February 20, 2013
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.”

NET GAIN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker guards the net last Thursday in the state Prep title game against visiting Morristown-Beard. Senior star Walker made 24 saves, including a point blank stop with a second left in overtime, as the teams skated to a 2-2 tie and shared the title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET GAIN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker guards the net last Thursday in the state Prep title game against visiting Morristown-Beard. Senior star Walker made 24 saves, including a point blank stop with a second left in overtime, as the teams skated to a 2-2 tie and shared the title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team skated to a 2-2 deadlock with Morristown-Beard through regulation and a 15-minute overtime in the state Prep championship game last Thursday, Connor Walker banged his stick on the ice in frustration.

The PDS star senior goalie’s reaction reflected the disappointment the Panthers felt in sharing the title after outshooting the visiting Crimson 49-26 and dominating long stretches of the game.

Minutes earlier, though, Walker had frustrated Mo-Beard when he made a point blank save with a second left in overtime to preserve PDS’s piece of the title.

While Walker desperately wanted the Panthers to have sole possession of the trophy, he had no qualms with how hard PDS went after the title.

“We only had it once in our four years and we felt that this was our year,” said Walker, who made 24 saves on the evening as the Panthers moved to 18-2-1.

“But coming out as co-champions, you can’t put that game on anyone. It was hard fought by both of us. We are proud, there is nothing to be upset about. I am very proud of everyone else on the team and we are proud that we tried our hardest.”

Walker fought hard to keep the puck out of the net in the waning moments of overtime as Mo-Beard furiously pressed forward.

“It was a flurry and I just tried to make myself as big as possible, that’s all I could do at that point,” recalled Walker.

“I did have the puck. My nerves were no different than the whole game, there was nothing to worry about. I have got a lot of confidence.”

With PDS having dominated many of its foes this winter, Walker has learned how to keep his head in the game when the action is across the rink from him.

“There have been a lot of games this year where they are down there and then there are a couple of flurries back,” said Walker.

“It is the same focus, anticipating the play. I have gotten used to it, earlier in the year it was a bit of a problem. I have conditioned myself to stay focused. I skate around when there is nothing going on at my end.”

In addition, Walker has improved his stick skills and has triggered the offense when the opportunity has presented itself.

“Throughout the four years, that is one thing I have been prided myself on, being able to move the puck, being a third defenseman and being able to make plays,” said Walker.

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli believed that his team made enough plays to win the game.

“We deserved to win, no question,” asserted Bertoli, who got goals from freshman Kyle Weller and junior Sean Timmons in the title game as the Panthers battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

“We outplayed them, we outchanced them. At times, we completely dominated. We have had a lot of bounces go our way this year and deservedly so because we are the better hockey team 95 percent of the times we have suited it up. It just didn’t work out. I give credit to them, they hung in there. They were out manned and they were outplayed. They bent but they didn’t break. It was really two contrasting styles and unfortunately we weren’t able to get that goal to put us over the top.”

Bertoli credited his players with showing commitment and effort. “You could tell by watching the game that it meant a lot to them and that is why the disappointment is so great that we weren’t able to finish the job,” said Bertoli.

“I look at Cody Triolo’s line with Johnny Egner and Lewie Blackburn; they had their best game of the year to this point and they have been really good. They were unbelievable, that is a line that deserves to score a goal and feel really good about themselves. One of those guys deserves to be a hero. The guys that score goals had plenty of chances.”

In Bertoli’s view, Walker has been an unsung hero this winter for the Panthers.

“The kid has been unbelievable; he makes every big save that you need him to make,” said Bertoli.

“There are games where we win 5-0 and you think he wasn’t a big contributor in the game. At certain points in games, it is a one or two-goal lead and he makes the big save, he stops the breakaway, he does the little things that just keep that momentum moving in our favor. Tonight he did the same thing, we are down a goal and if we go down two goals we start to clench our fists. He makes the big saves time after time and he has done it all four years. His record in his four years here is something like 45-7. He is a competitor, he is more angry than anyone that we didn’t win because it means that much to him and I love that about that kid.”

While PDS didn’t get the win in the title game, there is much to love about the squad’s accomplishments and approach.

“This is a great group; it is arguably one of the best teams that has played at this school in any sport and their record is very indicative of that,” maintained Bertoli, whose team will wrap up the season by competing in the Hill School (Pa.) tournament this weekend.

“Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they show it every time out there. We will never get outworked. We are not going to win every game because sometimes a team might be a little better or the bounces might go against us. I love the fact that this tournament and having 2013 going up on that banner, which it will, means an awful lot to them. Being successful is very important to them. They are a proud group and they deserve to be because they have had an excellent year and not winning this hockey game takes nothing away from that.”

For Walker, it has meant a lot to be part of the program over the last four years.

“We are just a really tight group,” said Walker. “Rob [Colton] came in junior year and there were no problems, he melded right into the team. A lot of us have been on this team since freshman year. A couple of us had to work on it, like me Grahame [Davis] and Eddie [Meyercord]. I think it is great that we all play on the same club team as well.”

HAMMING IT UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Tavante Brittingham goes in for a lay-up in recent action. Last Sunday, senior Brittingham and second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 15-6, will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17 in the Prep B semis. In addition, PDS will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAMMING IT UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Tavante Brittingham goes in for a lay-up in recent action. Last Sunday, senior Brittingham and second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 15-6, will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17 in the Prep B semis. In addition, PDS will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The gym was packed as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team hosted archrival Pennington last week.

But the crowd grew restless as PDS fell behind 9-0. The Panthers did get their fans going as they went on a 14-6 run to narrow the gap to 15-14.

PDS head coach Paris McLean acknowledged that his team might have been too fired up at the outset.

“It felt like we got caught up in the moment; it was a huge crowd,” said McLean.

“Pennington is a good young team and they are a transition team so to dig a hole like that, it is going to be tough to get out of.”

Getting outscored 22-8 over the rest of the half, PDS found itself trailing 37-22 at intermission. McLean, though, still felt his team could produce some big moments in the second half.

“We said we are right in it,” said McLean, recalling his halftime message.

“We stressed that we needed to play better help defense and communicate better. We said that there is no 15-point shot; that we have to go on defensive runs, to get a stop and a bucket, a stop and a bucket.”

But things went from bad to worse for PDS in the third quarter as it got outscored 25-13 on the way to a 77-55 loss.

In assessing the defeat, McLean acknowledged that it was a Murphy’s Law evening for his team.

“We got two or three stops but then we let them get two or three buckets and the bleeding continued,” said McLean, who got 28 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the loss with junior guard Langston Glaude adding 11.

“We played uncharacteristically poor at both ends of the floor. We played out of character. We were doing things that we don’t do. It just wasn’t a good night. These nights happen sometimes; it was one of those nights. They were shooting well and we didn’t shoot particularly well. We didn’t play well.”

In McLean’s view, the setback could serve a valuable purpose heading into postseason play.

“We lost and you need that wake-up call sometimes,” said McLean. “I told our guys we have won a heck of a lot more than we have lost. We need to rebuild from this. There are teachable moments all throughout there. You have got to learn from it. We’ll talk about it but we are not going to dwell on it and we will move forward.

On Sunday in the state Prep B quarterfinals, the Panthers did move forward as second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in improving to 15-6 and earning a spot in the semis where it will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17.

In so doing, the Panthers heeded McLean’s advice in his post-game message after the Pennington game.

“I told them to just come back to practice and remember the body of work that we have and our resume and what got us there — hard work, effort, and focus,” said McLean, whose team will also be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16. “We talk about playing hard, playing smart, and playing together.”

COLD PLAY: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole enjoys the moment in a game earlier this season. Senior tri-captain Cole has contributed offense and an upbeat mentality this winter as PDS has gone 9-6. The Panthers host Summit on February 13 in their regular season finale before competing in the ‘A’ bracket in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament from February 16-17. The tourney will be played at PDS’s McGraw Rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COLD PLAY: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole enjoys the moment in a game earlier this season. Senior tri-captain Cole has contributed offense and an upbeat mentality this winter as PDS has gone 9-6. The Panthers host Summit on February 13 in their regular season finale before competing in the ‘A’ bracket in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament from February 16-17. The tourney will be played at PDS’s McGraw Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Zeeza Cole enjoyed contributing two goals for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team as it topped Princeton High 10-0 last Wednesday, she was happier for her teammates who also found the back of the net.

