships as a top contender.

After a few near misses in recent years at the county meet, PHS came through with the title, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

Afterward, the understated Giglio acknowledged that the Little Tigers weren’t sure if they could pull off the county victory.

“We knew we were strong this year but again, we have never done it before so we really wanted to just try our best and see if we could do it for the first time,” said Giglio, who placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke at the county meet while Deardorff took third in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 butterfly.

The Little Tigers showed their championship intent by opening the meet with a resounding victory on the 200 medley relay, setting a school record in the process.

“We really wanted to get another first in the relays,” said Giglio, reflecting on the quartet’s mindset as they approached the race.

“We weren’t completely confident that we had won. We wanted to break the record again. We were all filled with nervous excitement and energy. We were ready to go.”

PHS kept going in the state Public B Central Jersey sectional final where it fell to Chatham to suffer its only loss of the season in producing a 13-1 campaign

After that defeat, Hand acknowledged the key role played by his pair of senior standouts.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

For giving so much to PHS together and leading the Little Tigers to a breakthrough season, Deardorff and Giglio are the joint choice as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

As Mark Shelley took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ varsity basketball program this winter, he recognized that a major challenge would involve melding the team’s veterans with its new faces.

“The biggest thing is mixing the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley.

“There is chemistry within each group and now I need to develop chemistry between them.”

Having coached the JV team the previous season, Shelley knew he had something special in junior forward Peter Mahotiere.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley. “He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three.”

Mahotiere stepped up all winter long for the Little Tigers, developing into a solid performer who played a key role at both ends of the court.

The 6’1 Mahotiere ended up averaging 8.2 points a game and was among the team’s leaders in rebounds. His athleticism also helped make PHS zone defense stifle foes as the Little Tigers led the CVC in fewest points allowed per game during the regular season.

Playing in his first state tournament game, Mahotiere produced one of his best efforts of the season as PHS topped visiting Hopewell Valley 62-42 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Mahotiere scored 15 points to help the Little Tigers pull away to the win.

In assessing Mahotiere’s effort that night, Shelley summarized what the junior brought to the table this winter for the Little Tigers.

“He finishes well,” said Shelley. “He is the kind of player who once he scores a little bit, he gets some confidence and that elevates his game. I can’t tell you how many deflections he had tonight. Even when he didn’t get a rebound, his hands were on things.”

Mahotiere’s all-around contribution in his debut campaign for PHS makes him the pick as the top male newcomer this winter.

Madeleine Deardorff didn’t wait long to make an impact this winter in her freshman season on the PHS girls’ swim team.

The precocious Deardorff helped the 200 medley relay to victory in the first event of PHS’s season-opening win over Nottingham. In the Little Tigers’ next meet, Deardorff won the 100 butterfly in a 108-62 victory over Robbinsville.

Deardorff kept piling up wins all season as PHS went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

For Deardorff, learning how to keep calm in the blocks helped pave the way to her superb campaign.

“The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Deardorff played a key role in helping PHS win its first-ever county title, taking second in both the 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Even in PHS’s only defeat of the season, a loss to powerful Chatham in the state Public B sectional final, Deardorff was outstanding. She took first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 breast.

Getting the chance to swim with her older sister, senior star, Serena, helped inspire Deardorff.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

For providing excitement and wins in her first season with PHS, Deardorff gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the winter season.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli acknowledged that his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team faced a minefield of challenges this winter.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts and the Hill School (Pa.) tournament.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

The senior-laden Panthers proved that they were one of the best teams in the state. After winning their Henry Rulon-Miller Invitational in early December, PDS placed third in the Barber Invitational in Massachusetts over the holidays.

Over the course of the regular season, PDS posted a string of impressive victories, knocking off such high-powered foes as Kinnelon High, LaSalle Prep (Pa.), Notre Dame, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Don Bosco.

The Panthers tied for the state Prep title, skating to a thrilling 2-2 overtime draw against rival Morristown-Beard. The Panthers ended the season by taking second in the Hill tourney, topping Portledge and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on the way to the title game.

PDS ended its stellar season with a 21-3-1 record and the knowledge that it could compete against all comers.

Bertoli tipped his hat to his core of seniors. which included Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

“They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question about that,” said Bertoli.

“It is one of the top two or three programs in the state for the last two years. You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them. There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”

For being the architect of the program’s renaissance, Bertoli is the top coach of a male team this winter.

Last winter, Greg Hand guided the Princeton high boys’ swimming team to a breakthrough campaign as the Little Tigers went undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B state title.

While much of the attention this season centered on the boys’ team and its quest for a title repeat which fell short with a loss in the state semis, Hand performed a brilliant coaching job with his girls’ squad, which thrust its way into the limelight as the winter unfolded.

After cruising to some routs in December meets, the Little Tiger girls faced perennial nemesis WW/P-S in early January. Having not beaten the Pirates this century, PHS ended that jinx in style with a 94-76 triumph.

Hand was hoping the win would prove to be a harbinger of good things to come.

“The more you get into the season, the more you pay attention to who is slightly faster than somebody else,” said Hand.

“There was just a lot of learning going on today because the great thing about our rivalry is that we always come to swim fast on that day. We always know that the other team is going to be classy and they are going to come to race.”

PHS kept racing well, going undefeated in regular season dual meets. In the Mercer County Championships, PHS broke through again, winning its first county title and breaking WW/P-S’s 12-year stranglehold on the meet.

“To win a championship is always going to depend on who else was there that day,” said Hand, reflecting on the county crown. “To swim to win it is a very special thing.”

While PHS didn’t win a sectional title as it fell to Chatham in the Public B Central Jersey championship meet to suffer its only loss of the season, Hand liked what he saw from his girl swimmers to the end.

“We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand, whose team finished with a 13-1 record.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water.”

Hand’s role in helping PHS produce one of the most exciting seasons in its history makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team this winter.

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ hockey team went winless this winter, Christian Herzog saw a special toughness in his players.

“We were like the Joe Pesci character (Nicky Santoro) in Casino, if you beat us with fists, we come back with a bat,” said PHS head coach Herzog, noting that his team played some of its best hockey in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament where it fell 4-0 to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) in its final game of ‘B’ bracket play.

“If you beat us with a bat, we come back with a knife. If you beat us with a knife, we come back with a gun. We take a licking and keep on ticking.”

Sophomore star Lucy Herring proved to be PHS’s top gun this winter. “The MVP was Lucy Herring; she took the brunt of everything,” said Herzog.

“I felt bad because she had a lot on her shoulders. I told her that she had that role because I know she is an athlete and can handle it. She thrives under pressure. She had around 15 points, she was our leading scorer.”

Senior defenseman Hanna Kostenbader emerged as a key leader for the Little Tigers this winter.

“Hanna Kostenbader won our Abby Hunter head, heart, hustle award,” said Herzog.

“She texted me before the playoffs saying she slammed her hand into a door and she didn’t know how much she could help but that she would be there. She is a righty and she played with her left hand. I don’t think many other players would have tried that. She came out and fought through it. She was a good leader. She was willing to work hard and throw her body around.”

The team also got an emotional lift from seniors KC Read-Fisher and Brooke Solomon.

“KC and Brooke really helped off the ice as well,” added Herzog. “They were spirit motivators for the team.”

PHS features some spirited returning players in sophomore Brittney Coniglione, freshman Isabel Sohn, junior Molly O’Brien, junior Merritt Peck, and junior Kate Sohn.

“Coniglione was angrier than I was when someone scored; she takes it seriously,” said Herzog.

“She would say to me that one is on me and it is not going to happen again. Izzy Sohn came out strong, I like her style, she really goes after the puck. Molly O’Brien was our second leading scorer, she came on. Merritt Peck was becoming a menace in the corners at the end of the season. Kate Sohn put forth a good effort. She was the epitome of good sportsmanship and won our sportsmanship award.”

The team’s tandem of goaltenders, junior Breanna Hegerty-Thorne and freshman Callie Urisko, also made good improvement.

“Both goaltenders played well and made progress; I think they had 500 saves between them over the season,” said Herzog.

“Breanna is good at coming out on breakaways, Callie is good on the angles. They really jelled with the team.”

In Herzog’s view, the squad has the potential to really jell into something special going forward.

“The girls are gung ho and ready for next year,” said Herzog. “We have some good girls coming back and I am looking for a stronger year.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA).(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team won 10 games for the second straight season, Lorna Gifis Cook believes her squad made progress this winter.

“Overall, I was happy,” said second-year head coach Cook, whose team posted a final record of 10-8.

“I thought we played well. I thought we were competitive in just about every game. We stayed competitive against the better teams, we only lost 3-0 to Rye Country Day and 6-3 to Morristown-Beard.”

The Panthers proved to be more competitive in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA), finishing in the top four to move up to the league’s “A’ bracket after winning the ‘B’ bracket the year before.

While PDS fell 6-1 to Portledge School (N.Y.) in the ‘A’ semis, Cook thought the score was deceiving.

“I was very happy with the effort, we played them three times and we made improvement each time,” said Cook.

A key factor in PDS’s consistently good effort this winter was the contribution of the team’s trio of senior captains, forward Zeeza Cole (12 goals and 8 assists this season), defenseman Louise Hutter (1 goal, 3 assists), and goalie Daisy Mase (480 saves, .897 save percentage).

“They made the contribution that I expected,” said Cook. “Having a senior at each position, every one of the younger players had a captain they were comfortable talking to. They showed a strong work ethic on the ice. The program is moving forward and a lot of that is due to them.”

In Cook’s view, her team’s come-from-behind victory over Pingry in early January exemplified the progress PDS displayed this winter.

“I look at our home game against Pingry where we went down 3-0 and then came back to win 4-3 as an example of our attitude all season,” said Cook.

