March 18, 2015
SLIDESHOW: Kelly Curtis handles her skeleton sled before a recent training session. Curtis, a former star athlete at Princeton High who went on to be a track All-American at Springfield College and a Penn Relays champion in the heptathlon, is currently training with the USA bobsled and skeleton development team. She placed first in the skeleton at the Eastern Regionals last weekend to earn a spot at the National Team Trials in October.(Photo Courtesy of Kelly Curtis)

SLIDESHOW: Kelly Curtis handles her skeleton sled before a recent training session. Curtis, a former star athlete at Princeton High who went on to be a track All-American at Springfield College and a Penn Relays champion in the heptathlon, is currently training with the USA bobsled and skeleton development team. She placed first in the skeleton at the Eastern Regionals last weekend to earn a spot at the National Team Trials in October. (Photo Courtesy of Kelly Curtis)

After wrapping up an All-American track career at Springfield College, Kelly Curtis seemed to have found her calling.

The former Princeton High track and basketball star took a position as an assistant coach with the St. Lawrence University track team and entered the school’s masters program in educational leadership.

“It is totally different; I remember my first meet and being so nervous for my athletes, it is like being a parent,” said Curtis, a three-time All-American in the combined events and the 2011 Penn Relays Heptathlon Champion. “It was good, it was what I thought I wanted to do.”

But Curtis started to get the itch to get back into competing. “It was exciting to be a normal adult and eat what I wanted to but my clothes weren’t fitting and I wanted something to motivate me,” said Curtis. “I am not into CrossFit or distance running.”

Influenced by some Springfield track teammates who had joined the U.S. bobsled program, Curtis decided to head over to nearby Lake Placid in August, 2013 to take part in a combine and see if she had a future in winter sports.

Excelling in the fitness tests which included 5-meter sprints, shot puts, standing long jumps, along with squats and power cleans in the weight room, Curtis was invited to a bobsled driving school that December.

It didn’t take long for Curtis to realize that she had found a new calling.

“My first run was in a 2-man bobsled,” recalled Curtis. “I was in the back of the bobsled; it was like a bumpy roller-coaster ride. I thought it was amazing, I am hooked, that’s it.”

The U.S. coaches also urged Curtis to try her hand at skeleton, another sliding sport which entails riding a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down, during which the rider can reach speeds over 80 mph.

“It is more crazy when you are watching; it is not as crazy when you are doing it,” said Curtis.

“On my first run, the coach dropped me off at top and said hope to see you at the bottom. Your body just reacts. There are no brakes; there is no other option than to go down.”

While enjoying coaching, Curtis decided that she couldn’t wait to pursue the U.S. sledding option.

“I was trying to decide all last spring,” said Curtis. “The St. Lawrence athletes and coaching staff wanted me to come back for a third year because they are hosting the nationals. If this was any other thing, I would have come back. But if I was serious about representing my country in international competition, I had to be fully committed. I am already behind the other sliders. I just turned 26 and some of the girls are teenagers. It takes four years to know what you are doing.”

Encouraged by Jamie Greubel, a former Hun School standout who earned a bronze medal in the two-man bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Curtis entered some bobsled competitions last fall.

“It was really exciting,” said Curtis, reflecting on her debut last November in Calgary. “I just wanted to get off the line and push as hard as I could and just get in the back for the ride. I was sending good vibes to the driver. We ended up finishing third. Jamie and a Great Britain sled finished ahead. It was great being on the podium in my first competition.”

Curtis, who took silver and bronze in bobsled competitions this January in Lake Placid, ultimately concluded that skeleton afforded her the best opportunity to move up the ladder in the U.S. sledding program.

“I decided to come back as a skeleton racer in January,” said Curtis, who is currently training in Lake Placid and has opened a website for donations, fundly.com/kcskelly, to help her cover expenses.

“I have a better opportunity to move up in skeleton. After Rio (the 2016 Summer Olympics), the track athletes will be moving back to bobsled. The track background is a great fit for me, there are a lot of track athletes in bobsled. In skeleton, you see athletes from different sports. We have field hockey players, pole vaulters, gymnasts. It is better if I stick with skeleton; I can determine my own destiny.”

In order to best fulfill her destiny, Curtis is going through an arduous training regimen, on and off the ice.

“I work on acceleration with off ice training in the morning with short sprints and then hit the weight room with power cleans and squats,” said Curtis.

“It is training like a short sprinter and a power lifter. Then it is recovery stuff with flexibility and hurdle drills. In bobsledding, you spend five hours at the course for two runs. There is a lot of sled maintenance and set up, a one hour warm up, and two hours of actual runs and only 20 seconds of activity for me for pushing. For skeleton, you move the sled yourself and there is less maintenance. We come out for three hours, which is usually two or three runs. I am pretty spent after two or three runs.”

Making up for lost time, Curtis is relishing the training process. “My window of opportunity is so short, every day I am out there I am so happy to be doing this,” said Curtis, who is shooting to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics but acknowledges that the 2022 Winter Games may be more realistic considering when she took up sliding. “Skeleton is different, you have to relax to go your fastest. As soon as you tense up, you have trouble on turns.”

While Curtis is troubled at times by the wintry conditions that come with her new sport, her Olympic dream gives her the fuel to overcome the chill.

“I hate the cold,” said Curtis, who placed first in the skeleton at the Eastern Regionals last weekend to earn a spot at the National Team Trials in October.

“It might be freezing when you are warming up on the side of a mountain but when you are representing your country, you don’t feel the cold. I am just trying to be one with the sled.”

STEPPING UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chase Lewis drives to the basket in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Lewis emerged as the team’s top player, helping PDS post a record of 5-17.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chase Lewis drives to the basket in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Lewis emerged as the team’s top player, helping PDS post a record of 5-17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team faced Hightstown in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game last month, it was not just the season finale, it was the end of an era.

The clash marked the last game for PDS head coach Paris McLean, who had previously decided to step down at the end of the 2014-15 campaign after eight seasons guiding the program.

“Now is the right time for me to step down, we have a great group and I need to do other things around the school and I realized that I didn’t have time in my schedule to keep coaching basketball,” said McLean, a former PDS football and hoops star who served as an assistant coach for three seasons before taking the helm.

The Panthers gave McLean a great effort in the finale as they fell 57-43 to Hightstown, a marked improvement from a 64-39 loss to the Rams in a regular season meeting between the foes.

“We played well, it was a good way to end,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 5-17.

“Of course you want to end with a win but we battled to the end. We improved from the first time we played them. We went to their place and they ran us out of the gym. J.P. Radvany had a couple of 3s and Chase Lewis played really well. I was happy for the seniors, they all got the chance to play and showcase their skills one last time.”

Seniors Chris Azzarello, Josiah Meekins, Zaire Mitchell, Neil Kumar, Rob Hoffman, Marco Pinheiro, Cody Meagher, and Radvany gave the program more than just their skills on the court.

“Some were coming back, like Marco and Chris, and some were playing for the first time,” said McLean.

“If we didn’t have them, we would have had to move up some freshmen and sophomores who needed to play JV this year. They gave great leadership and were great ambassadors for the school.”

McLean tipped his hat to veterans Radvany, a Villanova baseball recruit, and Meekins for their special contributions.

“J.P. played as a freshman and came back as a junior, he didn’t have to play this year but he did,” said McLean.