“In this game, we were able to focus on some things that we were working on in practice, like getting everyone playing and getting everyone shooting,” said PDS senior forward Cole, who was joined on the scoring sheet by Robin Linzmayer, Carly King, Anna Williams, Colby Triolo, Lexie Fairman, Daisy Mase, and Louise Hutter. “That obviously boosts everyone’s morale.”

Serving as a tri-captain this winter for the Panthers along with classmates Hutter and Mase, Cole has focused on getting everybody in the act.

“You are not always the leader on the scoreboard,” said Cole, who has helped PDS produce a 9-6 record. “It is not really important to me as long as everyone is playing well and everyone is happy. I think that is a really big thing.”

The Panthers have achieved a big thing for the program this season as they will be making their first appearance in the ‘A’ bracket of the upcoming Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament, which includes the top four finishers in the league standings.

“Ever since my freshman year, that is what we have been working towards each year,” said Cole.

“We have been getting closer and closer so this year we just want to go as hard as we can and not leave anything back. I am really hoping to make some memories and just know that we put everything on the ice.”

As an added bonus, PDS will be hosting the tournament. “That is awesome,” said Cole. “We can have a crowd and all of our parents can come. It is really nice having that support from the school and our parents.”

PDS head coach Lorna Cook was happy to see Cole have a nice game in the win over PHS.

“Zeeza started out so strong this season,” said Cook of Cole who has 16 points this season on nine goals and seven assists.

“In the middle of the season, she was not putting as many in the net but she never stopped working to set up her teammates. I am hoping the PHS game will give her confidence.”

With PDS hosting Summit on February 13 in its regular season finale before competing in the WIHLMA tourney from February 16-17, Cook is looking for the team to focus on keeping the pressure on in the offensive zone.

“I think at the beginning of the year, we were doing a good job of putting the pucks in the net,” said Cook, who got a shutout from sophomore goalie Katie Alden in the win over PHS as she handled duties between the pipes with senior star netminder Mase playing out.

“As of late, we have not been getting as many shots. I am hoping for more of the same on Wednesday against Summit and in the WIHLMA tournament.”

In Cook’s view, making the ‘A’ bracket in the WIHLMA tournament shows strong progress.

“That is a huge confidence boost for the program beyond this year,” said Cook. “Hopefully it is somewhere we will be year after year.”

Cook is hoping her team can come up huge as it faces Portledge (N.Y.) in the WIHLMA semis on February 16. Even though PDS fell 8-0 and 6-1 to the New York school earlier this month, Cook isn’t daunted by the matchup.

“We improved between the two games with them and we are looking to improve even more in the third game,” said Cook.

“We are looking at this as our championship. If we win it, then we will be in the title game for the first time and we can take it from there.”

In Cook’s view, showing improvement against Portledge will come down to work ethic and execution.

“Our biggest strength is the effort that we put out there,” said Cook, whose strongest offensive player has been junior defenseman Linzmayer with 22 points on 17 goals and five assists. “Our best players have to play well.”

With Cole heading across town to Princeton University this fall, where she isn’t planning to play any sports, she is ready to make a big effort in the final days of her hockey career.

“It definitely happened pretty quickly,” said Cole, who has also starred in field hockey and lacrosse for PDS.

“I am definitely trying to make the most of it, trying to enjoy every practice, every game. I am really sad. It is one thing on the ice, it is another just being with everyone. We are trying to get in some team dinners, we are trying to hang out with everyone. I am pretty sad that my hockey career is ending, but I am also sad to leave the team.”

February 6, 2013
TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a 100 backstroke race earlier in the season. Last Saturday, Stange won the 100 back and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its third straight title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. The Little Tigers will now go after a second straight state Public B crown and have been seeded first in the upcoming Central Jersey sectional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a 100 backstroke race earlier in the season. Last Saturday, Stange won the 100 back and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its third straight title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. The Little Tigers will now go after a second straight state Public B crown and have been seeded first in the upcoming Central Jersey sectional. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In cruising to the Mercer County Swimming Championships title last winter, the Princeton High boys’ team rode on the shoulders of a stellar group of seniors.

The senior stars helped PHS dominate the 2012 meet as the Little Tigers won eight of 11 events and outscored runner-up Notre Dame by 356-190 in earning the program’s second straight county crown.

Coming into this year’s country meet last week at WW/P-N, junior star Will Stange and his PHS teammates weren’t sure if they could reach those heights. “We were a little concerned going in with the loss of our seniors from last year,” said Stange.

In Saturday’s final session, Stange didn’t waste any time showing that it was going to be business as usual for the Little Tigers.

Swimming the backstroke leg of the meet-opening 200 medley relay ‘A’ final, Stange helped PHS to a season-best time of 1:51.17 and a 3.64 second win over runner-up WW/P-N.

“It always helps,” said Stange, reflecting on starting the meet with a win. “I treat every event differently. I go in with a different mindset for everything. You don’t want to be thinking about how bad you did in one event going into the next event; but there is a sense that when somebody does something great, you want to do something great. I think our medley relay did set that tone.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to do some great things over the rest of the afternoon, winning a third straight title, amassing 269 points to easily top runner-up Notre Dame, which had a score of 190.5.

Stange won the 100 backstroke while classmate Peter Kalibat took first in the 400 freestyle to account for the team’s two individual victories. The Little Tigers concluded the meet by taking first in the 400 free relay in a meet record time of 3:39.12.

In the wake of a raucous celebration on the deck, which was even more joyous than usual since the PHS girls’ team won its first title to give the Little Tigers their first-ever county sweep, a grinning Stange was proud of how the boys’ squad followed in the footsteps of last year’s seniors.

“It really just meant a lot to us that we could pull together a great meet,” asserted Stange, who did a leg on the 400 free relay. “All of us were swimming fast today.”

While Stange just missed out on winning the 100 butterfly as he placed second, he produced a fast swim.

“The fly was good, solid second place, it was a lot faster than the prelims,” said Stange.

“Vitablie [Scott Vitablie of Hightstown] was going really fast. I tried to get him on the last wall but it didn’t turn out as I would have hoped.”

Things did turn out as Stange hoped in the 100 back as he jumped out to an early lead and cruised to victory.

“You never count your chickens so I was very happy with that,” said Stange, who clocked a 58.37 time in winning the race, topping runner-up Tyler Gulsby of Steinert by 4.63 seconds.

PHS head coach Greg Hand was very happy to see Stange and his teammates live up to the legacy of last year’s seniors

“It’s all about the guys; to know that this year’s juniors have been a part of all three of those makes me very happy,” said Hand, whose continent of junior stars also includes Matt Purdy, the third place finisher in both the 50 and 100 freestyle at the county meet, and Colburn Yu, third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 individual medley.

“I love the way they were psyching each other up. To go up to the girls and boys 4 x100 relay teams, just literally to make sure they were there with nothing to say to them and to see that they were just getting an incredible thrill from getting on the deck and were so excited about the last race of the meet; that was terrific.”

Hand knows he has a lot of terrific performers on his boys squad. “We have a bunch of kids who are really good athletes in the sense of their discipline, commitment, and team spirit,” said Hand, whose team went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

“We have some kids who are very talented. No matter where they are on the depth chart, they are always trying to get better. It was great to see the whole team pull this off.”

It was also great for Hand to see Kalibat and Stange break through for individual victories.

“It was a fast meet in the 200, likewise in the fly, so even though we got second in those events, I thought our guys swam very well,” said Hand.

“Pete’s 400 was probably the second fastest swim in that event in 44 years; it was a great effort against a real strong field. Likewise Will just took control of that backstroke race and went substantially faster than he has gone before.”

The Little Tigers will have to go even faster than they did last week if they are to win a second straight title in the upcoming state Public B meet.

“Some of the numbers that we swam today were encouraging,” said Hand, whose team has been seeded first in the Central Jersey Public B sectional.

“If it plays out the way it looks from power points, we would swim against Lawrence in the sectional final and then go against Summit. We are within 50 power points of each other. They have extraordinary quality and depth. It would be a challenge.”

Stange, for his part, believes that PHS will be up for the challenges it will face in the Public B competition.

“Going into states, we are going to get back and just train hard,” said Stange. “We are going to try to figure out from this meet what we can improve on and then hit it hard for whoever we are coming up against.”

FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ swim star Marisa Giglio displays her freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke to help the PHS girls’ squad win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. In upcoming action, PHS will be competing in the upcoming state Public B tournament where it has been seeded second in the Central Jersey sectional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ swim star Marisa Giglio displays her freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke to help the PHS girls’ squad win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. In upcoming action, PHS will be competing in the upcoming state Public B tournament where it has been seeded second in the Central Jersey sectional.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite having advanced competitors to all 11 ‘A’ finals last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships, the Princeton High girls’ squad realized that didn’t guarantee the program’s first county crown.

“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 PHS senior standout Marisa Giglio.

Getting off to a strong start by winning the opening event, the 200 medley relay, and setting a school record in the process, gave the Little Tigers confidence that they could produce a title breakthrough.

“We were a little bit nervous going in,” said Giglio, reflecting on the medley which posted a time of 2:04.58 with Giglio swimming the breaststroke leg. “Once we won it we were like we can do this guys. I think it did set a tone.”

Buoyed by that triumph, PHS went on to do enough to win the meet, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

While the Little Tigers didn’t have an individual winner, they displayed the depth of a champion. Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke while classmate Serena Deardorff placed third in the 50 freestyle and second in the butterfly. Precocious freshman stars, Briana Romaine and Madeleine Deardorff, Serena’s younger sister, made key contributions with Romaine placing third in the 200 free and second in the 100 free while the younger Deardorff took second in both the 400 free and 100 breast.

PHS did end the day on a high note, taking first in the 400 free relay as Giglio, Romaine, and the two Deardorffs posted a winning time of 4:05.54, another school record.

“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.”

Although Giglio didn’t achieve an individual victory, she was excited by her IM and backstroke races.

“I just wanted to go fast in the IM, I know Paige Anderson [of Hopewell Valley] and Taylor Johnson [of Robbinsville] are very fast because I have been swimming with them my whole life,” said Giglio.

“We are all really good friends. It is always nice competition. I felt good in the back. I was racing Paige and I was competitive with her. I was also happy with that race.”

In Giglio’s view, PHS’s nice blend of veteran performers and talented newcomers has paved the way to the county title. “It is a pretty good mix of people this year,” said Giglio.

“We have the young people who are bringing a lot of energy and excitement to their first counties. And then we have a lot of seniors who obviously know what we are doing and try to steer the freshman excitement in the right direction.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was excited to see his girls’ squad produce its breakthrough moment.

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

Winning the medley relay set the tone for the special day to follow. “I was amazed by what the medley relay did,” asserted Hand.

“We swam a nice time yesterday and we broke that by six seconds. The girls decided to go back to a lineup that we had started the season with and it sure paid off.”

Seeing his swimmers end the meet with a resounding win in the 400 free provided another amazing moment for Hand.

“To bookend it and come back and swim such a terrific relay which broke a school record was just so impressive,” asserted Hand.

“We have Madeleine coming back right after the breaststroke. Marisa was coming back two events after the backstroke. It is always true at this meet for all teams, everybody was tired. They just really stepped up and I hope they know that the dues they have paid in the pool really show on occasions like this.”

Hand was not surprised to see his swimmers rise to the occasion. “They are athletes in the full sense of the word,” said Hand. “They have great team spirit. They swim to do their best; they don’t worry too much.”

PHS will be hoping to carry that winning spirit into the upcoming state Public B tournament.

“I think that this can really help,” said Hand, whose team has been seeded second in the upcoming Central Jersey Public B sectional with Chatham being moved into the sectional and receiving the No. 1 seed.

“If we swim Lawrence and get through them, we may be swimming against Chatham, who has a 1,000 power point differential on us. I have never seen anybody make that up. If that is in the cards, the only way to end the season is to give everything you can to beat the team you are swimming against.”

Giglio, for her part, believes the county triumph will inspire the Little Tigers to give even more in the state competition.

“I think it gives our team a little bit of confidence that maybe we didn’t have coming into it,” said Giglio.

“We have had some competitive meets but it hasn’t been that hard for us. This is definitely one of the ones we were looking forward to the most. It definitely sets the tone for things to come. The kids on the team are really hard working and willing to put in the extra mile to get as far as we can.”

WELCOME MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Matt ­DiTosto controls the puck in a recent game. The return of senior forward and captain DiTosto from a hand injury helped spark PHS to a 5-1 record in January action. The Little Tigers, who started February with an 8-3 win over Paul last Friday to improve to 9-5-1, face Steinert on February 6 and Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WELCOME MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Matt ­DiTosto controls the puck in a recent game. The return of senior forward and captain DiTosto from a hand injury helped spark PHS to a 5-1 record in January action. The Little Tigers, who started February with an 8-3 win over Paul last Friday to improve to 9-5-1, face Steinert on February 6 and Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a victory that exemplified a special January for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

Trailing a bruising Cranford squad 3-2 heading into the third period at Warinanco Park, PHS rallied for a 4-3 victory to give it five straight wins in 2013.

While PHS head coach Tim Campbell was thrilled with the win, he realized that his club expended a lot of physical and mental energy in the process.

“When you play a team that big and fast and beat them, you use adrenaline,” said Campbell, reflecting on a win which saw senior star Matt DiTosto score the winning goal and chip in two assists with junior Spencer Reynolds scoring two goals. “Once you come off that high, it is tough.”

Last Wednesday against rival WW/P-S at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers seemed to be riding that high in the early going. Outshooting the Pirates by a wide margin, PHS jumped out to a 2-0 lead 25 minutes into the contest.

But running out of gas, the Little Tigers faltered down the stretch. WW/P-S scored late in the second period and then scored off the opening face-off in the third period to knot the game at 2-2. PHS generated some good opportunities down the stretch but it was WW/P-S who cashed in and scored with 2:12 remaining in regulation to pull out a 3-2 victory.

In reflecting on the defeat, Campbell rued his team’s failure to make the most of its chances.

“We just didn’t finish tonight; I don’t how many shots we had in the third period,” said Campbell, who got goals from Connor McCormick and Reynolds in the defeat to the Pirates.

“We had so many opportunities and we just didn’t bury the puck. If we had buried two or three of those, it is a completely different temperature of the game.”

Campbell also acknowledged that his players were dragging in the wake of their recent surge which saw the Little Tigers improve from 3-4-1 to 8-4-1

“At the end of the day, we are just exhausted,” said Campbell. “We have had a long month emotionally, to do what we have been doing to right the ship. We hadn’t lost all month. We came back from the break and we have won every single game against some opponents when you budget out the season, you don’t necessarily count on.”

While the return of captain and star forward DiTosto from a hand injury which sidelined him for much of December has helped the team’s mindset collectively, Campbell acknowledged that the Little Tigers have little margin for error.

“Having guys back has helped but it is also having confidence,” said Campbell.

“Success breeds success and that type of mentality. In all honesty, how long can you keep this going. It is such a short bench with a few guys who are on the ice but they are not healthy. When we are exhausted like this and we have opportunities to finish, you have got to figure out a way to capitalize on it and finish on scoring opportunities.”

In Campbell’s view, DiTosto generated a slew of those chances against WW/P-S as he picked up an assist and displayed his playmaking skill all night long.

“Matt DiTosto played a hell of a game,” asserted Campbell. “I don’t know how many scoring opportunities he single-handedly created on his own with his effort.”

The Little Tigers are also getting good effort from such emerging stars as Reynolds together with sophomores Connor McCormick and John Reid.

“Spencer Reynolds is playing a really good, tough physical game right now,” said Campbell. “Connor McCormick backchecked well. John Reid played well in the neutral zone.”

With PHS starting February by topping Paul VI 8-3 last Friday as Jack Andres scored three goals and DiTosto added two, Campbell is confident his squad can build on its January surge.

“We have been playing well,” said Campbell, whose team plays Hamilton on February 6 and then faces Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park.

“We have got some positive things going. We just need to tie it all together after this game.”

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IN CHARGE: Hun School boys’ hockey goalie Devin Cheifetz controls the crease in a game earlier this winter. Last Wednesday, junior star Cheifetz made 18 saves as Hun blanked Pingry 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep tournament. The victory earned the Raiders a semifinal matchup at Princeton Day School slated for February 5 with the winner advancing to the title game on February 7 at PDS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In early December, junior goalie Devin Cheifetz came up big as the Hun School boys’ hockey team topped nemesis Pingry 4-1, a win that got the Raiders on a hot streak.