“We never gave up, we were always working hard, and we concentrated on scoring one goal at a time. In that game, we moved Colby [Triolo] to forward and moved Mimi [Matthews] back to defense. Mimi reinforced our defense and Colby had a lot of big plays on offense, she made her teammates better. Seeing her score her first high school goal on her first shift at forward was cool. Mary [Travers] getting a hat trick showed what kind of player she was. She got big goals for us, she had two against Shady Side and the game winner against Summit.”

With a group of juniors that features Lexie Fairman (1 goal, 5 assists), Abby Sharer (3 assists), and leading scorer Robin Linzmayer (19 goals, 7 assists) in addition to Triolo (4 goals, 7 assists), Matthews (2 goals, 9 assists), and Travers (10 goals, 5 assists), Cook sees better things ahead for the program.

“I am excited about having a big senior class next year,” said Cook. “They are important to us and we have players on the way to help them and give them as good a senior year as possible.”

In Cook’s view, PDS is on track to be a major player in the WIHLMA.

“I want us to consistently finish in the top four in WIHLMA and to be able to compete for the title,” said Cook. “It is within reach if we add more depth.”

March 13, 2013
LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ben Samara had an eye on the spring as he coached the Princeton High boys’ winter track team, his athletes made the most of the indoor season.

“I think it was really good,” said PHS head coach Samara. “The main goal is to develop a good base for the spring and we did that. We also accomplished a lot of good things along the way.

Senior standout Tim Brennan solidified his status as one of the more accomplished throwers in the area, winning the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and then going on to place second at the state sectional and third at the state Group III championships.

“He went back and forth with the guy from North all season and he really got jacked up for the county meet,” said Samara of Brennan, who posted a personal best of 53‘11.75 in winning the county title.

“He is a gamer. He was training and lifting weights all through the winter so for him to throw like that was really impressive.”

Another impressive performer for the Little Tigers was senior runner Ian McIsaac, who finished second at the county meet in the 800 before taking third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet and then placing third in the 1,600 at the state Group III championships.

“It started at the Lavino Relays when he anchored our sprint relay and splitted a 1:58; I knew Ian was going to do some big things this season,” said Samara.

“He broke the school record in the 1,600 at successive meets. He has 4:25 at the sectional and 4:23 at the group meet. He trained through the season and has been doing his base training, he is gunning for PRs in both the 800 and 1,600 this spring. He is training hard.”

PHS also got some good contributions from junior Conor Donahue, sophomore Jacob Rist, and sophomore Joe Gray.

“For Conor Donahue to get sixth at the county meet in the 1,600, he came up with one of the best kicks I have ever seen,” asserted Samara.

“He showed so much heart; I am hoping he builds off of that this spring. Rist is really training hard; he is getting to where he wants to be. Another guy who had a great season was Joe Gray, who is a sophomore. His indoor best last year was 54 and his outdoor best was around 51. To run 52 on 200-meter tracks shows a lot of progress. He should get close to 50 seconds outdoors.”

Samara saw progress across the board from his athletes. “We have a lot of good young guys,” added Samara.

“Jeremy Cohen is a freshman and he was keeping up with all of the upperclassmen in their workouts. He has the kind of work ethic you like to see. We have two other guys, Alex Henry, a sophomore, and Noah Chen, a freshman, who came in on the distance side. They were
running 5:10 in the 1,600 at the beginning of the season and they were down to 5:00 by the end. It shows what hard work can do.”

In the final analysis, Samara is more focused on developing work ethic than winning medals.

“It’s not about blowing people away at the county meet; it is about developing guys and their character and hoping that they will get something out of the experience besides wins and losses,” said Samara.

“If you are doing winter track, it is because you want to be there. It isn’t easy training outside in the cold like we do.”

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, the Peddie School gym became its home away from home this winter.

Between three tournaments and a regular season appearance, Hun ended up playing eight contests this season at Peddie, more games than it played in its own gym.

The Raiders prospered in Hightstown, winning seven of those eight games, including an inspiring run to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

In its final game at the gym, Hun topped Peddie 65-53 in the state Prep A semis, producing a performance that exemplified the Raiders’ outstanding campaign.

“I think we came out and we struggled a little bit early; I think we were lethargic after the MAPL,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone reflecting on the February 13 contest.

“It is hard to play a team a few days after you have already beaten them. We battled through it. We took a two-point lead at halftime, which was big since we didn’t play too well. We had a good stretch in the third quarter; we got it going. We were balanced on offense and got contributions from everyone who came in; that was the story of our season.”

The Hun season ended three days later when it fell to eventual champion St. Benedict’s 65-37 in the Prep A semis. “We were down 6-0 and battled back; we were ahead 16-15 after one,” recalled Stone.

“We really struggled in the second and third quarter. We had trouble defensively with their fast break. They were getting easy shots. It was unfortunate; we didn’t play as well as we have been. I think we were a little bit tired and they are a very good team.”

Notwithstanding that setback it was a very good season for Hun, which posted a final record of 20-6.

“Those two things, a 20-win season and a MAPL title stand out,” said Stone.

“We showed resolve and mental toughness; we showed the ability to win a lot of close games. We were down 11 points in the 4th quarter against Hill in the MAPL opener and won. We were down 13 points at halftime to Notre Dame, came back, and won. Those two games stick out.”

Another thing that will stick out for Stone when looking back at this season was the team’s upbeat mentality.

“It was a great group of kids, they listened, learned, and were accountable,” said Stone. “Some of our most fun practices were our hardest. Our chemistry was excellent on and off the court. You see that with good teams.”

The Raiders boasted some good chemistry in the backcourt with its pair of seniors, Fergus Duke (11.8 points and 2.6 assists a game) and Princeton-bound Hashim Moore (8.7 points, 2.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds).

“We had six games in a row where we had a lead and lost it and Fergus had a flurry and we were back up,” said Stone, noting that both Duke and Moore were first-team All-MAPL picks.

“He hit big shot after big shot. He made a lot of big plays on the defensive end as well. He blossomed into a great leader. Hashim had the ability to control a game even when he wasn’t scoring. His big hands got many a loose ball or steal. He is an exceptional passer; he has the ability to see the floor. I think half of Fergus’s baskets came on assists by Hashim; they were a great combination.”

The combination of 6’7 senior Grant MacKay (7.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2-0 assists) and 6’6 classmate Jake Newman (7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds) gave Hun an inside-out punch.

“Down the stretch, Grant played as well as anybody,” asserted Stone. “He made honorable mention All-MAPL. He worked hard; he shot 45 percent from 3-point range. He has the ability to stuff the stat sheet, getting rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. Newman didn’t shoot the ball as well down the stretch as he did earlier but he really handled the ball well. He was defending guards, his length and quickness made it tough on them. He is a smart player.”

With the quartet of Josh McGilvray (7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds), Michael Bourke (5.8 points), Jason Geter (2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds), and David Li (2.7 points, 1.2 rebounds) slated to return, Hun should be plenty tough next season as well.

“We are excited to have four of our top eight back; McGilvray really developed into a good big man,” said Stone.

“We played better when he was in the starting lineup. He is very unselfish, and has the ability to change shots. Bourke was playing his best ball at the end of the season; he developed nicely. Geter is our glue guy. He make plays at both ends of the floor; he is the kind of guy that every team needs. Li gives us energy. When he makes a play, everyone is happy, the crowd, the guys on the bench and the coaching staff. He is a real presence for us. We lose a lot of scoring but if the younger guys develop and we get a couple of new players we should be right up there again.”

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team, its late-season victory at Hamilton provided a glimpse of the squad’s potential.

“To beat a very athletic team like that in their own gym was a good win, especially late in the season,” said PDS head coach Mika Ryan, reflecting on the 34-25 triumph over the Hornets. “The underclassmen had a good game, that was very encouraging.”

Unfortunately, the Panthers didn’t produce enough performances like that this winter as they posted a final record of 8-14.

“It was a difficult season,” acknowledged Ryan, whose team was knocked out in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and fell in the state Prep B quarterfinals.

“One reason we struggled is that we didn’t compete in practice like we needed to. That is where you get better, competing against each other everyday.”

Ryan is hoping that an emphasis on competitive fire will pay dividends down the road.

“My approach is that you compete as hard as you can, no matter who you are playing,” said Ryan.

“We don’t talk about wins and losses, we talk about competing. The underclassmen think like I do, they get it, they understand my approach. I am looking forward to next season.”

The graduation of the team’s trio of seniors, Hannah Levy, Daniela Levitan, and Lauren Johnson, will leave a void next season.

“Hannah was a jack of all trades, she willingly played any position we asked,” said Ryan.

“She always gave her best. Daniela was in the program for four years and she contributed to PDS athletics and the team. LJ was on the varsity for three years, she was a really tough on-ball defender. She was scrappy, she was a hustler. She has an energy we will miss.”

Going forward, the Panthers should draw plenty of energy from sophomore Erin Murray, freshmen Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu, together with juniors Emily Goldman and Tess Zahn.

“I am excited about the returning players,” said Ryan. “It is hard to ask inexperienced players to be responsible for intangibles. They learned a lot and improved a lot. We have Erin Murray at point guard, Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu inside, and Emily Goldman is a good swing player. Emily comes late from field hockey and it takes her a while to get her legs under her. She is a versatile player. I want to see her spend more time on basketball this summer.”

Ryan is looking to make sure her players spend a lot of time honing their competitiveness on and the court over the offseason.

“I strongly encourage all my players to play a spring sport; it is good for their cross training and it is good for them to be around other coaches,” said Ryan.