“With all of the sports specialization now, he could have just focused on baseball. Josiah was consistent, he played all four years with varsity and six years at school, if you count middle school.”

Sophomore guard Chase Lewis had a great year for the Panthers, emerging as the team’s top player and floor leader.

“I don’t know if I could have experienced what Chase did as a sophomore,” said McLean.

“He was the best player on the team. He was the best ball handler, scorer, and defender. He had a lot of burden on his shoulders and he handled it beautifully.”

Sophomores Mark Washington, Paul Franzoni, Hassan Ladiawala, along with junior James Fragale will have more on their shoulders next season.

“Mark Washington stepped up at the the end,” added McLean. “Paul Franzoni got better as the season went on. Hassan Ladiwala improved, and James Fragale will be a good senior.”

In McLean’s view, the returners will benefit from being thrown into the fire this winter.

“I think it is court experience; it is not going to be measured this year,” said McLean. “It is when the sophomores become juniors and then seniors. They are battle-tested. They took their lumps this year but they saw growth.”

As for McLean, he takes a slew of positive memories from his experience in guiding the program, a tenure which was highlighted by the spectacular career of Davon Reed, who scored a program-record 2,102 points and led the Panthers to  Prep B finals in 2012 and 2013 before going on to star for the University of Miami.

“When I inherited the program, it was really down,” said McLean. “We got it up pretty quickly. We had great kids. I will remember winning Prime Time and making it to consecutive Prep B finals but more importantly it is the friendships and the player that you are still in touch with. Coaching Davon was a once in a lifetime thing. It was fun to be part of something special; he let us be a part of it.”

FINAL RUN: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen heads to the basket in a game this season. Senior guard and St. Peter’s-bound Mullen produced some big games offensively this winter to help Hun go 6-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL RUN: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen heads to the basket in a game this season. Senior guard and St. Peter’s-bound Mullen produced some big games offensively this winter to help Hun go 6-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School girls’ basketball team, its regular season game against Peddie in late January was embarrassing.

Trailing 40-19 at halftime, the Raiders went on to suffer a 74-40 drubbing.

“When we played them the first time, we didn’t show up,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup.

Getting a rematch with Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals in February, the Raiders showed their competitive fire. Hun led 31-30 at halftime before the Falcons rode a fourth quarter surge to top the Raiders 63-49.

“The second time we played them in states, it was much more competitive,” said Holup, whose team ended the winter with a 6-15 record.

“We ran out of gas, we didn’t have the horses. Amber (Bourke) was out, she didn’t play in the last two games.”

In reflecting on the season, Holup acknowledged that his team was never really at full strength.

“We were short-staffed, that was the story of the season with all of the injuries,” said Holup.

“It was the most challenging season I have had as a coach. I have had teams with less talent but they were healthy and able to hang in there. This year, every practice, every game, I didn’t know who was going to be there. We had kids playing positions they were not used to.”

Senior captains and star guards Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen helped the Raiders hang in there this season.

“Dwyer has been here four years, we are a different team when she is on the floor,” said Holup, noting that Dwyer was sidelined for a few games due to a concussion.

“What she provided was immeasurable. She is a three-sport athlete and that is pretty unusual in this day and age. Janelle missed a handful of games with a fractured finger. In her first game back, she dropped 35 points on Willingboro. She hit a 3 at the buzzer to beat Hill at the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) tournament. She did some pretty exciting things.”

Junior guard Bourke also did some exciting things this season and will be a key piece of the puzzle for Hun going forward.

“Amber is one of the purest shooters I have ever coached; her form is terrific,” said Holup. “It is beautiful to watch her put up a shot. I expect her to have a big season next year. We will need her to do a lot.”

Sophomore Julia Fassl and freshman Kendall Dandridge showed a lot of pluck this season as they were handed some tough assignments.

“Julie and Kendall were playing out of position at times; I had them playing forwards against girls that were 5’11,” said Holup.

“They never backed down; they stuck their noses in there. Fassl got our Coaches Award. She put in a hard effort no matter what, as did Kendall. She hustled up and down the court.”

While Hun faced a lot of hardship this winter, Holup believes his players gained a lot from the experience.

“It was an extremely challenging season; this is what sports is about,” said Holup, noting that Hun posted two tough wins in the last week of the season, edging Hill (Pa.) 51-50 on the Mullen buzzer-beater in the MAPL semis and then topping Padua (Del.) 63-58 in double overtime in its last regular season game.

“Everyone likes to win but we had adversity every day. It was good to see us play some of our best basketball of the season at the end.”

ON THE NIALL: Hun School boys’ basketball player Niall Carpenter heads up the court in a game this winter. Junior guard Carpenter provided good work in the backcourt to help the Raiders posts 14-10 record and advance to the semis of both the state Prep A tournament and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE NIALL: Hun School boys’ basketball player Niall Carpenter heads up the court in a game this winter. Junior guard Carpenter provided good work in the backcourt to help the Raiders posts 14-10 record and advance to the semis of both the state Prep A tournament and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Hun School boys’ basketball team showed flashes of brilliance this winter, it didn’t take the final step.

“It was good not great, we did some good things and we beat some really good teams,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone, reflecting on the team’s 14-10 campaign.

“We beat St Joe’s Metuchen, they were one of the top teams in the state. We came from behind to beat them; they were a terrific team. We won nine straight games and 11 of 12. When you do that, you can’t say it was a bad season. We had a good win at Lawrenceville; we were behind and came back against a big rival. We had a great one at home against Peddie.”

But after putting together that nine-game winning streak, Hun lost its regular season finale to the Life Center Academy and then fell to the Hill School (Pa.) in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals and to St. Benedict’s in the state Prep A semis.

“We just couldn’t end the way we wanted to,” said Stone. “We lost in two semis, we wanted to make some finals.”

The season-ending loss to St. Benedict’s reflected Hun’s uneven play at times. The Raiders dug a large hole and then battled back before falling 66-55.

“We really struggled to score; we struggled going into the half,” recalled Stone, whose team trailed 28-6 at one point in the first half of the contest. “We got ourselves back into the game. We chipped away, we got it down to five. I am proud of the way we competed.”

Stone was proud of what he got this winter from his group of seniors, which included Eric Williams, Tucker Stevenson, Akash Mukkavilli, Kyle Borden, Dominic Robb, Ben Seipt, Andrew Dufort, and Chris Sharp.

“It was a terrific group from top to bottom, everyone made a valuable contribution,” asserted Stone.

“Eric, Tucker, and Akash were our 4-year guys, they were rocks for us,” said Stone. Akash was on the bench most of the time but he worked hard, he had his day in the sun. Eric’s leadership was tremendous, his experience was tremendous, he had a really good year. Kyle had been with team for two years; he came as far as anyone, he was terrific at times for us. The three newcomers, Dom, Ben, Drew were also big parts of what we did. Having Chris Sharp back was important; he brings an intensity, he has the ability to compete and just his demeanor helped us.”

Hun boasts a terrific core of returners in juniors Niall Carpenter and Austin Harriott along with sophomore Austin Hutcherson.

“They all had good seasons; they all grew as the season went on,” said Stone. “We are excited to have them back. Austin and Niall were starters most of the year. Hutcherson is younger but he developed. He had some good games. He got hurt and missed the last half of the season.”

While the season might not have been quite as successful as Stone had wanted, he enjoyed working with the squad.

“It was a fun team to coach; we got better as the year went on,” said Stone. “I just wish we had done a little better at the end.”