Last Wednesday as Hun prepared to host Pingry in the opening round of the state Prep tournament, head coach Ian McNally was looking for an encore performance from his netminder.

“Devin had his biggest game against Pingry,” said McNally. “He and I had talked before this game and I said why not again.”

Although Cheifetz recorded just three saves in the first period of the playoff contest as the teams were knotted at 0-0 after the first 15 minutes, McNally could sense that Cheifetz was on his way to another stellar performance against the Blues.

“It is not even if he has a bunch of saves in the first period, it is his demeanor,” said McNally.

“You can tell that it is going to be a special day for him when he is playing the puck like that. He had some good stretch passes and caught them on a couple of line changes. Even though he only had three saves in the first period, you could get that feeling that it was going to be Devin’s game.”

That feeling proved justified as Cheifetz posted a shutout with a total of 18 saves as Hun prevailed 3-0.

The victory earned the Raiders a semifinal matchup at Princeton Day School slated for February 5 with the winner advancing to the title game on February 7 at PDS.

Cheifetz was at his best in the third period when he made eight saves, including several key stops when Hun killed back-to-back penalties. The junior goalie wasn’t fazed by being under the gun during the shorthanded situations.

“You just got to stay calm and play the game; you can’t think of it any differently,” said Cheifetz.

“Obviously a lot is on the line but you can’t too put too much pressure on yourself.”

Even though the game was scoreless well into the second period, Cheifetz sensed that a breakthrough was coming.

“I was confident in my team,” said Cheifetz. “We have the players; we pounce when we have to. You have to bring it every game and we brought it.”

With 4:44 left in the period, Alec Karanikolas pounced on the puck and found the back of the net to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

“That was a huge momentum bounce,” said Cheifetz, reflecting on the goal. “It turned the tide of the game.”

Hun tacked on two more tallies in the third and Cheifetz did the rest, shutting the door on Pingry.

While Cheifetz was proud of his shutout, he was quick to spread the credit.

“It is a good accomplishment for me but it is also not just me back there,” said Cheifetz, who posted another shutout on Saturday when Hun topped the Germantown Academy (Pa.) 7-0 in a regular season game to improve to 12-4-4. “It is also my defense coming back which is a big help.”

As a three-year starter, Cheifetz is going out of his way to help his teammates by exerting more leadership.

“It is a natural process; obviously I am one of the older guys,” said Cheifetz. “I have to guide the younger guys because that was what was done for me when I was a sophomore and a freshman.”

The guidance from this year’s seniors has helped Hun develop a special unity.

“I think this year’s seniors have been really great; the team isn’t separated by upperclassmen and underclassmen,” said Cheifetz.

“The seniors have really stepped up; making friends with everybody and making sure that everyone is together, all of them, not just the seniors. On and off the ice, we always have lunch together it is a lot of fun.”

For McNally, it was fun to see his team come through in a tough tournament contest.

“A win like this reaffirms for me that when it matters and it is on the line and we are playing a good team, we will show up,” said McNally.

As Hun looks to turn the tables on a PDS team that beat it 8-1 a few weeks ago and also make a big run in the upcoming Independence Hockey League (IHL) playoffs, the Raiders are going to stick to their guns.

“Our style is we are going to come very aggressive and we are going to be physical and we are going to try to cause turnovers and go after them,” said McNally.

“We are certainly not going to approach the game in a different way than we would because any success that we have is when we pressure until they turn the puck over. That’s how we do well.”

For Cheifetz, the win over Pingry exemplified Hun’s approach of enjoying each game.

“It is a confidence-builder and no matter what happens we are here for the love of the game,” said Cheifetz. “We will just take it how it is.”

MOORE READY: Hun School guard Hashim Moore heads upcourt in recent action. The Princeton-bound post-graduate scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5. Hun hosts the Phelps School (Pa.) on February 6 before competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League from February 8-10 at Peddie.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MOORE READY: Hun School guard Hashim Moore heads upcourt in recent action. The Princeton-bound post-graduate scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5. Hun hosts the Phelps School (Pa.) on February 6 before competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League from February 8-10 at Peddie. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hashim Moore was ready for battle as the Hun School boys’ basketball team hosted Life Center Academy last week.

The post-graduate guard was wearing a long-sleeve padded shirt under his jersey and had black tights covering his legs.

Moore didn’t waste any time going on attack, driving in for a dunk to score the first points of the January 29 contest.

The Princeton University-bound guard scored six more points in the quarter to help the Raiders jump out to a 14-8 lead.

“I talked to my coaches here and the coaches at Princeton and they said you need to be more aggressive,” said Moore.

“So that is what I came out to do. We had to bounce back and come in with a positive attitude getting ready for the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) tournament.”

The Raiders sputtered a bit in the second quarter as they got outscored 7-6 by Life Center.

“The halftime message was to start playing like a team, move the ball around and just be patient on offense,” said Moore, recalling the locker room discussion at intermission.

The Hun players got the message loud and clear as they pulled away to a 50-33 victory.

“I love it when everybody is knocking shots and we are moving the ball,” said Moore, reflecting on Hun’s second-half surge which was keyed by some sizzling shots from Grant Mackay and Fergus Duke, who ended up with 22 and 11 points, respectively.

For Moore, spreading the wealth on the court comes naturally. “I have always played with other scorers,” said Moore, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I had to find something else to do, rebounding, defense, or driving to get them open shots.”

The 6’0 Moore has tried to bring that same approach to the table as he has looked to fit in with the Raiders.

“I am trying to be everything for this team,” asserted Moore, who scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5.

“I look for all of our bigs, especially Josh [McGilvray] and Grant, and our shooters, Fergus [Duke], Jake [Newman], and Mike [Bourke].”

For the most part, Moore has acclimated himself to New Jersey although the recent cold snap threw him for a loop.

“It is my first time away from home,” said Moore, who has been able to make it over Jadwin Gym to see his future team in action.

“Coming here, I have had to get used to the weather. I almost fell three times on the black ice yesterday.”

Moore is confident that the Raiders won’t fall short when it comes to the postseason, starting with the MAPL tournament from February 8-10 at Peddie.

“Our team is so versatile, I think we can stand against anyone in the MAPL,” said Moore.

“We just have to come back and be ready because they are going to be coming. It is going to be a battle.”

With the way Moore has played this winter, he has proven to be ready for battle.

LEVITATION: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Daniella Levitan looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior tri-captain Levitan scored a game-high and career high 12 points to help PDS post a 38-12 victory over visiting Bound Brook and improve to 7-9. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Hamilton on February 7 before starting action in the state Prep B tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEVITATION: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Daniella Levitan looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior tri-captain Levitan scored a game-high and career high 12 points to help PDS post a 38-12 victory over visiting Bound Brook and improve to 7-9. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Hamilton on February 7 before starting action in the state Prep B tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing two years on the Princeton Day School junior varsity girls’ basketball team, Daniella Levitan considered giving up the sport last winter.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play last year and coach [Mika Ryan] called me up,” recalled Levitan.

“I was at a friend’s house and she said please play. One of my best friends is on the team so I decided to do it. It is the best thing I ever chose to do.”

Levitan went on to play a key role for the Panthers last season, providing a steadying presence for a team that went with six players for much of the year due to a series of injuries.

This winter, Levitan has assumed a leadership position for the team, serving as one of its captains.

“I am one of the captains which has been a really wonderful experience,” said Levitan.

“Basketball season is the best time of the year and I enjoy being able to help others improve like they helped me last year. I want to give back and want to see them play next year when I visit.”

Last Friday against visiting Bound Brook, Levitan helped the Panthers in a big way, scoring a game-high and career-high 12 points as PDS cruised to a 38-12 victory.

Having lost three straight games coming into the contest, Levitan and her teammates were determined to get back on the right track.

“We knew we have really been struggling; I think we wanted to prove to ourselves and show the team that we were capable of pushing through,” said Levitan, reflecting on the victory which improved PDS to 7-9.

“We had a really tough season last year and we pushed through everything. I think we wanted to relive that.”

The Panthers led 7-4 early in the second quarter but produced an 11-2 run to seize control of the game and cruised from there.

“Sometimes we start out slow but once we are able to get into the groove the game completely changes,” said Levitan.

“It was the most confident we have played in a long time. I think that is what really pushed us.”