“In the summer, we are going to be doing conditioning and agility drills. We will be playing in the summer league in Moody Park, which is two nights a week. We are also going to the Princeton University team camp in the first week of August. You are guaranteed five games, they offer clinics. It is a real good experience. It is a chance to play and work on team building skills. We didn’t go last year, I am so excited that we are going back.”

March 6, 2013
LAST SHOT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler dribbles the ball last week against Hopewell Valley in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Senior guard Bechler scored 15 points to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 13 HoVal 62-42 in the February 26 contest. Two days later, Bechler scored a team-high 16 points but it wasn’t enough as the Little Tigers fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence High in the second round of the tourney. PHS finished the season with a 12-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST SHOT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler dribbles the ball last week against Hopewell Valley in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Senior guard Bechler scored 15 points to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 13 HoVal 62-42 in the February 26 contest. Two days later, Bechler scored a team-high 16 points but it wasn’t enough as the Little Tigers fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence High in the second round of the tourney. PHS finished the season with a 12-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It is an image that is burned into Scott Bechler’s mind when he looks back at his time with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

“I remember freshman year when we had a home game in the states and we lost and seeing Skye Ettin in the locker room afterwards,” said senior guard Bechler. “It was motivation to never let that happen again.”

As fourth-seeded PHS hosted 13th-seeded Hopewell Valley last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional, the memory of Ettin’s sadness wasn’t the only motivation as the Little Tigers had fallen in overtime to the Bulldogs in the regular season opener in December.

“We said before the first game of the season that it was a must win and we lost,” said Bechler.

“All season long, we have been looking back on that game, saying we should have won. We get another chance in the playoffs and we couldn’t be more excited to get revenge.”

In the early going of the February 26 contest, it looked like PHS may be squandering its chance at payback as it trailed 10-6 after the first quarter. The battle-tested Bechler, who helped the PHS boys’ soccer team tie for the Group III state title this fall, wasn’t concerned.

“A lot of times this year we have come out a little slow,” said Bechler. “It is the first round of the states and we have a couple of juniors who have never been here before. They only scored 10 points in the quarter; everyone was just getting ready and getting into the swing of things.”

In the second quarter, Bechler and PHS got into the swing of things as they outscored HoVal 19-11 to take a 25-21 lead at halftime.

“We settled in a little bit and everyone came out hard,” said Bechler. “We got the jitters out and that is when you can come really hard.”

The Little Tigers kept coming on in the second half, rolling to a 62-42 win, triggering a raucous on-court celebration as the student fans mobbed the players.

Bechler scored 15 points in the victory, hitting three 3-pointers in the second half, continuing a late surge that started when he poured in a career-high 31 points against Hamilton on February 7.

“After a game like Hamilton West where everything went your way, you have a responsibility to keep shooting because people are depending on you,” said Bechler, who hit nine three-pointers in his outburst against the Hornets.

“It is my last few games; any game could be my last. It is a lot of pressure but it is a lot of motivation.”

In topping HoVal, the Little Tigers focused on applying defensive pressure.

“The number one thing was to stop Austin Hill, we know he can shoot lights out and that he was scoring 15 points a game,” said Bechler.

“We knew if we could shut him down, it would be tough for them to score a lot of points.”

Two days later, however, PHS found it tough to score points as it fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence in the second round of the state tourney to end its season.

While PHS head coach Mark Shelley was disappointed that PHS didn’t advance beyond the second round, he and his players enjoyed the ride.

“One of the great things in the locker room is that every senior said how much fun they had playing this year,” said Shelley, whose team finished the winter at 12-11.

“That’s what you ultimately want as a coach. Obviously you want the win. We had some special moments this season. We talked about Scotty’s nine 3s, we won a game by 40 which they said they have never done. We beat Trenton at Trenton. We got two home playoff games and we won one. There are so many positives. I told them I can tell you now that when you get to college and beyond, you will look back on this fondly. As long as you came out of here saying that you had fun and played as hard as you could, that is all we ask.”

Shelley acknowledged that the Little Tigers faced a hard task in subduing Lawrence.

“The whole game was stopping penetration,” said Shelley, whose team led 27-23 at halftime.

“When we got down five in the fourth quarter, we knew we would have to go man and we can’t guard them that way. All year we have had trouble guarding quick teams off the dribble. They are a really good shooting team so you have to extend on them in the zone. So if we back off on them, we let them have some open looks so we are kind of taking chances. We weren’t real fundamental with our defensive rotation at times. But give them credit; if a team can shoot and penetrate like that, they are tough to defend.”

Bechler’s shooting helped make PHS tough to beat down the stretch. “In practice, we do a three-point drill at the end of practice everyday; it is almost like I have to overload the other team because he is just lights out,” said Shelley of Bechler, who scored a team-high 16 points in the defeat to Lawrence.

“They [Bechler’s shots] don’t even hit the net when he gets in a zone like that. He has a quick release, he catches and gets set. There are a lot of fundamentals besides just the actual shot.”

In Shelley’s view, Bechler and his classmates gave a lot to the team this winter.

“They have been tremendous, just providing leadership both in word and deed,” said Shelley, referring to the team’s Class of 2013 which includes Elliott Golden, Ellis Bloom, Lior Levy, and Christian Giles in addition to Bechler.

“We were talking about some of them as freshmen, they were just so quiet and now to see them vocal and setting the tone in practice, it is great. We used that to challenge some of our juniors, Peter [Mahotiere] and Cal [O’Meara], who have been more role players this year, they are going to have to be vocal leaders next year.”

Shelley is looking forward to his second year at the helm of the PHS program.

“We have a real good group, we won’t have the dominant players like we do this year but we will have a real balanced group of 12 or 13 players,” said Shelley. “It will be a different team, we are going to be short.”

Bechler, for his part, was fired up to get two state tournament games with his group of classmates.

“We have been playing together for so long,” said Bechler. “We have been playing travel, we have been playing Dillon. We have been playing together for years so we realize that this could be our last week of organized basketball together so you don’t have to say anything else to get us going.”

STICKING POINT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick controls the puck in recent action despite a foe’s outstretched stick. Junior defenseman McCormick picked up an assist in a losing cause as 18th-seeded PHS fell 6-4 at No. 15 Sparta last week in the opening round of the Public B state tournament. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 11-9-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING POINT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick controls the puck in recent action despite a foe’s outstretched stick. Junior defenseman McCormick picked up an assist in a losing cause as 18th-seeded PHS fell 6-4 at No. 15 Sparta last week in the opening round of the Public B state tournament. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 11-9-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, its Public B state tournament opening round contest at Sparta last week proved to be a microcosm of the season.

Midway through the second period of the February 26 contest, 18th seeded PHS trailed No. 15 Sparta 4-1 and appeared to be headed to a one-sided loss.

The Little Tigers, though, fought back and drew to within 5-4 late in the third period. Sparta responded with an empty net goal to hand PHS a season-ending 6-4 defeat.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell was proud of the way his team battled to the final whistle.

“We really did make a comeback,” said Campbell, who got two goals and an assist from Jackson Andres together with a goal and two assists from Connor McCormick, a goal from John Reid, and an assist from Patrick McCormick in the defeat which left PHS with a final record of 11-9-1.

“We came into the third period down by two and I told them in the intermission that we had a lot to play for and not a lot to lose. We were a little shorthanded; we had guys dealing with injuries and Harrison Naylor was out. The game was emblematic of the season.”

Over the course of the winter, the Little Tigers showed resolve as they encountered a series of hurdles.

“We never fully got up and running,” said Campbell, whose team started 3-4-1 before surging in January.

“We started with some injuries. We had some tough losses. I feel good about the season; we dealt with adversity. We won some close one-goal games. We started the calendar year really well. Some of those wins could have been losses.”

Campbell had a feeling that his team would be facing an uphill battle this year.

“It is what I expected with our graduation losses,” said Campbell. “I knew it was going to be a battle for us every night and we were going to have a lot of one-goal games. We can take a lot of positives. Coming into the year, our two biggest goals were to do well in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) and to make states. We got a fourth seed in the MCT but we didn’t go as far as we wanted. The next thing was the states. The kids knew the math and we were over .500 at the cut off.”

PHS certainly got some good work from its senior kids. “It is a good senior class,” said Campbell of the team’s Class of 2013, which included Matt DiTosto, Danny Kingsley, Mike Dunlap, and Gabe MacGregor.

“They made it to the MCT finals in their first three years and won it as sophomores. Matt was a good leader. He is a very skilled player and a hard worker. He plays three times his size. Mike stepped in the first part of the season when we didn’t have our starting goalie. Danny was an emotional leader; the kids loved him.”

The Little Tigers have some skilled players coming back in juniors Patrick McCormick, Harrison Naylor, Spencer Reynolds, and Robert Quinn together with sophomores Andres, Reid, and Connor McCormick.

“The sophomore and junior classes are loaded with talent,” said Campbell. “They have a lot of experience and they are producers. Robert Quinn has come a long way at goalie.”

As his players head into the offseason, Campbell is confident they will keep productive.

“I just want them to stay competitive; any coach will tell you that it is good for them to play other sports,” said Campbell.

“I enjoy seeing them make the transition to lacrosse and baseball. Over the summer, they will do clinics and camps. A lot of them play travel and are in early fall leagues. I know they will be ready and in shape when we start again on November 15.”

February 27, 2013
NEAR THE SUMMIT: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Peter Kalibat powers to a victory in the 500 freestyle in a meet earlier this season. Last week, junior star Kalibat won the 200 and 500 free races as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Summit in the state Public B semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEAR THE SUMMIT: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Peter Kalibat powers to a victory in the 500 freestyle in a meet earlier this season. Last week, junior star Kalibat won the 200 and 500 free races as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Summit in the state Public B semifinals.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High boys’ swimming team was rarely tested as it cruised to the state Public B semifinals, Greg Hand made sure that his swimmers kept focused.