WORKING OVERTIME: Members of the Woodwinds team celebrate after their 66-63 win in four overtimes against Mason, Griffin & Pierson in the championship game of the 4th/5th grade boys’ division of the Princeton Recreation Department’s Dillon Youth Basketball League last Saturday. Jaxson Petrone scored 28 points and Gabe Majeski added 15 as Woodwinds rallied from 17 points behind in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually pull out the contest. William Doran scored a Dillon League record 53 points in the loss. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Gabe Majeski, Nicholas Bazarko, Nicola Carusone, and Quinn Ramsay. In the back row, from left, are coach Brandon Yao, Max Blecher, Jaxon Petrone, Nicholas Zahn, Mathew Land, and coach Benjamin Tso. For more details on the Dillon title games, see the item elsewhere on this page.

WORKING OVERTIME: Members of the Woodwinds team celebrate after their 66-63 win in four overtimes against Mason, Griffin & Pierson in the championship game of the 4th/5th grade boys’ division of the Princeton Recreation Department’s Dillon Youth Basketball League last Saturday. Jaxson Petrone scored 28 points and Gabe Majeski added 15 as Woodwinds rallied from 17 points behind in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually pull out the contest. William Doran scored a Dillon League record 53 points in the loss. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Gabe Majeski, Nicholas Bazarko, Nicola Carusone, and Quinn Ramsay. In the back row, from left, are coach Brandon Yao, Max Blecher, Jaxon Petrone, Nicholas Zahn, Mathew Land, and coach Benjamin Tso. For more details on the Dillon title games, see the item elsewhere on this page.

Taking the helm of the Stuart Country Day School basketball program, Justin Leith met with his players before the season to make sure that they were ready to make a deeper commitment to the game.

The players responded enthusiastically and Leith delivered, conducting more intense practices and adding more than 10 games to the schedule from the season before.

While Stuart tired down the stretch as it lost its last five games, Leith believes going through the marathon of hoops will pay dividends down the road.

“The girls were 8-8 last year so they played 16 games; this year it was 27,” said Leith, whose team posted a final record of 11-16.

“It was 11 more games and they were tired. Mentally it is difficult when it is such a long season and they weren’t geared up for that. It was good, it gave the younger players a lot of experience. They are prepared for what Stuart basketball is about.”

More importantly, the players are prepared to work harder in whatever they do. “A work ethic was instilled in them; some of them are in spring sports and they are telling me they are in so much better shape and they are so much tougher,” said Leith, who is also in his first year as the school’s Director of Athletics.

“When you are in the trenches, you don’t realize that improvement. The work ethic that is instilled in them will help them over their lifetime and it will help us next year.”

This year, seniors Nneka Onukwugha and Harlyn Bell gave the Tartans some good play and leadership.

“Nneka was more of a silent leader; she became a worker and led by example,” said Leith.

“She had so many double-doubles for us. Harlyn was more of a vocal leader. She helped set the standard early. I had a meeting with her and said it can’t all come from me. She was good at telling the girls what needed to be done.”

Several of the Stuart players came a long way as the season unfolded. “Madeline Michaels really improved; she started the last few games of the season,” said Leith, noting that Allison Walsh and Virginia Phlen also made strides.

“She played some JV games and when she saw how much she improved, she gained a lot of confidence. Kate Walsh, Harlyn Guzman, and Rose Tetnowski were all starters and all had good seasons. Kate was our leading scorer. We are going to have great senior leadership.”

In Leith’s view, the players’ increased dedication should help things go even better next season.

“We are renovating the fitness center here, it is part of the Stuart transformation,” said Leith.

“They can get stronger and work on their skills. Some girls are going to camps to help add to their experience and help them be a better team. They are doing things that haven’t been done here before.”

Leith, who had coached the boys’ team at Asheville School in North Carolina before coming to Stuart last summer, enjoyed the experience of guiding the Tartans this winter.

“It was cool; it was difficult to start all over again,” said Leith.

“When I started four years ago, I was new to coaching in high school and everything was new to me. This time, I had expectations, some were met, some weren’t. It was an awesome experience. Girls are different in a good way and it was fun to coach them. Everybody got better, every single girl improved by leaps and bounds.”

March 11, 2015
STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart dribbles into the lane in a game this winter. Junior star forward Hart averaged more than 20 points a game this season and was named as a first-team All-CVC performer. Hart’s heroics helped PHS post a final record of 10-12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart dribbles into the lane in a game this winter. Junior star forward Hart averaged more than 20 points a game this season and was named as a first-team All-CVC performer. Hart’s heroics helped PHS post a final record of 10-12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There were plenty of question marks surrounding the Princeton High boys’ basketball team as it headed into the 2014-15 season.

“Back in November, we only had three returning varsity players and it looked like having a .500 record would be tough,” said PHS head coach Mark Shelley.

After going through a tough stretch that saw the Little Tigers lose six straight games to fall to 4-10, Shelley found some answers down the stretch. PHS reeled off a six-game winning streak in improving to 10-10 before ending the season with a 66-52 loss to Trenton in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and a 59-57 defeat at Nottingham in an MCT consolation contest.

“I am proud of the way they bounced back; it would have been easy to mail it in,” said Shelley, reflecting on the 10-12 season.

“We won six in a row, I was real, real proud of them. I feel that was what we were capable of. We had some really big wins. We beat Trenton and Notre Dame in one week. I think that trickled down to the younger guys and they saw the standard we expected.”

The Little Tigers lost Matt Hart down the stretch to a calf injury but still showed plenty of heart in topping WW/P-S 45-42 and Robbinsville 60-55 without their junior star.

“Matt didn’t play the last four games,” said Shelley of Hart, who averaged more than 20 points a game this year. “I was really proud that we kept our winning streak going. We beat South and Robbinsville but it did hurt us against Trenton and Nottingham. We weren’t fundamentally sound against Nottingham. They had one sequence where they had three one-and-ones and got every offensive rebound. It was the fundamental things.”

The team’s group of seniors had plenty of fun as they went through their final campaign.

“They brought passion, they love to play the game,” said Shelley of the team’s Class of 2015 which includes Kevin Kane, J.C. Silva, John Morelli, Chris Diver, and the Moore twins, Tad and Tommy.

“If I had stayed two hours after practice, they would have stayed too. They are gym rats. I encourage kids to play multiple sports but most of them just play basketball. They get a joy from playing.”

High-scoring guard Kane (more than 15 points a game) produced a superb final campaign with the program.

“Kevin had a nice career; we knew he was a good scorer from the time he was a sophomore,” said Shelley.

“His challenge was to pick up his rebounding and defense and I think he did that. He showed leadership and accepted criticism, that’s what you need from your seniors. Even when his shot wasn’t going, he was doing other things for us.”

Point guard Silva (more than 5 points a game) also did a lot of good things for the Little Tigers this winter.

“J.C. was the most improved player last year and is in the running for it this year,” said Shelley.

“He got stronger; he and Kevin did a lot of work in the weightroom. The day after the season, they took the sophomores and juniors into the weightroom to show them their regime. J.C.’s shot got better, he got better going to his left. He was able to manage the game. He was tough and controlled. He made himself into that kind of player. He knew when to speed it up and slow things down.”

The Moore twins, Tad (5 points and 6 rebounds a game) and Tommy (nearly 3 points and more than 3 rebounds a game), who also starred this fall for the 8-2 PHS football team, formed a tough tandem in the paint.