Levitan pushed the pace in the fourth quarter, culminating two fast breaks with diving layups and drawing cheers from the stands and the PDS bench.

“That was called a surprise,” said Levitan in assessing her fourth quarter heroics. “Part of it was confidence and me thinking that I am not always going to have a chance to go up for that so do it now.”

PDS head coach Mika Ryan enjoyed seeing Levitan’s show of confidence. “I was so happy for Daniella,” said Ryan, in assessing Levitan’s career night.

“She was instrumental in the great season that we had last year. She came back this year and she had dedicated herself to our team over the summer. I asked her to be a captain and she said yes. It is good to see the way she played today. The best part of that was that she was in the right position defensively. She deflected with the correct hand, just doing the fundamental things that we work on.”

In order to get some better work out of her team, Ryan has shuffled the starting lineup.

“The thinking was to try to get more competition; that particular group started against Abington Friends and even though we lost, they were very competitive,” said Ryan, who got 10 points from junior Emily Goldman in the win over Bound Brook with senior Lauren Johnson and freshman Olivia Okorodudu adding five points apiece.

“It has been my beef all season that we don’t compete hard enough; maybe a change in our lineup got some people thinking and playing a little bit harder. It is not always an easy thing to do but you have to do what you have to do. We don’t talk about wins and losses; we talk about competing and being the best that you can be and the best teammate you can be.”

Ryan acknowledged that she hasn’t been at her best as the Panthers have struggled of late.

“I haven’t been a good coach, I haven’t been a good leader,” said Ryan. “I just need to do a better job myself. I am glad that they played hard and came away with the win. Hopefully I did a better job because I have been down, I have been frustrated. I can’t be that way.”

In Ryan’s view, the win over Bound Brook shows what PDS can do when it has all hands on deck.

“We need everybody to play well; we are hoping to make a little noise down the stretch here,” said Ryan. “We need all 10 players to contribute.”

Levitan, for her part, is confident that PDS can produce a solid stretch run.

“This is exactly what we needed at the right time,” said Levitan. “We only have a few more games left and this will make for a good end to the season.”

January 30, 2013
SO SERIOUS: Princeton High girls’ hockey standout Isabelle Sohn heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Freshman forward Sohn has given the Little Tigers production and intensity this winter. The Little Tigers, who fell to 0-9 with a 6-2 defeat to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday, are next in action when they play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO SERIOUS: Princeton High girls’ hockey standout Isabelle Sohn heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Freshman forward Sohn has given the Little Tigers production and intensity this winter. The Little Tigers, who fell to 0-9 with a 6-2 defeat to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday, are next in action when they play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the winter, Christian Herzog knew that his Princeton High girls’ hockey team was going to take some lumps as it embarked on a youth movement.

With a lineup containing a number of underclassmen and newcomers to the game, PHS has struggled to a 0-9 start, losing several games by lopsided margins.

But head coach Herzog isn’t discouraged, crediting his players with hanging in there.

“They go into every game with a low percentage of winning but that doesn’t deter them,” said Herzog, who got goals from Merritt Peck and Bea Greenberg as PHS fell 6-2 at Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday for its ninth straight loss this season.

“That comes from our mantra of head, heart, and hustle. We have made good strides, considering where we have started. I have seen good individual progress.”

Herzog points to a number of players who have made strides as the season has unfolded.

“Hanna Kostenbader has been stepping up on defense; she has been solid,” said Herzog.

“Isabelle Sohn is a finisher; she goes for it on every shift. Kate Sohn is taking more initiative; she is rushing up the puck more this year. Brittney Coniglione has been our most physical player; she gives a hard effort on every shift. She takes the attitude that they are not going to score on my watch. I have had to use Lucy Herring on defense and she has made strides at playing a new position. She did score two goals against Princeton Day School when I put her at forward.”

PHS is going with two new goalies, freshman Callie Urisko and junior Breanna Hegarty-Thorne, and Herzog is proud of how they have handled the pressure of playing between the pipes.

“I like that they are not giving up despite the scores of the games,” said Herzog, noting that his defense has been weakened by injuries to sophomore standout Julia DiTosto and promising freshman Allie Callaway.

“I see potential in both of them, they just need more ice time. We need to give up fewer shots; it is tough on them when we are getting outshot 30-10 every game.”

Herzog likes the way his senior players, Dana Barry, KC Read-Fisher, Brooke Solomon, and Kostenbader, have helped the team through some tough times.

“They have played an integral part in keeping spirits high,” asserted Herzog. “They went through last year so they know how to deal with things.”

Herzog is confident his team can produce a spirited finish to the season. “The one thing I can say about this team is that they have a good attitude and a willingness to work hard and get better even when the odds are against them,” said Herzog, whose team plays at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.

“We tend to play our best at the end of the season in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament.”

LAND ROVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Taran Auslander goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star defenseman Auslander contributed a goal as PDS topped previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0. The Panthers, now 15-2, host Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAND ROVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Taran Auslander goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star defenseman Auslander contributed a goal as PDS topped previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0. The Panthers, now 15-2, host Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team topped Morristown High 3-0 last week, senior defenseman Taran Auslander displayed how much he has evolved as as a player over his high school career.

Auslander triggered the Panther offense, scoring a power play goal in the first period and assisting on an insurance tally in the third period. Throughout the January 22 contest, Auslander’s steady play on the blue line helped the PDS defense stifle the Colonials.

In reflecting on his performance, Auslander acknowledged that he has come a long way over the last four seasons. “Since freshman year, I have gained a lot more confidence,” said Auslander.

“Playing with these incredible players, my skills have progressed and I have become confident with the puck. I feel like if something doesn’t go right I will have four other people on the ice to back me up and a great goaltender [Connor Walker].”

Auslander credited his teammates with setting up his goal in the Morristown win. “It was pretty much just what we drew up, it was a great play,” recalled Auslander.

“Rob [Colton] is walking across the middle and feeds it back to Conrad [Denise] who throws it to Ross [Colton] on the  goal line. I really have the easiest job; I just get to stand there and put in a beautiful pass from Ross.”

The Panther power play has been a key factor in the team’s success this winter.

“We are clicking very well; we work on the power play a lot in practice,” said Auslander, who got another goal as PDS beat previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0 last Friday to improve to 15-2.

“We are really good friends and it definitely helps. I feel like we all know where each other is going to be on the ice. We have gone through it so many times, it is becoming natural.”

On the defensive end, PDS is displaying a similar cohesion. “The defense definitely had a good game today, we are moving the puck well,” said Auslander, who also serves as an assistant captain for the Panthers.

“Connor Walker stood on his head like always; he made a couple of big saves in the second period to keep us in there. Our defense has been playing solid, we are coming together as a unit. We are working together on passing and just playing solid in our defensive zone because we know with the forwards that we have, we are going to score.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli is excited by the good work he is getting from Auslander.

“I think with Taran it is all about confidence and he is playing with a ton of confidence,” said Bertoli.

“He is playing with that first power play group for a reason. I think he finally believes that he belongs out there. He scores a gorgeous goal tonight on the first one and he has an unbelievable assist to Ross [Colton] on the second one. I would argue that he didn’t make those plays two months ago and he definitely didn’t make that play last year. All the credit to him.”

Bertoli credits Auslander with growing as a person as well as a player. “He is captain, he is a leader back there,” added Bertoli.

“He has really embraced that role. He is the guy you want out on the ice in every situation and at the end of games. Good for him, he is a senior and he deserves to be in that situation. As coaches, you are just happy to see a kid and watch his game evolve and play at the level he is playing at this year.”

The Panthers displayed a high level of hockey against Morristown as they produced a brilliant start.

“That was one of the best first periods we played all year; we were dominant at times,” said Bertoli.

“They were lucky it wasn’t 3, 4, or 5 to 0. We had the chances, the puck movement, and the support in the offensive zone was there. As a coach, you sit back and just roll the lines in a situation like that.”

While PDS hit a bump in the road with a 5-4 loss to Lawrenceville on January 16, the Panthers are not looking back.

“You are not going to win every hockey game,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.

“I like the fact that we put the Lawrenceville game behind us and that we had a good effort against Hun [an 8-1 win on January 18] and we had a pretty good effort here tonight. I think we have moved on and we are ready to look forward now.”

Auslander and his classmates are ready to make some history in their final weeks with the program.

“I definitely want to savor everything,” said Auslander, one of 10 seniors on the PDS roster.