“The challenge was to establish habits of how we are going to conduct ourselves when we know we have a succession of meets that don’t require your best,” said PHS head coach Hand, whose team bought a 15-0 record into its clash last week against Summit in the state semis at the WW/P-S pool.

“You don’t want to be lackadaisical and not pay attention to the details like how are we going to relate to each other on the deck and when our teammates are in the water. We had to value starts, turns, and finishes and the last 10 yards of the race and establish a culture of taking themselves seriously no matter what the score is.”

As his swimmers battled Summit in a rematch of last year’s state semis, which saw the Little Tigers prevail on the way to a state title, Hand liked their serious mindset.

“The focus you could see before boarding the bus all the way to the end of the meet was excellent,” said Hand.

“In the face of a different kind of challenge they did everything they could to beat Summit, that alone said something about them.”

While PHS ended up falling to Summit by 87-83, the pluck displayed by the Little Tigers said a lot about their competitive fire.

“We really swam aggressively; there was very little discussion about the score on the deck,” said Hand.

“There were external indicators of the internal. Entering the states we had 4,036 power points and we scored 4402 against Summit so that was an increase of around 360 in two meets. That is the best increase we have ever had in that time frame.”

The Little Tigers produced 1-2-3 sweeps in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races to keep the pressure on Summit as junior Peter Kalibat placed first in both events followed by senior John Bond and junior Scott MacKenzie.

“They fit together; I think they thought their best swimmer would take second to Peter,” said Hand.

“After we went so fast in the 200, I think they got nervous. John and Scott were swimming so well. John had a PR in 200 and in 500, where he broke his record by five seconds. The 500 kept us in there, it was big to get the 13-3. We knew that they had a fast 200 free relay and that left us in a significant hole.”

The Little Tigers nearly climbed out of that hole as junior star Will Stange won the 100 back and senior Daniel Andronov and junior Colburn Yu went 2-3 in the 100 breast to help PHS draw within 81-75 heading into the 400 free relay, the last event of the meet.

Trailing 81-75 heading into the meet-ending 400 free relay, PHS had a chance to pull out a victory. The Little Tigers needed to finish first and second in the relay to win the meet or a first and third to earn a tie and have the meet decided by power points, which ended up being in PHS’s favor.

With the din reverberating in the WW/P-S bubble, Summit took a lead in the relay only to see Stange produce an amazing anchor leg that led to the top relay quartets ending in a dead heat. As a result, Summit was able to pull out the 87-83 win and PHS’s hopes for a title were dashed.

“I would put his swim in the context of the whole team going in lane four,” said Hand, reflecting on Stange’s heroics.

“Matt Purdy did a nice job in the 100 and then he came back and swam a second faster than that race. He set a tone. Kalibat swam a 47.62, which is an extremely fast split particularly considering he already had two fast swims. Yu came in and did a season PR and that split still left us 10 or 12 yards behind when their fastest swimmer (Will Benn) started off. I have seen some great comebacks, Nina Rossi had several. Will’s swim was something of the same quality; to close a big lead like that is exceptional.”

Hand was not surprised that Stange stepped up when the chips were down.

“Will was a real leader on the deck, not just in the sense of encouraging the others but setting a model in the sense that he was really going to do something big,” said Hand.

“He is not an introvert, he is gregarious and friendly. He has a strong sense of himself in a positive sense, not in a vain or egotistical sense. When he says he is going to go in and go after that guy, the other guys are inspired.”

In reflecting on the season, Hand said the team’s corp of seniors provided inspiration.

“We have an understated but impressive group of young men who were real leaders, five of the seven were with us for four years and other two were with us for two years,” said Hand of his seniors, who include Peter Cohen, Alden Reyes, John Robles, Patrick Schultz, and Stephen Schultz, in addition to Andronov and Bond.

“There was so much character and so little fanfare. Each is a terrific guy. They were level headed guys and they kept us well-centered. In four years, they went to two state semis and two finals and went 67-4 in dual meets.”

With such stellar juniors returning in Kalibat, Stange, Yu, Purdy, and MacKenzie, PHS should continue its tradition of tournament success.

“We have some terrific guys who are coming back who we know are committed,” said Hand.

“We know how they train and how much they like the PHS team. All of them are going to get better, every team counts on that. Summit had all those guys come back for them and they were so much better this year.”

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Lior Levy drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior star Levy is enjoying a superb final season, averaging a team-high 14.0 points for the Little Tigers.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Lior Levy drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior star Levy is enjoying a superb final season, averaging a team-high 14.0 points for the Little Tigers. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Lior Levy, things have come together in his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

The 6’8 center is averaging a team-high 14.0 points a game for PHS and has contributed a slew of assists, rebounds, and blocked shots.

Having dealt with injury and illness over much of his high school career, Levy is savoring his success this winter.

“It has been fun,” said Levy, who had mono as a freshman and suffered an ACL injury the next season.

“I have been injured the past few seasons and even last year my knee was hurting me. I am healthy so I have been able to take advantage of that this season.”

Enjoying good health has positively impacted Levy’s mindset and training. “I think I am more confident; I have been in more of a leadership role this year,” said Levy.

“I worked hard over the summer. I went to a bunch of camps so that is where some of the confidence came from. I think just my skill is up from last year.”

Last week, Levy displayed his confidence as the Little Tigers battled state Prep B champions Pennington, scoring 13 points and making some key assists and blocked shots as PHS dropped a 59-57 nailbiter to the Red Raiders.

Even though the Little Tigers lost on a last-second layup to fall to 11-10, Levy was encouraged by the team’s performance.

“We executed great tonight, Ellis [Bloom] was hitting every shot,” said Levy, reflecting on a game which saw PHS heading 31-27 at halftime and 44-43 entering the fourth quarter. “We were moving the ball well, we just needed one more shot here or there.”

Triggering the offense from the high post, Levy helped keep the PHS offense on the move.

“I love it, around the free throw line, top of the key, that is where I am best,” said Levy.

“We were moving the ball well, cutting off of me. They were overplaying sometimes and we got some nice looks.”

With PHS starting play in the state tournament this week, Levy believes the game against Pennington will be good preparation for that competition. PHS is seeded fourth in the Central Jersey Group III sectional and was slated to host 13th-seeded Hopewell Valley on February 26 with the winner advancing to the sectional quarters on February 28.

“That is a really good team, they have had a great season and you have got to give them credit,” said Levy.

“Playing a good team like that is definitely going to help us for the state tournament. If we played the way we played today, it will be tough to beat us.

PHS head coach Mark Shelley feels his team’s performance against Pennington is a good sign going into state competition.

“We feel really good about the way we are playing,” said Shelley. “That was as well as we have played offensively since the Trenton game. Defensively we played well, they just hit some big shots with hands in their face.”

Shelley is heartened by Levy’s excellent play in his final campaign.

“I think Lior has done really well; he has really battled through some things,” said Shelley.

“He has really enjoyed playing this year. He is a leader; not just in scoring. He leads us in blocked shots and is among the leaders in assists. We run everything through him; if we are under pressure the ball goes to him. Lior has been shooting the ball well and he has been more assertive down low.”

The PHS seniors have become more assertive collectively as the season has headed into the homestretch.

“When the end is in sight for seniors, sometimes they give a better effort,” said Shelley, whose group of seniors includes Elliott Golden, Ellis Bloom, Christian Giles, and Scott Bechler in addition to Levy.

“It is nice; they have been leaders by example and in word. Today I was going to give them the day off but they got everyone to come down for a shootaround. They set a standard, they are always working.”

Shelley is hoping that work will pay off this week in the state tournament.

“We are excited about it,” said Shelley. “The pressure is there and we don’t have to talk about it. We just want to take it one game at a time and see how it goes. We are going to focus on the fundamentals in preparing.”

Levy, for his part, is focusing on enjoying a big finale with his classmates. “I have been playing with these guys my whole life so it will be good to go out like this,” said Levy, who is looking to continue his hoops career as a post-graduate with a prep program next year.

AGONY OF DEFEAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball players, Davon Reed, left, and Ford Schneider, show their disappointment after PDS lost 47-45 to Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game. The defeat left the Panthers with a final record of 19-8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AGONY OF DEFEAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball players, Davon Reed, left, and Ford Schneider, show their disappointment after PDS lost 47-45 to Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game. The defeat left the Panthers with a final record of 19-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Davon Reed hit the floor soon after the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team fell 47-45 to host Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game.

The senior star lay prone on the court with his shirt pulled up over his head, absorbing the disappointment of the defeat as Pennington fans celebrated around him.

After PDS head coach Paris McLean pulled Reed away from the surging crowd, the record-setting guard was able to put things in perspective in the wake of the scintillating contest which saw neither team lead by more than five points.

“It was definitely a great game; we got our money’s worth,” said Reed, who scored a game-high 24 points in the setback. “Unfortunately, we didn’t walk away with the win.”

While Reed walks away from PDS with a program-record 2,102 points on his way to the University of Miami men’s hoops team, he desperately wanted a title to go with his individual feats.

“I am definitely grateful and proud of myself that I scored it but I would trade it in for both of these championships, the counties and the preps,” said Reed.

In a grueling stretch, which saw PDS play five tournament games over six days, the Panthers came agonizingly close to a title double. In the county tournament, the fifth-seeded Panthers topped No. 12 Steinert 59-56 in the first round on February 16, defeated fourth-seeded Ewing 74-56 on February 18 in the quarters, and then fell 65-56 to No. 1 and eventual champion Notre Dame last Wednesday in the semis.