“The Moore twins were a package deal; their energy inside was obvious,” said Shelley.

“Playing football helps, they were willing to be physical. That was important because we were smaller than every team we played. They were much more able to play structured basketball. We run a motion offense and you need discipline in a zone defense. They were dedicated to improving and when they played together, they had a special chemistry on the court, that intangible twin thing. They contributed significantly to some of our big wins down the stretch.”

Back-up guards Morelli and Diver also made valuable contributions. “Morelli didn’t play much but he was the first one up on the bench cheering,” said Shelley. “He was an integral part of the team and so was Chris Diver.”

The return of Hart and Blue (10 points and three rebounds a game) gives PHS two integral pieces to build around next season.

“We have two real scorers in Matt and Zahrion, they both took a larger step this year and they are talking about summer camps and AAU,” said Shelley, noting that forward Hart was a first-team All-CVC choice, the first PHS player to get that honor in years. “They have the work ethic to take another step.”

Shelley likes the work he got this winter from his other returners Michael Dowers, Theodore Tel, Harry Dyevich,  Andrew Goldsmith, and Sam Serxner.

“Dowers, Tel, and Dyevich are solid juniors,” added Shelley. “From the sophomore class, Goldsmith and Serxner played on varsity. That class had a great freshman season last year. It is a really strong overall group. There are no superstars but a lot of good, solid players and good kids. We should be deep next year with 9-10-11 guys that play a good amount. We need to have three double figures scorers to be successful.”

VETERAN MOVE: Princeton High girls basketball player Mia Levy makes a pump fake in a game this season. Senior forward Levy’s play off the bench helped PHS go 8-16 this season, as it more than doubled the win total from last winter when it went 3-16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

VETERAN MOVE: Princeton High girls basketball player Mia Levy makes a pump fake in a game this season. Senior forward Levy’s play off the bench helped PHS go 8-16 this season, as it more than doubled the win total from last winter when it went 3-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton High girls’ basketball team ended the winter on a down note.

Playing at second-seeded Marlboro in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional, 15th-seeded PHS suffered a lopsided 68-25 defeat in its last game.

But for Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise, the state tourney appearance was icing on the cake in a season that saw PHS post eight victories, more than doubling its win total from last winter when it went 3-16.

“You can paint a pretty picture and say that anybody can beat anybody but we looked at that game as a celebration of what we were able to accomplish,” said second-year coach Van Hise, whose team finished with an 8-16 record.

“They weren’t overly physical or that athletic but they didn’t turn the ball over and they made their shots. If they were open, it was going in. We were down by 23 at half and we said let’s go out and have a good second half and get some of the younger players in and try some things we hadn’t done.”

With PHS suffering six straight losses after it posted its sixth victory, Van Hise was happy to see his team notch wins over WW/P-S and Robbinsville in the last week of the regular season.

“It felt good to get to eight; we didn’t let it slip away,” said Van Hise. “We really wanted the senior class to get those eight wins because that was as many wins as they had combined in their first three years, (1 win-4 wins-3 wins); that put our improvement in perspective. We are going to lose our share of games but what is nice to see is that they don’t want to be a doormat any more. We don’t want to be one of those teams that everyone expects to beat; we are getting to the middle of the CVC.”

Evidence of the team’s increased competitiveness was on display in its impressive 57-47 win over Robbinsville in the regular season finale.

“Robbinsville was easily our best game of the year,” said Van Hise. “I think they took us lightly. We shut down their 1,000 point scorer. Zoe Tesone did a great job on her; I think we held her to 10 points. Brianna (Blue) was a monster inside, they didn’t have an answer for her. That is when I felt like the season was a success.”

Van Hise credits the team’s senior class with making that success possible.

“It was a good group; they all do it in a different way and with five of them that is something to say,” said Van Hise, whose group of seniors included Mary Sutton (7.0 points and 2.0 assists per games this winter), Brianna Blue (6.2 points, 6.6 rebounds), Mira Shane (2.9 points, 2.3 rebounds), Catherine Curran-Groome (5.2 points, 3.3 assists), and Mia Levy (1.7 points, 2.8 rebounds).

“There is no doubt how much they love the game even though Mira plays lacrosse and Mary is a runner. You can tell that they grew up together and they really like playing with each other. When you think of Princeton High girls’ basketball, you will think of those girls.”

Each of the seniors filled a key role for the Little Tigers this winter. “Mary would probably say she wanted to have a better season scoring but she does so much to help us,” said Van Hise.

“She makes everyone better. Brianna came on, she was really an inside presence at the end. Mira is Mira. She is always going to give you energy and hustle. Catherine was a rock, she does pretty much the same thing every game. She has some dishes and hits some shots. Mia playing off the bench was there for us all season.”

While the graduation of the Class of 2015 will leave a big void, PHS has a good foundation in the trio of sophomore Zoe Tesone (3.9 points, 5.4 rebounds), junior Julia Ryan (8.7 points, 2.1 rebounds), and freshman Devon Lis (2.0 points, 1.4 rebounds).

“Losing five seniors will be hard but I like the athleticism of the returners,” said Van Hise.

“Zoe is going to be a stud. We need Julia to develop into more than she is. She is always going to be a knock-down shooter but we want her to be good at other things and be that do-everything player for us. Lis has good vision and is already a solid on-ball defender. We will see how they step into new roles and handle more responsibility.”

In reflecting on his second year at the helm, Van Hise believes that the team developed a unity that will serve it well going forward.

“I opened up to them more this year and everyone bought in from the beginning,” said Van Hise.

“That had a lot to do with the seniors and how much everyone respects them. I like the culture and chemistry that we have now.”

TEACHING OPPORTUNITY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey head coach Scott Bertoli makes a point on the bench in a game this winter. With a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the Panthers took their lumps this season, going 3-16-5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TEACHING OPPORTUNITY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey head coach Scott Bertoli makes a point on the bench in a game this winter. With a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the Panthers took their lumps this season, going 3-16-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With a roster packed with freshmen and sophomores, Scott Bertoli knew that his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team was destined to take some lumps this winter.

“It was about getting experience at this level; they had to play outside their comfort zone,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, whose squad included 11 sophomores, six freshmen, and just three seniors.

“They were playing older and stronger players and playing at a faster pace than they are used to. I have seen them play at their level and they are comfortable. The forwards score and their d-men control things. It was freshmen and sophomores playing against juniors and seniors. Things got ratcheted up, it was overwhelming at times, giving up inches and 20, 40, or 60 pounds at times.”

Showing growth, the young PDS squad acquitted itself well in its last weekend of the season, battling hard at the Hill School (Pa.) tournament, losing 4-2 to Hun, 4-2 to Lawrenceville, and 5-0 to host Hill.

“We went up there with a very light lineup; three of our top four defensemen didn’t go,” said Bertoli, whose team had lost 6-1 to Hun and 6-0 to Lawrenceville in regular season meetings.

“We had only four defensemen and one of them was Peter Shannon, who had played forward all year. Given our performances earlier in the year against those teams, I thought it was going to be ugly. We had players who hadn’t played a lot of minutes on the ice and they surprised us. Shannon hadn’t been on the blue line and played every other shift and did well. All in all, it was a successful weekend. We went out and competed well.”