“We only have 10 or 12 games left and that is sort of surreal. I don’t want this season to end. We know that it is ending very soon and we seniors want to leave our mark on this team and this school. We want to go down as one of the best teams in history. We know that if we continue to win and we win tournaments, that’s a great way to leave our mark.”

No matter what happens over the homestretch, Auslander will be leaving the program with memories that will last a lifetime.

“This is the last real competitive hockey for me,” said Auslander, who also stars for the PDS boys’ soccer and lacrosse teams.

“Talking to the alumni that come back and have played over the years, they just say to soak it in because you don’t get another opportunity like it. I am never going to play on a team as close as we are. We have a ton of seniors and juniors so we have been playing together since freshman year and most of us have been playing together since before then with travel leagues and things like that. I have been playing with a bunch of these guys since I learned to skate. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else; it is definitely a very close team.”

DECKHAND: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player B.J. Dudeck heads to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Dudeck contributed 10 points as the Panthers topped Hightstown 71-44 to improve to 12-5. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DECKHAND: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player B.J. Dudeck heads to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Dudeck contributed 10 points as the Panthers topped Hightstown 71-44 to improve to 12-5. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team leading visiting Morrisville High (Pa.) 31-14 heading into the second half last Wednesday, there wasn’t much of a buzz permeating the gym.

PDS senior forward B.J. Dudeck sensed that the Panthers needed a jolt. “When the environment isn’t as electric as it may be on a typical basis, it takes you a while to get going,” said Dudeck. “You have to say ‘alright, let’s get going.’”

The gritty Dudeck helped provide some electricity in the second half, hustling all over the court, making a steal and an assist on consecutive possessions in one stretch as the gym came to life and the Panthers pulled away to a 57-35 victory.

“I think our defense predicated our offense,” said Dudeck, reflecting on a third quarter that saw PDS outscore Morrisville 22-8.

“We got a bunch of stops, we got some turnovers, and we got some easy transition baskets. That is the best way to get a run started.”

Acknowledging that basketball is not his main sport, Dudeck is happy to do the dirty work for the Panthers.

“I am not a big, huge basketball guy, I play a lot of baseball,” said Dudeck, who is headed to Virginia Military Institute where he will be playing for the school’s baseball team.

“I scrap as hard as I can so if that is the easiest way for me to get on the floor, I will take it. It is a lot of fun.”

Dudeck’s scrappiness, though, has led to some nice offensive nights as he scored 20 points in a recent loss to Hun and tallied 10 points to help PDS top Robert Vaux (Pa.) in the opening round of the PrimeTime Shootout in late December.

“I feel like my teammates are finding me in the right spots on some days,” said Dudeck.

“They will just hit me in a perfect spot and I can lay it off the glass easy. They do a great job of setting me up.”

For Dudeck, spending his winters playing hoops gives him a chance to enjoy a different competitive experience than what he sees on the diamond.

“Baseball is a sport where you are 60 and 90 feet away from guys,” said Dudeck.

“This is a sport where you are competing up close. It is physical, it is a good change of pace.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean liked the way his team competed against Morrisville as it bounced back from a tough 62-58 loss to Curtis (N.Y.) two days earlier in the Big Apple Classic.

“I thought we played really well on Monday and I think that carried over into today,” said McLean, who got 25 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the win over Morrisville with junior standout Langston Glaude contributing 14.

“On Monday we were down early and we went on a 22-4 run. We are capable of strings and spurts of play but we need to string those together. If we can string those together for 32 minutes or even the majority of the 32 minutes, we could be special.”

The Panthers showed how special they can be as they produced the second-half spurt that put the game away.

“I said we have to bring our own energy,” added McLean. “Thankfully we found that in the late second and early third. If we can force turnovers and get out in transition and slow the other team down and get some easy buckets, we are going to be good. We haven’t been shooting particularly well from the outside. I think the guys realize if that is not falling, we have to get to the rim and get to the hoop.”

In McLean’s view, Dudeck provides a lot of positive energy for the Panthers. “Every team needs a player like B.J. Dudeck,” asserted McLean.

“He is going to leave it on the floor. He’s diving for the loose ball; he’s going to box out. He’s going to do the little things and those things can be the catalyst to spark your team.”

With PDS topping Hightstown 71-44 last Friday to improve to 12-5, McLean believes his team is well positioned for a big stretch drive.

“It is a great spot to be in,” said McLean, whose team plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.

“We have played some tough teams this year. To be sitting where we are, we are lining ourselves up great for preps and for counties. We have to finish strong. We kind of sputtered down the stretch last year and I think that is kind of lingering in the back of our minds. We are using that as motivation to get started.”

Dudeck, for his part, believes that the Panthers are motivated to end the season with a bang.

“I think we can put together something special at the end here with our county and our prep tournament,” said Dudeck.

“It will be something special to see Davon get 2,000 points. It has been a heck of a ride for PDS basketball here.”

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown dribbles up court in recent action. After being sidelined recently due to a knee injury, junior star Brown is back at full speed for the Raiders. Last Saturday, Brown scored a team-high 19 points in a 65-62 double overtime loss at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia as the Raiders moved to 10-7. In upcoming action, Hun plays at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2.

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown dribbles up court in recent action. After being sidelined recently due to a knee injury, junior star Brown is back at full speed for the Raiders. Last Saturday, Brown scored a team-high 19 points in a 65-62 double overtime loss at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia as the Raiders moved to 10-7. In upcoming action, Hun plays at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2.

For the Hun School girls basketball, its game at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia last Saturday presented challenges on several levels.

“The whole situation was a little different,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup. “They didn’t have a regulation size court; that was a little surprise for us. They beat us last year so we knew we were going to have our hands full.”

As the game Saturday headed into the second half, it looked like things might get out of hand for the Raiders.

“We were down 11 at half and we chipped away and had it at nine going into the fourth quarter,” said Holup.

But showing character, Hun outscored Freire Charter 22-13 in the fourth quarter to face overtime with the teams locked in a 54-54 tie at the end of regulation.

“We stepped up the pressure in the fourth quarter,” said Holup. “We went with our full court press and we made things hectic for them. We got some steals and made some shots. But then we had a lot of foul trouble, Johnnah [Johnson] fouled out, Carey [Million] fouled out, [Erica] Brown fouled out and [Erica] Dwyer fouled out.”

Although the Raiders ended up falling 65-62 in double overtime, Holup believes his team will benefit from the jaunt to Philadelphia.

“It was a huge team building experience,” said Holup, who got 19 points from Brown in the defeat with Janelle Mullen adding 15 as Hun moved to 10-7.

“It was a difficult game. We stuck together as a team and fought through adversity. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.”

In Holup’s view, a 68-48 loss to Blair on January 16 helped refocus a Raider squad which has posted a 3-1 record since that defeat.

“After the Blair game, they are the cream of the crop in the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and undefeated in the league, we started looking at things differently,” asserted Holup.

“We are playing more unselfishly. We are bringing a different mental approach to the game. The girls know they have to be ready to play whether they are playing a talented team or someone they might underestimate because we have had our hands full with those teams.”

Junior forward Johnnah Johnson has been a handful for Hun’s foes as she scored a total of 68 points in the Raiders’ three wins last week, including a career-high 33 points in a 65-51 victory over Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 19.

“She has the potential and ability; if she had made her foul shots and finished better, she would have been getting those point totals earlier,” said Holup.

“She was fading on her shot instead of taking it straight to the basket. We made it one of our objectives to establish her early in the game and establish an inside presence. She has been working on her inside moves.”

The presence of junior star Brown in the lineup is making a difference for the Raiders.

“Erica is pretty much full steam now; she played almost the whole game on Saturday,” said Holup of Brown, who injured her right knee in a loss to Lawrenceville on December 11 and didn’t return to action until a win over the King Low Heywood School (Conn.) on January 5.

“She has been able to get offensive rebounds for us. She can get a defensive rebound and start a fast break. She gives us a dimension we haven’t had in years. She can put the ball on the floor and go to the basket or she can post up. She is a versatile player.”

Junior guard Anajha Burnett has become a more valuable player for the Raiders.

“Anajha has stepped up,” asserted Holup. “She had nine assists in the win over Mercersburg. She is always looking to get the ball inside.”

Hun is looking to sharpen up for the postseason with some challenging non-league contests this week.