Meanwhile on the Prep B front, No. 2 PDS topped third-seeded and defending champion Rutgers Prep 46-38 on February 17 in the semis before the heartbreaking loss to top-seeded Pennington last Thursday.

“We don’t like to make excuses, playing five games in six days is tough but you know what I am proud of my guys, we came out and battled every game,” said Reed. “We win three straight and the last two were against two really good teams and it was a little different, we weren’t able to pull it out.”

After splitting two regular season games with rival Pennington, PDS was determined to win the rubber match.

“This game we knew was for all the marbles; my boys were just ready to play,” said Reed, who averaged 23.2 points a game this season.

“We know that everybody else is starting to believe in us but we knew from the start so we got to know we can win this game.”

While PDS head coach McLean was proud of his team’s effort, the pain of the defeat stung.

“What a great game; it had everything you wanted, back and forth play, drama, big shots, big opportunities, just two great programs going at it,” said McLean, whose team ended the season with a 19-8 record.

“Each team has marquee players; both teams are doing extremely well and that’s a testament to the way our program has grown and the way that Pennington has grown. It is great for the county. It is a lot to take in but this one hurts, this one hurts.”

The Panthers had a chance to win the game or put it in overtime as they had a final possession with 5.4 seconds in regulation.

“They made the last foul shot and we get a timeout,” recalled Mclean.

“We run situation drills everyday in practice. We drew it up, we knew they would key on Davon. We got a good look to the basket, we just didn’t finish. We came up short; it was on the lip of the rim.”

The impact of Reed on the PDS program over the last four years has been nothing short of amazing.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

The team’s core of seniors led the way, helping PDS get stronger as the season unfolded.

“It has been a great senior class; I described them on Senior Day as a diverse group in terms of not just outward identity but in terms of their interests and their position play,” said McLean.

“Good teams need to have strong seniors and we had strong senior leadership this season. Every last one of them, Alec Jones, Tavante Brittingham, Tom Martino, Davon Reed, and B.J. Dudeck, right down the line in no particular order because any one of them could step up and they know our motto, you don’t have to be a captain to be a leader. Anybody can be a leader.”

Coming to the end of the line last Thursday made for an emotional scene in the Panther locker room.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room, coaching staff, players,” said McLean.

“When you put in that much time and effort to battle back and come here back-to-back years, that is tough. They fought through it, they willed it to the end. We didn’t even run out of gas, a couple of things just didn’t go our way. But there was no quit; what a special, magical run. If you look at our program, 11 wins, 15 wins, 16 wins, 19 wins, we keep getting better.”

Even with the graduation of Reed and his classmates, McLean is confident that PDS can keep getting better.

“We have great young kids,” said McLean, who will welcome back juniors Langston Glaude, Deante Cole, Chris Okorodudu, and Ford Schneider.

“It is a great learning experience. I am tired of learning experiences, though. We need to take the next step. We have some great young men coming back and we have some great JV players. I just hope that people don’t think that because Davon Reed leaves, the PDS program is going to roll over and die. No, it is going to continue to build and be stronger.”

Reed, for his part, is proud to have helped the Panthers build something special.

“It wasn’t always pretty,” said Reed, reflecting on his career. “We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up. I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

GAINING INDEPENDENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Vukasin waits for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Vukasin scored a goal to help Hun defeat the Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game. The win gave the Raiders a final record of 16-5-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GAINING INDEPENDENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Vukasin waits for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Vukasin scored a goal to help Hun defeat the Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game. The win gave the Raiders a final record of 16-5-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After having lost in double overtime to Pennington in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game last winter, the Hun School boys’ hockey team was on a mission this season to capture the elusive title.

But as Hun hosted the Haverford School (Pa.) last Friday in the IHL championship game, it looked like history might be repeating itself when the Raiders fell behind 1-0.

Hun head coach Ian McNally acknowledged that his players were a bit frazzled in the early going.

“It is the third time we have played them and that is the best they have come out so you know what, they definitely outplayed us at the start, they came out flying,” said McNally.

“In our league we didn’t lose a game, I think we had 10 wins and two ties so we didn’t have a ton of adversity. The result of that was that our guys started panicking on the bench and panicking on the ice, just getting a little frenzied.”

Senior star Eric Szeker concurred, attributing the slow start to some nerves.

“I think the jitters got to us in the first couple of shifts there,” said Szeker. “They scored a quick one on us and that kind of woke us up and we got our feet moving again.”

The Raiders got moving in the right direction as Nick Guns scored a goal to make it 1-1 and then in between periods the Raiders were reassured by a calming message from McNally.

“He said to stick with it,” recalled Szeker. “We knew we were going to get our goals. We know that we have a good offense. We can put pucks home and he told us to just to stay with it. The defensive zone was our main focus in this game.”

The Raiders seized control of the game in the second period, outscoring Haverford 3-0 in that 15-minute stretch.

“It is the last game of the season and we have to leave it all on the line and it was one of our better periods of the year,” said Szeker, who scored early in the second period to put Hun ahead 2-1. “We got a lot of goals and it helped set us up for the third period.”

Szeker’s classmate, star forward Alex Vukasin, scored the fourth goal in the last minute of the period to give the Raiders some extra momentum heading into the last 15 minutes of regulation.

“That definitely wasn’t a pretty one but it was sure satisfying,” said Vukasin.

“Basically we know that we are not a team with super-skilled players on this team, we have good players on this team. We know that our goals come from fighting in the crease, we have a lot of rebound goals. My goal was a rebound. We have been making sure that we win puck battles, that is pretty much our team motto this year.

Those goals plus a power play tally by Szeker in the third period proved to be enough as Hun held off a late Haverford rally to win 5-3 and earn the title.

The Raiders did have to battle to earn the title as they were playing shorthanded down the stretch, at one point having to kill off a 5-on-3 situation.

“We were on our heels, they definitely made a final push,” said Szeker, reflecting on the waning moments of the win which left Hun with a final record of 16-5-4.

“It is the end of their season too and they don’t want to lose either; they came out hard but as a team we stuck together and we got the job done at the end.”

In Vukasin’s view, the determination of the Hun seniors helped pave the way to the title.

“This shows the tenacity our seniors have had in the four years, we have had tough times,” said Vukasin, who also had an assist on Szeker’s third period goal.

“Last year we just missed it so we were pushing and pushing this year and we finally came through. The seniors on our team wanted it and the young guys followed our example, maintaining the same work ethic as we have been doing and putting in 100 percent every practice.”

McNally was not surprised that Szeker and Vukasin came through in the finale.

“I told Eric before the game, just be the guy,” said McNally, who also got a goal in the victory from senior Jordan Wang.

“He is the best player in the league, I said go ahead and show that and he did. He was very vocal, he scored two goals. He was our captain and he led us. Alex is so consistent, you know exactly what you are going to get out of him every game. He did it again. He can beat people to these pucks and outmuscle them and score goals. He helped us gain momentum.”

The Raiders gained momentum from the leadership of its senior class. “The seniors were great, especially down the stretch when we played the second half of the league and went 6-0 after we tied a couple in the first half,” said McNally, whose group of seniors included Andrew Zhou, Peter Nawn, Matt Waxman, and Anton Salienko in addition to Szeker, Vukasin, and Wang.

“That was on them. We had a meeting about that, we have seven of them and they led the way. It was good, even the younger guys were talking let’s do it for the seniors. The right message has been sent where I don’t have to be the one pushing all the time. They are doing it themselves.”

In McNally’s view, the program sent a major message by winning the IHL crown.

“I think it is big,” said McNally, who cited the effort of junior goalie Devin Cheifetz in the title game as he made 39 saves and fought through a second period neck injury.

“Throughout the day at school, people were coming up to me saying good luck in the game and that didn’t really happen last year because we just generated a little buzz for Hun hockey. I just told the players afterward congratulations you guys just started this program, doing this. It means a lot, it justified our team and it put us on the map. We played strong all year, we did it when it mattered, we won the league and we only plan to get better from here.”

Szeker, for his part, will remember the strong bonds the team formed this winter in its championship campaign.

“We were family on and off the ice,” said Szeker. “At school in the lunch time, everyone sits together. Everyone hangs out on free periods that we have; everyone is with each other. It is hockey 24/7 with us and to bring something home is really special for all of us.”

February 20, 2013

Madeleine Deardorff and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ swimming team looked forward to the challenge posed by Chatham last Thursday in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals.

“We knew they were amazing coming in,” said freshman star Deardorff. “I think we all came in really psyched up and we all wanted to swim our best. I think we were all really motivated.”

As Deardorff toed the starting blocks for the 100 butterfly and the fifth event of the meet at the Neptune Aquatic Center, second-seeded PHS already trailed No. 1 Chatham 39-23.

The precocious freshman, though, was undaunted, outdueling Kara Miller-Radest to win the race by 2.08 seconds.

“At each turn, I would see that she was coming,” said Deardorff, recalling the thrilling race which saw her clock a winning time of 58.41. “I just gave it my all and I saw what came out of it. I was happy.”

Even though PHS ended up losing the meet 112-58 to suffer its only defeat of the season, Deardorff was happy with the team’s performance. “I think this was one of our best meets and people swam best times,” said Deardorff.

“We were all really excited with our swims; I think this was a great way to top off the season.”

Fellow freshman Briana Romaine earned PHS’s other individual victory in the meet as she placed first in the 100 freestyle. The Little Tigers also prevailed in the 200 medley relay.

Deardorff produced another superb swim herself later in the meet when she took second in the 100 breaststroke by a mere .04 to Anna Dexheimer. “I was really exhausted but she was too,” said Deardorff.

“I think I just tried my best. I knew they were fast. I was just sprinting and giving it my all. I did not hold back at all.”