Bertoli is confident that his team will be able to compete better next winter. “As the season progressed and played out, they got experience,” said Bertoli, reflecting on the team’s 3-16-5 campaign.

“We will be better off for the experience. I had an interview with every single kid and the last thing I said to most of them was that they needed to find a weight room and make an effort to get stronger. You can’t control how tall you are but you can make yourself stronger. I think with that and a year of experience, we will be much better next year. The freshman group is talented and I expect big things from them as early as next year.”

The team’s freshman contingent boasts some strong players in Eugene Yoon, Tyler Coffey, Ryan Lisk, Eric Sherman, and Nic Petruolo.

“Yoon started the year as the sixth defenseman; he has talent but it is raw talent,” said Bertoli.

“He has an abundance of energy and he is a bulldog on the ice. At times down the stretch he was our best defenseman on the ice. He played really well at Hill tournament. Tyler Coffey got injured early and that turned out to hurt us. He would have been on the first line and would have helped us on the power play. Our power play was really inefficient and we missed him. He is not that big physically but he is strong. He is committed to weightlifting. Lisk, Sherman, Petruolo are all talented players.”

Junior forward Connor Fletcher’s commitment to excellence help hold things together.

“He was unbelievable on so many levels for us,” said Bertoli, noting that Fletcher was elevated to captain midway through the season.

“He was arguably the best player on the ice at the Hill tournament. He was bigger, stronger, and faster than just about everyone there. He doesn’t play club hockey any more so he was just playing 25 high school games. His hockey skills really progressed. He had to do a lot of things on his own to create offense. Besides the hockey piece, he was such a presence in the locker room. He was always upbeat and always encouraging. He is a smart kid, he gets it. He knew we had a lot of young guys. We will be much deeper next year and he will have a good supporting cast.”

Seniors Will Garrymore, Will Wright, and Harrison Latham did a lot of good things in their final campaign with the program.

“I feel for Will Garrymore, he had two good years playing on two really good teams,” said Bertoli,

“Being only upperclassman on defense a lot of the time, we had to overplay him. He was competitive and he battled. He was sick the last weekend and I was sad to see that. Will Wright and Harrison had two years on the varsity level; they are both great kids. They played two years on JV, they persevered and stuck with it. That was great to see, some kids give up after two years on JV. They scored some big goals for us this winter. Harrison dislocated his shoulder in the first scrimmage and his shoulder popped out almost every game. After the Lawrenceville game, I thought he was finished. He got a brace; it limited him but he didn’t stop competing. I named him assistant captain midway through the season which is something I don’t normally do but he deserved it.”

While the Panthers suffered a steady diet of losing this winter, they didn’t lose their appetite for competition.

“One thing that really impressed me is that they were able to shake off a loss and show up with a smile at practice the next day and the work ethic to match,” said Bertoli. “I still had fun, it was a good learning experience.”

FRESH FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Ryan Robinson heads upcourt this season. Freshman guard Robinson’s strong play was a bright spot as PDS finished the winter with a 5-16 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRESH FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Ryan Robinson heads upcourt this season. Freshman guard Robinson’s strong play was a bright spot as PDS finished the winter with a 5-16 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At the beginning of the season, there was a bit of a disconnect hampering the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.

“It was tough to get the girls to play together at first,” said PDS second-year head coach Kamau Bailey.

“We had six freshmen come in and the sophomores and juniors were not sure what to make of them. There was a little divide at first. Once they understood their roles, we started playing together as a team.”

After the players got on the same page, the Panthers showed progress. “We started getting wins,” said Bailey, whose team posted a final record of 5-16. “We beat Stuart two or three weeks after they had beaten us in their place and after having lost to them twice last year.

“We got a win against Hightstown and they beat us by 38 last year. We were also able to get a win at the George School (Pa.). All three of those were wins against teams we haven’t beaten in a while.”

In Bailey’s view, those breakthroughs were the product of diligence and team unity.

“It shows that the hard work these girls are putting in is starting to pay off,” said Bailey.

“I saw a bunch of progress this season. Our team chemistry and the bond the girls were able to develop was a key component to our continued progress.”

While the Panthers ended the season by falling 66-36 to Ewing in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament and 46-16 to WW/P-S in a MCT consolation contest, Bailey believes that his young squad gained some good lessons from those setbacks.

“I wanted them to see higher caliber teams and what intensity level they are at,” said Bailey, noting that his team had no seniors on the roster this winter and everyone should be returning.

“They need to see that if we are going to play at that level. The girls were doing stuff against Ewing they hadn’t done all year. They got the ball up the court against a pretty tough press. I want then to take something from each loss.”

Sophomore guard Shayla Stevenson raised the level of her play this winter.

“Shayla had an outstanding year,” said Bailey. “As a freshman she had to bear a lot of the burden of the offense. She was our best player and other teams would key on her. With (Bridget) Kane and (Ryan) Robinson in the backcourt, that freed her up to do some scoring, which is her thing.”

The one-two punch of juniors Isabel Meyercord and Helen Healey gave the Panthers some good things in the paint.

“Isabel missed the first four or five games; it took a while for her to get going,” said Bailey.

“She really helped us on the glass and defensively. Helen has gotten a lot better from last year. She grabbed rebounds and used her body to hold off other girls. Her leadership is important for us, she communicates with me and the girls. She gets her teammates together on the court.”

In the backcourt, the freshman pair of Kane and Robinson stood out. “Bridget was tied with Shayla for team lead with 105 points coming into the last game and got five more to end up with 110 and be our leading scorer,” said Bailey.

“It is phenomenal for her to have the confidence and composure to hit those long shots. She went from middle school and jumped over JV and ended up as a starter on varsity. Ryan Robinson gained a lot of confidence. She came into her own with her ability to get the ball and get her shot. She set a school record for bench press for girls. Once she realized that she was stronger than the other girls she would get rebounds and loose balls.”

Another freshman, Madison Coyne, made a strong contribution in her debut campaign.

“Coyne has a good eye for the ball, she had a lot of blocks and had six in one game,” said Bailey, who noted that his other freshmen, Summer Patterson, Katherine Bennett, and Grace Barbara all made progress.

“She had a defensive presence; we just need to get her to attack the basket and not pass up shots. She has a complete game, she can dribble, she gets rebounds, she is a great passer. She is a good athlete and fires up the rest of the girls.”

Bailey is fired up about his team’s prospects. “My deal with this team is that they have all of the tools,” said Bailey.

“They need a few more games and a little more time in the gym with me. They need to get stronger and to execute the plays better. They need to work on their ability to put the ball in the basket.”

March 4, 2015
GOOD RIDE: Princeton High wrestler Thomas Miers controls a foe in a bout this season. Senior star Miers ended his final campaign with a 33-3 record, wrapping up the season by taking part in the Region V tourney last weekend.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD RIDE: Princeton High wrestler Thomas Miers controls a foe in a bout this season. Senior star Miers ended his final campaign with a 33-3 record, wrapping up the season by taking part in the Region V tourney last weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a grade schooler, Thomas Miers set his sights on becoming a basketball star.

But when it became clear that he was not destined for stardom on the hardwood, he headed to the wrestling mat.

“I started out playing basketball but I was not that good,” said Miers. “My dad wrestled at Phillipsburg and he suggested that I give wrestling a try. I started with the West Windsor Wolverines from 4th to 6th grade. I enjoyed it, a bunch of my friends were in the club.”