“The next three games are going to be a challenge and should help us better prepare for the MAPL tournament,” said Holup, whose team was slated to host Life Center Academy on January 29 before playing at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2. “We need to stay healthy, play hard, and continue to get better.”

Even though Hun lost regular season games to MAPL foes Hill, Blair, and Lawrenceville, Holup believes his team could be hard to beat at tournament time.

“We need to work on playing our game,” said Holup. “I have been preaching since day one that if we are going against a team that has one or two scorers, we can compete if we play unselfish and play smart.”

SUMMER TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Summer Ramsay-Burrough, right, looks to pass the ball in recent action. Senior star Ramsay-Burrough contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds as Stuart posted a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18. The Tartans, who fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8,  play at Hamilton on January 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SUMMER TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Summer Ramsay-Burrough, right, looks to pass the ball in recent action. Senior star Ramsay-Burrough contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds as Stuart posted a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18. The Tartans, who fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8, play at Hamilton on January 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing its first three games in 2013, the Stuart Country Day School basketball broke through with a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18.

For first year head coach Dana Leary and her youthful squad, the triumph was an important step forward.

“That was a great win for us as a team,” said Leary, who got 11 points and six rebounds from junior Maggie Walsh in the victory with senior Summer Ramsay-Burrough contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“Every game, we are seeing a lot of positives. I would say the girls needed that game. They see that they can go out there and they can compete.”

The Tartans showed some flashes of competitive spirit as they hosted Solebury School (Pa.) last Wednesday. The Tartans fell behind 11-4 after the first quarter but then played Solebury to a standstill in the second as they were outscored only 9-7.

“We were definitely off to a slow start there,” acknowledged Leary “[The second] was a much better quarter.”

While Stuart ended up losing 45-22, Leary liked the effort she got from her players in the second half.

“At halftime, I talked to them, I just felt there was a lack of intensity and fire out there today, especially on the defensive end,” said Leary.

“We weren’t really communicating with each other, no one was talking so I think that definitely picked up coming out of the half. I saw a lot more energy out there. What we talked about at halftime, they came out and did that.”

The Tartans have been energized lately by the play of freshman guard Harley Guzman and senior standout Ramsay-Burrough.

“Harley has been stepping up for us big time, especially in the last few games,” added Leary.

“I have also asked her to step up and be my point guard. She has been playing a 2 and a 3 for us for most of the season. Last week, I started her off at point and she has been doing a great job at it. Summer is on the boards and plays well defensively. She also brings senior experience which is very helpful to us.”

With Stuart averaging around 20 points a game, Leary is looking for her team to help themselves more at that end of the court.

“One of our goals is to at least put up points in all four quarters,” said Leary, whose club fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8.

“I see that in past games when we get shut out in a quarter, that’s when we really dig ourselves a hole and that is where teams are really able to extend their lead. We need to just cut down on turnovers and take care of the ball. That’s our main focus and something we continue to emphasize.”

Leary is confident that the Tartans will continue to progress as the season goes on.

“I think as we play more games and gain more experience, it is going to get better for us,” said Leary, whose team plays at Hamilton on January 31.

“We are a very young team but I tell them it is good that you are making mistakes because that is what we learn from and that is how we get better.”

January 23, 2013
YU BET: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu heads to victory in a 100 breaststroke race earlier this season. Last week, junior Yu posted wins in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breast to help PHS top Notre Dame 110-60 and remain undefeated. The Little Tigers, now 11-0, wrap up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High.

YU BET: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu heads to victory in a 100 breaststroke race earlier this season. Last week, junior Yu posted wins in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breast to help PHS top Notre Dame 110-60 and remain undefeated. The Little Tigers, now 11-0, wrap up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High.

It was a clash of titans when the undefeated Princeton High boys’ swim team hosted once-beaten Notre Dame last week with both squads having been ranked in the top 20 in the state most of the season.

But PHS junior star Colburn Yu didn’t feel he was in top form for the regular season showdown.

“I also do club swimming with X-Cel; we did a lot of dry land yesterday and I was really sore,” said Yu, who was bothered by some shoulder pain.

“Going into the meet I told coach [Greg] Hand that I am really sore, I don’t know if I can swim my fastest.”

Yu knew that PHS was primed for some very fast swimming as it faced the Fighting Irish.

“We looked at this as more of a power point meet,” said Yu. “Of course, we wanted to get first but I think the most important thing was getting our fastest times and being able to rank higher in the state meets.”

Yu’s come-from-behind victory in the 200 individual medley which saw him nip Notre Dame’s Max Cummings by 0.18 of a second had to rank as one of the highlights of the meet as the Little Tigers prevailed 110-60.

“I did realize in the fly and backstroke that I wasn’t swimming my fastest; in the breaststroke and freestyle I picked it up,” recalled Yu, whose valiant rally drew roars from the crowd jamming the John Witherspoon pool.

“I think I was a little behind him in the beginning of the freestyle and then I was watching the crowd. I actually thought I lost at first but then I saw the board and I was first by a couple of milliseconds. I was really happy.”

Yu also posted a win in the 100 breaststroke, leading a PHS 1-2-3 sweep of the event with Daniel Andronov taking second and Alex Bank placing third.

Other individual winners for PHS in the meet included junior Peter Kalibat in the 200 and 500 freestyle races, junior Will Stange in the 100 butterfly and 100 back together with junior Matt Purdy in the 50 free.

While Yu’s victory in the 100 breast wasn’t as dramatic as his IM race, he was still happy with the effort.

“The 100 breaststroke is my best stroke and coach Hand always uses me for it in these really fast meets,” said Yu. “I think I did decently. It was the second time this season that I got a 1:01. When it matters, I will be able to deliver.”

Following in the footsteps of last year’s senior stars who led PHS to an undefeated season and a state Public B state title, Yu and his classmates are excited to deliver this winter.

“I know that Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Matt Purdy, and I have scored the most points on our team and I think it is good for our team,” added Yu.

“It also shows the non-club swimmers that we can step it up and also that they can as well.”

PHS head coach Hand liked the way his swimmers kept stepping up against Notre Dame even when victory was assured.

“We put in our strongest lineup that we could for power points,” said Hand. “It was good to see the guys keep pushing even when things looked good on the scoreboard. I am happy with where we are at; they gave it a strong effort to the end.”

Hand was happy with how Yu battled through his pain. “I wanted him looked at to make sure he was OK and it was just soreness,” said Hand.

“Given that he was cleared, he just ran with it. The 200 IM was a great race. When you get a race where it is close like that, the whole crowd watches. It was a real boost for us and the idea that we are going to swim fast. That was the approach; they raced for everything. In the last 25 yards, Colburn was courageous; he dug deep and sustained that against a guy next to him who was doing the same thing.”

PHS sustained that effort throughout the meet. “It was fun for the guys who race a lot to swim some fast races in a short time period,” added Hand, whose team wraps up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High. “The whole center lane crew was feeling their way.”

Yu, for his part, is having a lot of fun in his third season with the PHS program.

“As a junior, I think obviously my times are a little faster because I have been training a lot harder,” said Yu.

“Also I think because it is my third year on the high school team. I feel a greater bond with the kids here. At a club meet with nobody cheering and just a coach yelling at you, it doesn’t do anything. But to see all of your friends cheering, it definitely does help.”

BREAKING FREE: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Madeleine Deardorff displays her freestyle form in a recent race. Last week, precocious freshman Deardorff won both the 200 individual medley and the 500 free to help PHS to a 125-45 win over Notre Dame. The Little Tigers, now 10-0, wrap up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING FREE: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Madeleine Deardorff displays her freestyle form in a recent race. Last week, precocious freshman Deardorff won both the 200 individual medley and the 500 free to help PHS to a 125-45 win over Notre Dame. The Little Tigers, now 10-0, wrap up regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For much of the winter, the Princeton High girls’ swim team has been flying under the radar as attention has been focused on its male counterparts and their quest for a second straight state championship.

But last week, the Little Tiger girls stole some of the limelight as they routed Notre Dame 125-45 to remain undefeated and serve notice that they are title contenders as well.

While PHS head coach Greg Hand knew that his team had an edge over Notre Dame, he is happy with how his girls swimmers have continually risen to the occasion this season.

“I wasn’t real surprised, Notre Dame on the girls’ side is rebuilding and they are in the second year of that process,” said Hand.