In producing a superb freshman campaign, Deardorff hasn’t held back. “The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Having her older sister, senior star Serena, on the team helped Deardorff thrive this winter.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

The seniors kept up the excitement to the end on Thursday. “The seniors are great leaders this year,” said Deardorff.

“They motivated us. They were really helpful with this loss, making sure that we didn’t get down on ourselves.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand tipped his hat to the contributions made by the seniors this winter in a season that saw PHS go 13-1 and win its first-ever county title.

“It is always wonderful to have kids who get it and the group that we are graduating has been such a great group because they all got it from the start,” said Hand, whose senior group included Marisa Giglio, Victoria Carroll, Felicia He, and Corey Allikas, in addition to Serena Deardorff.

“They have grown up as people. They came in understanding it is about team and about hard work and that fun follows from that. They didn’t come in demanding to have fun; they came in asking the right things of themselves.”

Serena Deardorff and Giglio showed the right stuff as they piled up a slew of points for PHS over their careers. In the loss to Chatham, Deardorff took second in the 50 free and third in the 500 free while Giglio placed second in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

Even in defeat, PHS put a lot into their effort last Thursday. “We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water. I felt that a few days ago, that this would be an exciting dual meet even if the score wasn’t very close and I think they created that by the way they swam. You can tell when somebody is going all out and they were.”

Hand is excited about the program’s outlook going forward. “I feel great about the future as far as the kids we have got and who they are and what they try to do everyday,” said Hand.

“You can see with a team like Chatham to win at this level, you need three great entries in each event and it is rare to be able to put that together. If you have kids who do what you want kids to do on a high school team, then you know that this side of education is working and sports really matters.”

Deardorff, for her part, believes that PHS can reach an even higher level of success in the future.

“I know a few girls who swim that are in eighth and seventh grade so we do have some people coming up and I think that is really encouraging for us,” said Deardorff.

“We definitely are really losing some really fast swimmers but I think we will be able to handle that. Winning our first counties really helped to get our spirits up; it really motivated us for next year.”

HIGH FIVE: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Daniel Andronov displays his freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior Andronov placed second in both the 100 free and 100 breaststroke to help top-seeded PHS defeat No. 2 Lawrence 118-52 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. It marked the fifth straight sectional title for PHS, who was slated to face Summit in the Public B semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23 at The College of New Jersey. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HIGH FIVE: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Daniel Andronov displays his freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior Andronov placed second in both the 100 free and 100 breaststroke to help top-seeded PHS defeat No. 2 Lawrence 118-52 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. It marked the fifth straight sectional title for PHS, who was slated to face Summit in the Public B semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23 at The College of New Jersey.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Daniel Andronov, joining the Princeton High boys’ swimming team last year as a junior proved fortuitous on many levels.

The quiet Andronov, who transferred from Edison High, enjoyed the PHS team’s camaraderie and spirit on the deck. In the water, Andronov’s talent in the breaststroke helped PHS go undefeated on the way to its first-ever state Public B championship.

“The team wasn’t as strong at Edison so it was a big difference,” said Andronov.

“The other team wasn’t as large either. It is a very different environment. We approach meets more seriously. I think it is a very nice atmosphere.”

This winter, Andronov has developed deep bonds with his teammates. “I am not much of a social person so it takes me a while to get used to new environments and new people,” said Andronov.

“This year, I feel much more acquainted with the team and much more comfortable.”

Last Friday, Andronov showed his comfort level with high stakes competition as he helped top-seeded PHS defeat No. 2 Lawrence 118-52 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center.

The Little Tigers are slated to face Summit in the Public B semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23 at The College of New Jersey.

Andronov placed second in both the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke in the win over Lawrence. Individual victors for PHS in the meet included junior Will Stange in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, junior Colburn Yu in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, and junior Peter Kalibat in the 200 and 500 freestyle races.

“It is something that is always great for a program,” said Andronov, reflecting on the sectional title, which marked the fifth straight for the Little Tigers.

“It is a nice segue; it gives us a bit of confidence going into the next meets which are going to be the hardest meets we are going to have this season. It is a steppingstone for the state title.”

Even though PHS had topped Lawrence 115-55 in a regular season meeting, Andronov and his teammates weren’t overconfident coming into Friday’s meet.

“It gives you a bit of comfort knowing that you have beat them already,” said Andronov.

“But we try to take every team as though they are as fast or better than us and approach the team with the mentality that we need to swim as fast as we can.”

In picking up his two second-place finishes, Andronov had to swim through some fatigue.

“I have been a little tired from training,” said Andronov who competes with the X-Cel swim club.

“It is good to race as often as we do, it gives us confidence in the pool so we are not very nervous on days where we have big meets. It was good to get that experience. I was happy with the breaststroke but still feeling like training in the latter half of the race. I think it was pretty good.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was happy to see his boys’ squad achieve a fifth straight sectional crown.

“I think of a program in terms of the kids who are in it at the moment so what it means to the program is almost entirely expressed in what it means to the kids who accomplished it,” said Hand, whose team improved to 15-0 with the victory over Lawrence.

“It is a program in the sense that we have had kids who have been here for four years and other kids who are just starting, so to be able to have that recreated again and again is a special thing. We are very fortunate to be able to have done it.”

PHS was certainly fortunate to have an addition like Andronov. “Daniel just joined us last year when he came to Princeton and has really shown himself to be a dedicated, team-oriented person,” said Hand.

“He is a person of relatively few words but the guys really like him. He just has great character; he loves to race. I think he has grown as a swimmer. He has definitely gotten a lot better since last year, he is consistently around one minute in the breaststroke and that is a great asset for a team.”

While Hand knows that his team is no lock to win a second straight title, he is confident it will keep getting better.

“We know that Tuesday is our toughest meet and we want to be at our best that day,” said Hand.

“Just like last year, we didn’t discover until Summit what we could do and we discovered an even deeper level when we got to the final. I won’t make any predictions; I think these guys are fighters. They love the sport, I think they really like each other and they are committed to working for each other.

Andronov, for his part, is confident that PHS will fight hard in its bid for a title repeat.

“I think it is something we can definitely accomplish,” said Andronov. “I think one part of it is supporting each other. When I started swimming, I didn’t have people cheering for me. Having people cheering for you really does actually make a difference. I think we need to come together as a team. I think we need to approach it with a confidence that we can do it and it is possible but we shouldn’t be too overconfident.”

DOING GREAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chris Okorodudu looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, junior star Okorodudu scored 12 points to help PDS rally from a 28-19 halftime deficit to top Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals. A day later, he contributed 14 points as PDS topped Ewing in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. In the MCT, No. 5 PDS will play No. 1 Notre Dame in the semifinals on February 20. As for the Prep B tourney, the second-seeded Panthers will play at top-seeded Pennington on February 21 in the championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOING GREAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chris Okorodudu looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, junior star Okorodudu scored 12 points to help PDS rally from a 28-19 halftime deficit to top Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals. A day later, he contributed 14 points as PDS topped Ewing in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. In the MCT, No. 5 PDS will play No. 1 Notre Dame in the semifinals on February 20. As for the Prep B tourney, the second-seeded Panthers will play at top-seeded Pennington on February 21 in the championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Chris Okorodudu, joining the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team this winter as a junior has proven to be an inspired move.

“It has been great; it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life,” said Okorodudu, who transferred to PDS from WW/P-N. “I love this program and I love everyone in it.”

Last Sunday in the state Prep B semifinals against visiting Rutgers Prep, the 6’6 Okorodudu endeared himself to the program, scoring 12 points as the second-seeded Panthers rallied from a 28-19 halftime deficit to pull away to a 46-38 win over the third-seeded Argonauts. PDS will now play at top-seeded Pennington on February 21 in the Prep B championship game.

There was no panic in the locker room at intermission as the Panthers assessed their situation.

“We have been saying this all year, we bend but we don’t break,” said Okorodudu. “We just had to keep fighting. We were able to do that today and pull out the win.”

In Okorodudu’s view, fighting hard on defense was the key to the PDS rally which saw the Panthers outscore the Argonauts 16-7 in the third quarter to make it a 35-35 game heading into the last eight minutes of regulation.

“I think it was our defensive intensity,” said Okorodudu, reflecting on the comeback.

“We have so much talent on the other end that when we play defense, that gets us going.”

Okorodudu got going offensively, scoring five points in both the third and fourth quarters.

“The coaches always have my back; they instill me with a lot of confidence,” said Okorodudu. “They keep telling me to keep shooting and keep being aggressive and I tried to do that today.”

Having each other’s backs also played a key role in the victory. “It shows how strong we are as a team, we have really bonded now that we are in the playoffs” said Okorodudu, who scored 14 points Monday as fifth-seeded PDS topped Ewing 74-56 in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament to move to 18-6 and advance to a semifinal matchup against top-seeded Notre Dame on February 20 at Mercer County Community College.

“We know we have a lot of seniors and we are just trying to play for them and take this team as far as we know we can go.”

The Panthers brought a little extra motivation into Sunday as they had fallen to Rutgers Prep in the Prep B championship game last winter.

“I wasn’t here last year but I know that was the elephant in the room,” said Okorodudu. “We lost to them last year so we had to get them back this year.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean attributed the comeback against Rutgers Prep to a commitment on the defensive end.

“The team really stepped it up defensively; they knew they didn’t put forth their best effort in the first half,” said McLean.

“Rutgers Prep did a great job of crashing; they had size and they were beating us to the 50/50 balls and loose balls in the first half and that was giving them extra possessions. We did a better job closing out, we hedged our screens and boxed out. We just got back to fundamentals defensively.”