While Miers wrestled for the Cranbury School and the Juggernauts club in Hightstown during middle school, he became truly committed to the sport after entering high school.

“I really didn’t get into wrestling until I was a freshmen at Princeton High,” said Miers.

“I think maturity was the big thing. I was a smaller 106 pounder and I wrestled a couple of seniors who were a lot bigger. The pace of high school was quicker, everyone was a lot better than the guys I had been wrestling before, the skill level was much higher.”

Improving at a rapid pace, Miers matured into one of the top wrestlers to come through PHS in recent years. He ended up posting a 33-3 record this winter in his senior season, competing at the Region V meet last weekend to wrap up his high school career.

After freshman year, he racheted up the intensity, embarking on the path that led to his emergence as a star.

“I did a lot of lifting and offseason training with coach [Rashone] Johnson,” said Miers, who also started training outside school with the CJA wrestling club in East Brunswick.

“I got bigger, I felt more confident. I didn’t necessarily have the results I wanted as a sophomore. I was wrestling at 120 pounds.”

Utilizing that confidence, Miers enjoyed a superb junior year that saw him take fourth in the Mercer County Tournament at 132 pounds and post a record of 28-8.

“I improved by leaps and bounds from sophomore year,” said Miers. “I think my conditioning was always there. It did get better through taking up running. I was learning new techniques and wrestling better guys.”

This winter, Miers took things to a higher level, taking second in the MCT at 138 and winning the title at the District 17 tournament.

“I think I peaked at the right time,” said Miers. “Getting the district title was big. I wrestled well at counties, I came up just short. From the first tournament this year to the end, I was a much better wrestler. I would say it is my confidence. Last year I had confidence but I don’t know if I believed that I could do what I accomplished. I was really expecting myself to dominate this year. I made a list of goals and I accomplished all but two, getting to states and winning Mercer Counties and I came very close to those.”

Last weekend at the Region V tourney, Miers came close to the top-three finish needed to qualify for states, losing 3-1 to Chris Muce of Monroe in a wrestleback which would have earned him a spot in the region semis.

“There were some tough losses,” said Miers. “I was upset after the quarterfinal match (a 15-2 loss to Bound Brook’s Mekhi Lewis). I didn’t wrestle my match, there was not that much difference between us. In the wrestleback, I lost a tight one to the Monroe guy who got third. It was a tough match. I went out and gave it my all.”

Miers was proud of how the PHS team gave its all collectively this winter, winning the CVC’s Colonial Division title.

“We won the division, that was great for the program,” said Miers, whose fellow stars on the team included classmates Patrick Sockler at 132 and Victor Bell at 182 along with sophomore James Verbeyst at 126, sophomore Ethan Guerra at 195, and junior Noah Ziegler at 220. “Everyone on the team really worked hard. We had some tough losses but when we wrestled our best, we were dangerous.”

In Miers’s view, PHS head coach Johnson helped him become a much tougher competitor.

“He has been great, he pushed me so much,” said Miers. “He helped me accomplish things I didn’t believe I could do. He helped me go beyond my limits. He kept pushing me and helped me get better.”

With Miers planning to wrestle in college level, he will be bringing a hard-earned resolve to the next level.

“I just believe I can achieve anything I put my mind to,” said Miers. “Before I trained hard but I didn’t believe in what I could do. I think my confidence has really gone up.”

FINAL CHAPTER: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in action this season. Last week, senior star and captain Reid chipped in a goal and an assist as 25th-seeded PHS fell 7-4 at eighth-seeded Middletown South in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament. The defeat in the February 24 contest left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-10-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CHAPTER: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in action this season. Last week, senior star and captain Reid chipped in a goal and an assist as 25th-seeded PHS fell 7-4 at eighth-seeded Middletown South in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament. The defeat in the February 24 contest left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-10-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Trailing eighth-seeded Middletown South 4-2 heading into the third period in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament, 25th-seeded Princeton High wasn’t about to go out without a fight.

Scoring two unanswered goals to start the period, PHS turned the game into a 4-4 nailbiter.

“We gave them a run, we tied them in the third,” said Little Tigers head coach Terence Miller, noting that the game-tying goal came on a backdoor play involving the McCormick brothers, sophomore Brendon and senior Connor. “Once we got it to 4-4 we created a lot of chances and were playing well.”

PHS, though, couldn’t close the deal as Middletown South pulled away to a 7-4 victory in the February 24 contest.

“We had a tough turnover in the back end and they made it 5-4,” recalled Miller, whose team ended the season with a 10-10-2 record. “We pulled the goalie and they got two empty net goals.”

Miller wasn’t surprised that his team fought to the end. “We usually come to play and rise to the occasion,” said Miller. “That is the MO of this team; we can give anyone a game. We showed that Princeton High grit and determination to do well in playoffs. The flip side of that is that when we didn’t come to play this year, we could lose to anyone. We are not a team that can steamroller people.”

In reflecting on the season, Miller acknowledged that it wasn’t a smooth ride.

“It was an interesting year; it was a challenging season,” said Miller. “We started well and then had a lull around the holidays. We lost some tough games to Cranford, HoVal, and Westfield. We managed to right the ship, we had a nice run into the counties.”

Miller credited senior co-captains John Reid (11 goals and 27 assists in 2014-15) and Connor McCormick (19 goals, 17 assists) with keeping the Little Tigers headed in the right direction.

“John and Connor were great leaders all year; they are good kids,” said Miller.

“They are really hockey guys; hockey is their passion. They are not rah rah holler guys but team success means a lot to them.”

The team’s other seniors, Chris Munoz (6 goals, 6 assists), Nick Palmer (4 goals, 3 assists), Becket Tovar (1 goal, 3 assists), Aidan Bitterman (2 goals), and backup goalie Joe Hawes (an 0.891 save percentage with 7 goals against) played a role in the team’s success.

“The seniors are a good group,” said Miller, whose team advanced to the county semifinals. “Even the guys who didn’t get a lot of playing time and weren’t scoring the goals still had their hearts in it. They were all in it for the right reasons; they wanted to have a good senior year.”

The future looks good for PHS with such returning players as sophomore starting goalie Sawyer Peck (an 0.828 save percentage and 72 goals against), sophomore defenseman Tooker Callaway (3 goals, 12 assists), sophomore defenseman Eamonn McDonald (3 goals, 11 assists), freshman defenseman Max Garlock (1 goal, 1 assist), sophomore forward Brendon McCormick (30 goals, 21 assists), junior forward Nathan Drezner (6 goals, 5 assists), and freshman forward Justin Joyce (7 goals, 4 assists).

“There is a good foundation; we have a good mix of younger guys,” said Miller.

“The guys got a lot of experience. We have three sophomores and a freshman on the back end. Brendon is a terrific player, he had a really good season. The whole group is into it; they want to be successful.”

TRUE BRITT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Brittney ­Coniglione skates up the ice in a game this season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Coniglione helped PHS win the  ‘B’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. The Little Tigers finished the winter with a 7-8 record, more than tripling their win total from 2013-14 when they went 2-11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRUE BRITT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Brittney ­Coniglione skates up the ice in a game this season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Coniglione helped PHS win the ‘B’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. The Little Tigers finished the winter with a 7-8 record, more than tripling their win total from 2013-14 when they went 2-11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A major goal for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team this winter was to play hard until the final buzzer of the season.