“I like the way we competed in the meets we expected to be the toughest, against South (WW/P-S), North (WW/P-N), and Robbinsville. There is some real quality out there.”

The quartet of senior Marisa Giglio, freshman Brianna Romaine, and the Deardorff sisters, senior Serena and freshman Madeleine, displayed their quality against the Fighting Irish as they each won two events in the meet.

Giglio finished first in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke while sprint star Romaine won the 100 free and the 100 backstroke. Serena Deardorff was the winner of the 50 free and the 100 butterfly while younger sister Madeleine took first in the 200 individual medley and the 500 free.

As the season has unfolded, the Little Tigers seem to be getting better and better.

“I am pleased to see that we have depth on our side that we weren’t sure we had,” said Hand. “We have improved in all of our lanes and the spirit seems good.”

It has helped spirits to go undefeated. “Running the table in our league has been a lot of fun,” said Hand.

“The less experienced kids are getting better and the more experienced kids are helping to build the excitement and are moving forward themselves.”

With the big four, there is a lot of excitement surrounding PHS’s chances in the upcoming county meet.

“No doubt, it is good to have front-line swimmers like the Deardorffs, Giglio, and Romaine,” said Hand, whose team defeated Hightstown 119-51 last Thursday to improve to 10-0 and will end regular season action with a meet at Hamilton on January 24.

“From what I have seen, each of them, no matter what events they swim, are going against two or three kids out there who have times just as fast. The counties is going to be a real toss-up. There is enough talent in the counties that the points will be distributed differently than they are in the dual meets. It is going to be really interesting.”

For Hand, concentrating on getting the most out of his talent will be his main concern leading into the county meet which runs from January 31-February 2 at Lawrence High.

“The kids are going to have to train through it,” said Hand. “We don’t have enough time for two tapers. The kids will keep working hard. It is going to be fun to see.”

In recent years, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team has displayed a penchant for peaking as the season heads into January and February.

Going 0-2-1 in its last week of action in 2012, PHS didn’t look like it was primed for one of its patented stretch runs that has seen the program make the last three championship games of the Mercer County Tournament.

But the Little Tigers have come alive in the New Year, posting wins over WW/P-S, Hopewell Valley, and Wall to get 2013 started with a bang.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell believes his team is headed in the right direction.

“We are healthy and back to full strength so we have crossed the first obstacle,” said Campbell, whose squad improved to 6-4-1 with a 5-1 win over Wall last Friday at Baker Rink.

“With the postseasons this group of guys has had the last three years, they understand what it takes. They know we are not going to win every game. When you get to this point, you need to learn from your mistakes and learn what it takes to be successful. They are putting those lessons to use. I would rather go through some bumps and bruises in the beginning in order to be playing our best at the end.”

The return of senior star Matt DiTosto from a hand injury puts the Little Tigers in a stronger position.

“Obviously, Matt brings another skill set,” said Campbell of DiTosto, who tallied a goal and an assist in the win over Wall with Connor McCormick scoring two goals.

“It brings a confidence, every player knows that we are at full strength. He is a playmaker, not just a goal scorer. The past is the past, he missed a few weeks. I told him he can still mold his senior year and make it into what he wants it to be.”

REID AND REACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid skates up the ice in recent action. Sophomore forward Reid’s strong play of late has helped the Little Tigers start 2013 with three straight wins. PHS, now 6-4-1, faces Nottingham on January 25 at Mercer County Park before playing Cranford High on January 28 at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REID AND REACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid skates up the ice in recent action. Sophomore forward Reid’s strong play of late has helped the Little Tigers start 2013 with three straight wins. PHS, now 6-4-1, faces Nottingham on January 25 at Mercer County Park before playing Cranford High on January 28 at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Little Tigers gained confidence from their win over HoVal on January 14 which saw them score three unanswered goals in the third period to pull away to victory in a game that was knotted 3-3 after two periods.

“They did what they needed to do,” said Campbell, who got two goals apiece from DiTosto and Jack Andres in the win over the Bulldogs with Spencer Reynolds and John Reid chipping in one goal apiece.

“I can tell them until I am blue in the face but they have to do it. Going into the third period tied, we have seen times where we got lit up for five goals and other times when we have gone out and won the period. It is a confidence builder because the next time we are in that situation, they know we can do it.”

Building on the HoVal win, PHS produced one of its best efforts at both ends of the ice in the victory over Wall.

“This past Friday was one of the best games we have played in the last two years,” asserted Campbell, whose team jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and was ahead 5-0 heading into the third period. “Going into the third period, that was a five-goal game. We took care of business, you learn what it takes to win.”

Campbell pointed to forward John Reid as an example of a player who is learning quickly. “John Reid has played well this past week,” added Campbell.

“He is only a sophomore and he is doing things that he hasn’t done before. He is not only scoring but doing things that don’t show up on the scoresheet. Against HoVal, we got a shorthanded goal and John made the goal through his hard work even though he didn’t get the credit. The last two games are the best games he has played for us.”

In Campbell’s view, his squad needs to produce that kind of work ethic on a consistent basis.

“We need to play small ball and do the little things like winning shifts, winning periods, and playing well in two-minute chunks” said Campbell, whose team faces Nottingham on January 25 at Mercer County Park before playing Cranford High on January 28 at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.

“It will help for things like seeding in the county and state tournaments. The focus right now is on the county tournament because one thing builds off the other. The league is balanced; nobody can take anything for granted. Doing well in the county tournament has given us momentum in the states.”

GOLDEN MOMENT: Princeton High basketball player Elliott Golden chases down a loose ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior guard Golden scored 11 points in a losing cause as PHS lost 67-48 at WW/P-S to fall to 5-6. The Little Tigers will look to get back on the winning track as they play at Lawrence on January 24 before hosting Nottingham on January 26, and Notre Dame on January 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOLDEN MOMENT: Princeton High basketball player Elliott Golden chases down a loose ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior guard Golden scored 11 points in a losing cause as PHS lost 67-48 at WW/P-S to fall to 5-6. The Little Tigers will look to get back on the winning track as they play at Lawrence on January 24 before hosting Nottingham on January 26, and Notre Dame on January 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In producing a 5-2 start this season, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team employed a winning formula of balanced scoring and stifling defense.

A case in point came last week with the Little Tigers’ 68-42 defeat to visiting Ewing on January 15.

PHS came out flat and trailed the Blue Devils 37-17 at halftime. “It is hard to dig out of a hole against a team that pressures you and has good players and obviously has a good history,” said PHS first-year head coach Mark Shelley, reflecting on his team’s first half performance against Ewing.

“We have been holding people under 50 points or so and they had 37 at the half and that is just not good. It is not like Ewing doesn’t have good players but is was such a bad half defensively. We weren’t rotating well. We tried zone, we tried man, we tried trap and then finally we went to some other players in the second half.”

In the third quarter, the Little Tigers did make a rally, drawing to within 49-35 as senior star Lior Levy caught fire.

“We talked about getting inside,” recalled Shelley. “Obviously Lior really came to play in the second half. We said that if we don’t give up a lot of easy baskets, we can get back in this. Inside my head, the goal was to get it by 10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. They hit a 3 and a 2 at the end of the quarter to get it back to 19.”

In addition to some defensive lapses, the Little Tigers lacked their customary scoring balance, as Levy was the only player in double figures.

“Lior had 19 and the rest of the starters had eight,” noted Shelley, whose team fell 67-48 at WW/P-S last Friday to drop to 5-6.

“I said at the beginning of the year that is not what we want. I have heard them say it in interviews too; in the games we have won handily, we have had four starters in double figures. The other four starters didn’t even have double figures between them tonight. We can’t do that.”

In Shelley’s view, his squad’s slump is part of the ebb and flow that comes with a campaign which stretches from December to March.

“I told them basketball is a game of runs and the season is really about runs,” said Shelley, whose team plays at Lawrence on January 24 before hosting Nottingham on January 26 and Notre Dame on January 29.

“Part of it is that we are in a particularly difficult part of the schedule and part of it was we were on the road for a while.”

With nearly two months left in the season, PHS has time to right itself for a playoff run.

“We felt that we learned from the Hopewell game (a 67-62 overtime loss on December 14) and I think we can learn from this,” said Shelley.

“We don’t want them to get too down. We had a great start to the season and we still have a lot of the season left. We can still earn some home games in the county and the state tournament.”