McLean was thrilled to see Okorodudu and fellow junior Langston Glaude step up down the stretch.

“We have been waiting for Chris O. to have a breakout game and this was it,” asserted McLean, who got a game-high 14 points from Glaude with senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed scoring nine points one day after he passed the 2,000-point mark in his PDS career.

“Chris has been steadily improving all season, getting comfortable with his new teammates and he has really stepped up. Langston was good at both ends of the floor. Offensively and defensively, he was a menace at both ends.”

The Panthers appear to be growing more and more comfortable with playoff pressure.

“It was a great team win and I told the young men that they earned the right to be back here, nothing was given to them,” said McLean. “It is tough go to the state finals back-to-back, they really stepped up.”

Okorodudu, for his part, believes the squad is going to keep giving its best.

“We have to come out strong, it doesn’t matter who we play,” said Okorodudu.

“We have to play our game and don’t let the other team dictate what we do.

This definitely gives us momentum, we have just got to keep it rolling.”

COOPERATIVE EFFORT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Cody Triolo controls the puck in a recent game. Last week, senior star Triolo and his nine classmates enjoyed a special Senior Night as they topped Don Bosco 5-2 on February 12. The Panthers went on  to take second at the Hill School Tournament last weekend, falling 2-1 in double overtime to the hosts in the championship game last Sunday to finish the winter with a 21-3-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COOPERATIVE EFFORT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Cody Triolo controls the puck in a recent game. Last week, senior star Triolo and his nine classmates enjoyed a special Senior Night as they topped Don Bosco 5-2 on February 12. The Panthers went on to take second at the Hill School Tournament last weekend, falling 2-1 in double overtime to the hosts in the championship game last Sunday to finish the winter with a 21-3-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cody Triolo and Rob Colton took different journeys but arrived at the same destination last week after the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team played its last game this season at McGraw Rink.

Senior stars Triolo, Colton, and their eight classmates gathered on the ice with the rest of the their teammates and a contingent of friends, family, and coaches as they savored a 5-2 win over Don Bosco and the 19th win of an historic campaign.

There were hugs, laughs, and rounds of photos as the group held the Zamboni machine at bay for their impromptu party.

Triolo, a lacrosse standout who will be playing at Lehigh next year, wasn’t sure that he would ever become a starter on the ice for the Panthers.

“I was never really the most skilled guy on this team, it is just my grind that has gotten me to where I am today,” said Triolo.

“I think most importantly I was just having fun. Once I committed to Lehigh, I just took off all the pressure of scoring points and doing well on the stat sheet for ice hockey so I was able to just focus on having fun. When you focus on having fun, it turns out that you do get on the stat sheet.”

Colton, for his part, wasn’t even at PDS until he was a junior as he played at Robbinsville before transferring.

“Honestly it was the best experience of my life and probably the best decision I have ever made from academics to athletics,” said Colton, in reflecting on his move to PDS.

“It is the best group of guys that I have ever worked with and coach Scott Bertoli is probably the best hockey coach I have ever had. This whole experience here has been nothing but great and I am really going to miss it.”

The Panthers were determined to produce a great effort in their last home game.

“I think the major thing that was going through our heads is that this was our last career game here at this rink which is huge,” said Triolo.

“We build this program back up with our hard effort and we wanted to make sure that we closed the deal. We wanted to get this win the most; to us, this may have meant more than Prep championships. It is closing out all of your hard work. You want to do a nice job putting the finishing touches on things. We just really wanted to come out hard and make sure that we got the win.”

PDS came out hard against Don Bosco, jumping out to a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest with Colton and younger brother, sophomore star Ross Colton, notching the first two goals.

“It is always big to set the tone,” said Colton. “I was really happy that I was able to get that goal and get it started.”

Colton and his younger brother combined for three goals as the Panthers pulled away from Don Bosco. For the older Colton, it has been a pleasure to take the ice with his sibling.

“The last time we played together before last season was when I was eight and he was six,” said Colton.

“For us to be able to play with each other in my last year of hockey here is amazing. We always know where each other are on the ice and it is definitely something special.”

PDS head coach Bertoli saw the matchup with perennial powerhouse Don Bosco as a special step for the Panther program.

“What I am most proud of is the fact that we are able to play a quality opponent like Don Bosco, getting them in here and having them on the schedule,” said Bertoli, whose team won its Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational in December and shared the state Prep title with Morristown-Beard in February.

“I said to the guys, ‘yes I would love to win this game this afternoon but I am proud of you for even creating this opportunity. You guys as seniors have done so much for this program.’ They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question of that. It is one of the top two or three programs in the state the last two years.”

Saying goodbye to his senior contingent isn’t easy for Bertoli. “I’ll never have a group like this, both in number and their impact on the program, their attitude, their effort,” said Bertoli, whose group of seniors also includes Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis in addition to Triolo and Colton.

“It is no coincidence that this program turned around four years ago when this group came in as freshmen. They are just good hockey players and it has been great to watch them grow and evolve and become the confident young men that they are. To go out in the course of the last two years and put up the record that they have put forth is a testament to them and their commitment to the school and the program.”

While the Class of 2013 will leave a major void, its influence on the program will be felt for years to come.

“You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them,” noted Bertoli.

“There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”

The Panthers gave one more proud effort last weekend as they took second at the Hill School Tournament, falling 2-1 in double overtime to the hosts in the championship game last Sunday to finish the winter with a 21-3-1 record.

For Triolo, seeing the season end is tough but the benefits of the experience will last a lifetime.

“It is definitely hard to let go but at the same time we are moving on and Panther hockey will always be in our blood and we will take that elsewhere,” said Triolo. “It has built character in us so it will still be with us.”

Colton, for his part, is proud of the high level hockey PDS played all winter long.

“When we marked out the four tournaments we were playing in this year, we wanted to be competitive in every single one,” said Colton, who is looking to continue his hockey career at the college level.

There is no doubt that Triolo, Colton, and their fellow seniors have left an indelible mark on PDS boys’ hockey.

SAVING FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Daisy Mase eyes the puck as she makes a save in recent action. Last weekend, senior star Mase played well as PDS placed fourth in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) to end the season with a 10-8 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Daisy Mase eyes the puck as she makes a save in recent action. Last weekend, senior star Mase played well as PDS placed fourth in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) to end the season with a 10-8 record.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Daisy Mase lost a lot of sleep after she transferred to the Princeton Day School in the fall of 2010 and became the starting goalie for the PDS girls’ hockey team.

“The sophomore year transition was so hard for me; I was living an hour away,” said Mase, who hails from Sicklerville, N.J. and also stars for the Princeton Tiger Lilies club team.

“During sophomore year, we had 8:50 p.m. practices for the Tiger Lilies on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was getting home at 11:30 and then getting up again at 5:30 in the morning, doing homework in between that and sleeping in the car. I had a blanket in my locker at school.”

As Mase took the ice against Summit at McGraw Rink last Wednesday for her Senior Night and last regular season home game, she reflected on how much she has gained from her experience over the last three years.

“I don’t regret anything; PDS has given me so much,” said Mase. “I can’t even imagine my life any differently than what it is now.”

Mase has certainly given the Panthers a lot between the pipes, utilizing her feistiness and talent to emerge as one of the top girls’ goalies in the state.

In a 4-3 win over Summit, Mase flashed her skills, making 25 saves on the evening and withstanding a barrage in the first period as she kept Summit from jumping into the lead.

“It was unexpected but it just kind of happened; I made the saves,” said Mase, referring to her first period heroics.

“I got the confidence to begin with and just went on from there. I would much rather have the constant shots and get peppered with shots than have a random breakaway and then nothing for a while. You get cold and you are sitting there. When I am getting peppered I am not focusing on anything else other than the puck. I am forced to stay focused whereas when I am not getting shots, my mind wanders.”

During the pregame ceremony, Mase became focused on the impending end to her PDS career.

“It didn’t hit me until the music came on that this is the end of my senior year and this is it for me,” said Mase, who is one of three seniors on the PDS squad along with forward Zeeza Cole and defenseman Louise Hutter.

“It was pretty emotional for everyone, they were saying do it for the seniors and just work hard for one of the last games.”

Emotions ran high for Mase last weekend as she wrapped up her career by starring for PDS in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA).

“We are in the A division of WIHLMA for the first time ever,” said Mase. “I am going to be sharper than anything, if I am emotional now I am going to be emotional then.”

Although PDS fell 6-1 to Portledge and 3-2 to Pingry at the tourney to end up fourth, Mase starred, making 28 saves in the Portledge game and then coming back with 34 stops in the loss to the Blues.

For Mase, her experience off the ice at PDS has been just as positive as her work in the crease.

“That has been even better because I had never gone to school with girls that I have played with,” said Mase.

“You never see people you play with in a social situation in school; it was always different. Hockey friends are different than school friends. It doesn’t really seem like it but you are a different person outside and inside school.”

All in all, Mase has become a different person since those sleepless nights three years ago.

“It is just growing up, you are mature,” said Mase, who made 480 saves this winter with a save percentage of .897 to help the Panthers go 10-8 and is considering playing in college at the Division III level.

“You step up as a leader when the team is playing badly. That is the position of the goalie anyway to be the backbone of the team, always keeping positive and motivating the girls. Sometimes you have to give them a little kick, your defense needs that every once in a while. They have to step it up.”

February 13, 2013
TOURNAMENT RUN: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior guard Bechler scored a game-high 15 points to help PHS rally from a 19-5 deficit to pull out a 53-45 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers, now 10-8, host Hamilton on February 14 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded eighth and will host No. 9 Nottingham in an opening round contest on February 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOURNAMENT RUN: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior guard Bechler scored a game-high 15 points to help PHS rally from a 19-5 deficit to pull out a 53-45 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers, now 10-8, host Hamilton on February 14 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded eighth and will host No. 9 Nottingham in an opening round contest on February 16.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, last week proved to be a good preview of the challenges it will face in postseason play.