Wrapping up the season at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament, PHS achieved that goal with aplomb, topping Holton Arms (Md.) 6-3 and Pingry 5-3 in its finale to win the league’s ‘B’ bracket.

PHS head coach Christian Herzog was proud of how his team ended the season on a high note.

“That was a productive final weekend,” said Herzog, whose team ended with a final record of 7-8.

“We really wanted to play Holton again; we thought we could have beaten them in the regular season if we had the Herrings (Lucy and Maggie) there. People stepped up and played well. We had confidence going into that Pingry game; we had beaten them twice.”

In the win over Pingry for the B title, the Little Tigers featured a balanced attack with sophomore Maggie Herring tallying two goals and an assist with older sister, senior star Lucy, senior Campbell McDonald, and junior Isabelle Sohn each chipping in a goal and an assist.

“They were psyched,” said Herzog. “We wanted to get a few goals so we would have a little leeway to get some of the others in and we wanted the seniors to end with a win.”

The players were psyched to help the program more than triple its win total from 2013-14 when PHS went 2-11.

“We won as many games this year as in the last three years combined,” said Herzog.

“They are a team that is not going to roll over, even when we are outmatched. No matter the record, what most coaches want is a team that wants to win and puts out their best effort to do so.”

The team’s core of seniors put in a great effort this season, on and off the ice.

“The senior class collectively is an eclectic group; each one contributes to the team dynamic in a positive way,” said Herzog, whose Class of 2015 includes Lucy Herring (10 goals and 15 assists this season), Brittney Coniglione (4 assists), Anne Daly (2 goals, 3 assists), Julia DiTosto (1 assist), Marian Hancock-Cerutti (1 assist), Campbell McDonald (3 goals, 6 assists), and Stephanie Ren.

“Some have more grit and tenacity while some are better communicators, and some are better at leadership. It makes it easier on captains, I don’t have to lean on the captains as much.”

Herzog acknowledges that the graduation of star forward and team captain Lucy Herring will leave a big void for his squad.

“Losing Lucy is going to be a big hit,” said Herzog, noting that she and younger sister Maggie were the high scorers this winter for PHS with 25 points apiece and were named team MVPs “Even when she is not scoring, she is keeping the puck in the offensive zone or defending.”

The seniors earned other honors as Ren and junior Sophie Corrodi were named to the WIHLMA All-Academic first team. DiTosto was the recipient of the program’s Head, Heart and Hustle award while Corrodi got the captain’s award for stepping up and being a leader and improving so much from the year before. Conglione won the team’s sportsmanship award.

Junior goalie Callie Urisko was cited as the program’s most improved player while junior forward Sohn was a WIHLMA All-Academic honorable mention choice and received the Harry Rulon-Miller WIHLMA sportsmanship award. Junior defenseman Allie Callaway was an All-WIHLMA honorable mention choice and the recipient of the program coach’s award.

In Herzog’s view, his veteran players have helped perpetuate the special spirit around the program.

“One thing I like is they see the value in recurrent things; the head, heart, and hustle cheer started before they got here but they keep it alive,” added Herzog.

“They are into maintaining program traditions like the second to last practice where they all dress funny. The team camaraderie doesn’t happen without the seniors. Most of the coaches and the refs say we have the most boisterous team with girls cheering on their teammates. It is a real positive environment.”

Things look positive going forward as PHS returns such standouts as Maggie Herring (15 goals, 10 assists), Sohn (4 goals, 3 assists), Callaway (7 goals, 7 assists), Urisko (.850 save percentage), Corrodi (3 goals, 1 assist), and freshman defenseman Alexa Zammit (4 goals, 1 assist).

“We have a good foundation,” said Herzog. “We have 11 players returning. We need a little more balance between offense and defense.”

SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a save in recent action. Senior co-captain Alden helped PDS post a 9-12-2 record this winter as it advanced to the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a save in recent action. Senior co-captain Alden helped PDS post a 9-12-2 record this winter as it advanced to the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Katie Alden began playing organized hockey in the fourth grade at the McGraw Rink on the campus of Princeton Day School when she joined the Nassau Hockey League in 2006.

Last month, Alden (this reporter’s daughter) came full circle, taking the ice as the senior goalie for the PDS girls’ hockey team as it hosted Kent Place in its season finale.

For senior captain Alden, finishing her high school career on the rink where she started the game was fitting.

“I am sure a lot of us who live in the area started playing at Nassau,” said Alden. “To start and end your career in the same place is special.”

Over the last four years, Alden has relished her PDS career. “I really enjoyed playing for the PDS Panthers all four years,” said Alden. “I grew in skill and in spirit in my four years here.”

Alden acknowledged that there were some mixed emotions as she and classmates, Sophie Jensen, Sophie Ward, Anna Williams, and Pria Louka were recognized before the finale in the program’s annual Senior Night.

“Ice hockey is my favorite sport so it is sad to have been a part of a team for four years and know that this is your last game with them,” said Alden, who made 22 saves in the contest as PDS fell 3-2 in overtime.

“I spent the most time and effort on hockey. I don’t play for travel teams in other sports. It is a really fun game, it is fast moving. As a goalie, I have the best perspective on the ice. It is similar to being a goalie in field hockey. I like that pressure, I thrive on that pressure.”

Serving as team captain this winter allowed Alden to apply the perspective she gained from helping to lead the PDS field hockey team this fall.

“Coming off the field hockey season where I was a co-captain, I had some good leadership experience,” added Alden, an All-Prep B performer in field hockey and recipient of that program’s Varsity Award.

“Going into the season, I really focused on having fun while also being passionate and focused during game time.”

Alden’s focus was reflected in her performance on the ice this season as she posted a 6-4 record with a 2.00 goals against average and an .887 save percentage.

“I was very happy with my stats this year,” said Alden, who produced a pair of shutouts in wins over Princeton High.

“Coming from my freshman year, I improved my stats each year. I would compare my save percentage from each game the different years. I was always improving. With PHS I don’t think I shut them out both times last year.”

The PDS seniors tried their best to create a happy atmosphere around the team.

“Even though they don’t play travel hockey it is clear that they love the game,” said Alden of her classmates.

“They really have fun when they are out there. They try their best to win battles and generate some offense for us. Sometimes the very serious travel girls get a little too wrapped up in the game, they let the score affect them too much. We have to remind them that it is all a game. We are here to have fun.”

PDS head coach Lorna Cook loves what the team’s Class of 2015 has brought to the program.

“I have been thinking about them a lot and how much fun it has been coaching them and seeing their improvement and growth on and off the ice,” said Cook.

“They were the class that came in with me so they mean a lot. It is a great group. We will miss them a lot, not just on the ice but the personality they brought to the long bus rides and on the bench. They are a fun group; their personalities work together for the team.”

Cook appreciates the effort she got from Alden over the last four years.

“Katie has improved a lot as a goalie, she has gotten better every season,” said Cook of Alden, who received the program’s Varsity Award.

“She was at almost all of the practices and games for the last four years. She gave the commitment level you want to see a player give a team. She has a passion for the game and sets the example for the younger players.”

The two Sophies, as they are known around the program, each received the team’s Coach’s Award and served as assistant captains.

“Sophie J. (2 goals and 4 assists this season) surprised us by how much she improved,” said Cook. “She gained confidence while she was away in Colorado. Sophie Ward (1 assist) has gotten better too, she is a smart player, she knows where to go on the ice. Had she played longer she would have been even better. She loved it and it was great.”