PHS started the week by rallying from a 19-5 deficit to defeat Nottingham 53-45 on February 4. Three days later, the Little Tigers took on a powerful Hillsborough squad and fell 55-39.

In the view of PHS head coach Mark Shelley, his team displayed the fortitude it will need to make a deep playoff run with its comeback win against the Northstars.

“We showed a lot of character,” said Shelley, whose team outscored Nottingham 20-9 in the second quarter to take a 23-22 halftime lead and then sealed the deal with an 18-7 fourth quarter.

“We told them they don’t have to do it all at once and that to focus on just winning that quarter. We got hot, Scott [Bechler] hit a couple of threes and we got back into it pretty fast.”

The Little Tigers also produced the scoring balance necessary to thrive in tournament time as senior guard Bechler tallied 15 points with Elliott Golden adding 12 and Lior Levy and Cal O’Meara chipping in eight points apiece.

“That’s when we play our best; that is when we are harder to guard and we are passing well,” said Shelley.

Against Hillsborough, PHS got to test its skills against a high level foe. “My thought when we played Hillsborough is that it is as good a team as we will see,” said Shelley.

“They are not as dynamic as Notre Dame in the sense that don’t have three quality players like them. They have a bunch of really solid players and they play a really good zone. They are long and athletic. We only had 15 points at halftime and we were running good offense. We just couldn’t get shots to fall and we had a few too many turnovers. It was nice to play them at this point of the season, it had zero bearing on the state tournament and it didn’t affect our division.”

It will be nice for PHS to end the regular season with a home game against Hamilton on February 14 as it prepares for the postseason push.

“We are going to come out hard in practice on Tuesday and have a lighter day on Wednesday,” said Shelley, noting that the team lost practice time and had a game with Florence cancelled due to the snow storm that hit the area last weekend.

“It is good to have a game on Thursday and get tuned back up. Hopefully we can have a good game.”

Having been seeded eighth in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament, Shelley believes the Little Tigers can do some damage against its local rivals.

“I do [think we can make a good run] but we have to take it one game at a time,” said Shelley, whose team has a 10-8 record and will host ninth-seeded Nottingham on February 16 in the opening round of the MCT.

“There is Notre Dame (No. 1 seed) out there, that makes it tough. We played Trenton, WW/P-S, Ewing, and PDS, we were competitive with all of them. Notre Dame is the only team where the guys have been wide-eyed so it is a challenge.”

In the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, PHS has been seeded fourth and will host No. 13 Hopewell Valley on February 26 in an opening round contest looking to turn the tables on a Bulldog squad that beat PHS in the first game of the season.

“We love our seed in the state; HoVal is better now but so are we,” added Shelley.

“We didn’t play good defense that night and it was the first game under my system. We know we are going to have at least one home game and maybe two.”

In order to do well in the playoffs, PHS needs to stick to its system. “I think it comes down to fundamentals and sharing the ball,” said Shelley.

“We have to do what we do and do it well. If we are playing our matchup zone well, we should be able to contain anybody. We are leading the CVC in defense (giving up 51.9 points a game), which we are very proud of.”

The Little Tigers will also need to play with the resolve it displayed in the comeback win over Nottingham.

“The mindset has to be confident but calm,” asserted Shelley. “We can’t get too hyped up or nervous. There is a certain element in the postseason of physical and mental toughness. The basketball is more rugged.”

BELL CURVE: Princeton High wrestler Victor Bell, left, takes on a foe in recent action at 195 pounds. Sophomore Bell is one of the young wrestlers who has been gaining valuable experience this winter for PHS.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BELL CURVE: Princeton High wrestler Victor Bell, left, takes on a foe in recent action at 195 pounds. Sophomore Bell is one of the young wrestlers who has been gaining valuable experience this winter for PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Undergoing a youth movement and being hit with a number of injuries, the Princeton High wrestling team has taken more than its share of lumps this winter.

As PHS head coach Rashone Johnson has guided his team through its rocky road, he feels that this year’s struggles will pay dividends in the long run.

“These growing pains will help us for the future,” said Johnson. “We have gained toughness; we have had to build and rebuild. I am hoping that by going through this now we won’t have to go through this in the future. Some of the injuries are out of your control, that is the nature of the sport. But what you can help is the readiness for the season. They need to train to start, believing that they will be one of the guys whose number is going to be called.”

The numbers worked out well for PHS last week as it posted a 50-20 win at WW/P-N in improving to 3-12.

“I definitely feel like that was a good step; we needed it,” said Johnson, reflecting on the February 5 victory which saw Will Meisel (138 pounds), David Klinges (170), and James Gate (182) each win by pin with Patrick Sockler (126) posting a technical fall. “With the injury-laden season, we have had a run of just falling short.”

In Johnson’s view, senior star Klinges, who has wrestled most of the season at 160, is putting together a fine last run and should be a factor at the upcoming district competition.

“Klinges has given everything he has, he is battle-tested,” said Johnson. “This year, 160 has been a wide-open weight class. He took fourth in the districts last year so he has a better idea of what to expect. I am looking for him to be at regionals, I think he is picking it up and peaking at the right time.”

Another senior, Will Harrison, has picked things up considerably over his PHS career.

“If you had the opportunity to see him as a freshman and what he is like now, it is night and day,” said Johnson of Harrison, who was recently named as the winner of the Gary Dambro Excellence Award, which goes to a county wrestler who shows courage and determination throughout the season.

“He couldn’t chew gum and walk straight at the same time. The biggest area of progress is confidence. His confidence has been a huge area of progress. I don’t mean on the mat but how he carries himself in school and in his life.”

Johnson is looking for a trio of sophomores, Patrick Sockler, Thomas Miers, and Victor Bell, to carry the team in the future.

“Patrick and Thomas have both done well, they have had their moments,” said Johnson.

“I feel they both just need to be more consistent. Unfortunately Bell had to sit out last week due to injury. He is going to be solid; I am expecting big things from Victor Bell.”

In Johnson’s view, PHS could do some big things over the next few years.

“We have been a senior, upperclassmen team and the underclassmen could enjoy life and have a good time on JV,” said Johnson, whose team hosts Burlington Institute of Technology on February 13 before competing in districts.

“The upperclassmen now are sophomores and juniors. These guys are still learning how to wrestle. They know a lot of wrestling moves, they just have to put things together. We are going slow and steady as we try to improve.”

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball senior star Grant ­Mackay takes the ball to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, 6’7 senior forward Mackay came up big, scoring a game-high 12 points as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 46-31 in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 19-5, will wrap up their season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball senior star Grant ­Mackay takes the ball to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, 6’7 senior forward Mackay came up big, scoring a game-high 12 points as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 46-31 in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 19-5, will wrap up their season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Trailing the Hill School by 10 points entering the fourth quarter last Saturday in the opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, the Hun School boys’ basketball team didn’t appear to be heading to a title.

But outscoring sixth-seeded Hill 19-7 over the last eight minutes of the contest, third-seeded Hun pulled out an improbable 37-35 win as Hashim Moore hit a lay-up with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

Hun head coach Jon Stone acknowledged that his mind was on survival, not trophies, as the teams headed into the waning moments of the contest.

“I was thinking how I am getting out of this with a win,” recalled Stone, who got 15 points from senior star Fergus Duke in the win including a three-pointer to tie the score at 35-35.

“We were a couple of seconds and a basket away from not winning. You have to make your breaks, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes it comes from hard work.”

Building on the momentum from that narrow escape, Hun kept winning as it topped host and No. 2 seed Peddie 49-38 on Sunday in the MAPL semis and then defeated No. 1 Lawrenceville 46-31 on Monday evening to win the title.

The victory over the Big Red in the championship game was particularly sweet since Hun had dropped a 47-45 overtime thriller at Lawrenceville on January 22 in the regular season meeting between the rivals.

“We knew that they were a very good team; we were hoping for a different result,” said Stone, reflecting on the earlier loss.

In Stone’s view, achieving a better result on Monday came down to mental toughness.

“We were focused today,” said Stone, who got 12 points from Grant Mackay in the win with Duke and Moore chipping in 11 apiece.

“We came out with a goal in mind and we made big plays. It was a big team effort. I told the guys in the locker room afterward that everybody was a part of it. The guys that didn’t play, work hard everyday in practice and push the other guys. The guys that did get in each made big plays.”

The Raiders have been getting big plays from senior stars Mackay and Duke all winter. “Grant is so good and so tough,” said Stone, whose team outscored the Big Red 14-4 in the fourth quarter to pull away to the victory.

“He doesn’t fill the scoreboard but he always fills the scoresheet. He does so much. He hit four 3’s tonight, he is playing so well. When they got close tonight, Fergus hit a couple of 3s and had an assist. They have hit big buckets all year long for us.”

It was a big moment for Stone as the Raiders celebrated their first MAPL crown since 2009.

“It is fantastic; I am very happy,” said Stone, whose team improved to 19-5 with the victory. “You play for winning this and the states. It is all the hard work paying off.”

In addition to putting in a lot of hard work, Hun’s players have developed bonds that helped them get through the ups and downs this winter.

“I think we had good chemistry from the beginning but it has grown and deepened,” said Stone. “This team has learned from its losses and gotten better.”

Stone is hoping his team can play even better as it wraps up its season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest.

“We have a hard game on Wednesday to come back here against Peddie,” said Stone.

“We have to build on this. I think we just need to stay focused on the task at hand and keep getting the leadership that we have had from the veterans.”