The pair of Williams (1 goal) and Louka (1 goal, 3 assists) got better and better as the season unfolded.

“Anna improved a lot; she could stick handle through people,” said Cook. “She was not shy, she would battle anyone. She doesn’t get penalties, she plays the right way and she plays hard. Pria learned a lot from that attitude. She would battle on the boards and she did what she needed to do on the ice.”

While PDS battled hard to make the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament, Cook acknowledged that the team could have done better than the 9-12-2 mark it posted.

“Obviously with the record, there were a few games that stand out that we should have won, the first and last in particular,” said Cook.

“At the same time, it is a really young team and it’s not bad for them to go through challenges and learn that they have to bring it every day.”

Three of the team’s young players, freshman forward Malia Leveson (11 goals, 10 assists), sophomore defenseman Kristi Serafin (7 goals, 10 assists), and sophomore goalie Annika Asplundh (2.54 goals against average, .920 save percentage), brought it throughout the winter. Serafin and Asplundh earned second-team All-WIHLMA recognition while Leveson was an honorable mention choice.

“It is hard when you are younger to be the leaders on the ice,” said Cook.

“They developed into those roles nicely, they gained a lot of experience that is going to help us for next year. They stood out in every game. Malia and Kristi brought another level of speed. It is not a secret that we were getting outshot in a lot of games and Annika kept us in games. You need a goalie like that.”

The Panthers got needed depth from sophomores Daphne Stanton (3 goals, 2 assists), Ashley Cavuto (9 goals, 12 assists), and Kiely French (8 goals, 5 assists) along with junior Emma Stillwaggon (7 goals, 4 assists).

“Daphne and Ashley improved a lot, the way they approached situations and took charge more,” said Cook.

“Daphne has always been good defensively but she improved offensively and put in some big goals for us. We could feel that coming at the end of last year. Emma and Kiely stepped up and played defense. When you are a natural forward that is not what you want to do but they went into it with a good attitude. They were still effective offensively and they broke up plays and played well in the d-zone.”

Cook is depending on the returning players to step up even more going forward.

“We are trying to up our intensity and take it to another level,” said Cook.

“We need to get physically stronger; we need to keep pushing it forward. We have a solid foundation. We have a lot of good young players, we just need to reach a higher gear.”

Alden, for her part, likes the way the team reached a higher level of unity this winter.

“It has been a great season with these girls,” said Alden, a WIHLMA All-Academic first team honoree who is headed to Bucknell University this fall.

“Coming from different travel teams and different levels, some playing travel hockey and some not playing travel hockey, it is hard to really get on the same page and learn the system but we really got together.”

February 25, 2015
SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Danny Seelagy joined the Hun School boys’ hockey program as a freshman in 2011, there were only enough players to fill out a varsity team.

With coach Ian McNally taking the helm that winter, Seelagy was confident that Hun would augment its numbers.

“I had played with Ian since I was a squirt and he has all of these connections so I had a pretty good feeling that he was going to reel a couple of good guys in,” said Seelagy.

Over the last few years, some really good players have come on board as Hun has developed into a powerhouse. This winter, with a deep roster and a flourishing JV program, the Raiders have enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in program history. Hun won the Purple Puck tournament in Washington, D.C. in late December and achieved its first state Prep championship since 1996 earlier this month when it topped Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game.

Last Friday, the Raiders added another trophy, topping Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game to earn its second straight county crown.

Hun’s depth was on display Friday as it overcame a powerful Notre Dame team without sophomore stars Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, two of the team’s most potent offensive threats who were away competing in a club hockey competition.

Coming into the contest, Seelagy and his teammates on hand were confident that they could rise to the occasion despite the absence of Barratt and Bendorf.

“We weren’t really worried about that because Evan has been hurt, he broke his knee at the beginning of the season and we have always been playing without him,” said Seelagy.

“That was a setback in the very beginning but I think we did pretty well without him. Missing Bendy had us a little bit nervous at first. I think it was fine overall; I think that we knew that we were going to win.”

The top-seeded Raiders didn’t waste any time seizing momentum against the second-seeded Irish, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nick Ashcroft 54 seconds into the contest.

“That was huge, especially for us, because we are usually a third period kind of team,” said Seelagy. “Getting that first goal really helped us out.”

The defense took over from there, stifling Notre Dame, highlighted by killing off two 5-on-3’s in a vital stretch early in the second period.

“We stuck to our game plan, we weren’t trying to change anything since  everything has been working out for us,” added Seelagy.

The work of Seelagy and classmate Chris Rossi on defense has been a constant for Hun over the last four years.

“Chris Rossi and I are the only two seniors to be here since freshman year so we have always been playing together a while,” said Seelagy, an assistant captain for the Raiders along with Bobby Wurster with Rossi serving as the captain.

“I think we are really good teammates, especially when we play together. because we have known each other so long. He just plays amazing.”

Seelagy has gotten really good over the course of his Hun career.

“I think I have improved every single year,” said Seelagy, who was named the Hun recipient of the MCT’s Scott Bertoli Sportsmanship Award. “My coach came up to me one practice and said I think this is the best year you have ever had so that was huge for me. He loves me because me of my speed.”

Hun head coach McNally, for his part, believed that getting the first goal was huge for the Raiders.

“I know a lot of these guys at Notre Dame; I think if they get up a goal, they get pretty fired up,” said McNally.

“They have guys that have the ability to break the game open so for us to get up first, it was a statement of it doesn’t matter who is here, we are going to keep scoring and get the job done so that was good.”

With Barratt and Bendorf missing, it was critical for the Hun defense to do a very good job.

“We just had to; we pulled Tanner (Preston) and Bobby (Wurster) aside and said you guys have to be the best two players in this game because we won’t have the puck for two-thirds of the game like we usually do,” said McNally.

“They were great as was Chris (Rossi), Danny, and Griffin (Moroney), all five of them that we rolled pretty much. They were good because they had to be, you know that is going to happen when you are missing Jon and Evan, somebody else is going to step up.”

McNally likes the way Seelagy has stepped up in his final campaign for the Raiders.

“Danny stopped playing fall hockey a couple of years ago,” said McNally, noting that Seelagy plays for the Hun football team in the fall.

“I told him earlier I would hate to see what would happen if you played fall hockey; throughout the whole season he gets better. He is awesome; he got the sportsmanship award and he is a captain. He is totally deserving.”

Hun got some awesome play in the MCT from junior goalie Diesel Pelke, who was named the MVP of the tournament.

“They had two or three flurries; sometimes you worry when a goalie makes a save that he may not see what is going on but Diesel tracked the puck every where, up in the air, batting it out with his blocker and all over the place,” said McNally of Pelke, who didn’t give up a goal in the tournament and had 30 saves in the shutout of the Irish.

“He is just so calm; he is in the right spot and makes the save. There is no flair to it, he was awesome. If they score a goal in the first period, that kind of changes the game so that was big.”

In McNally’s view, a key factor in Hun’s success this winter has been the talent throughout the roster.

“The story of us is depth, regardless of who is here we still play the exact same way,” said McNally, whose team competed at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to end the season with a 22-3-4 record.

“Sometimes when you don’t have guys, you have to change the strategy and things like that. Going into every big game, we had to change the lines and whoever it was got it done. Sometimes it was the defense, sometimes it was the big guns and sometimes it was the third line. It is nice to be able to keep the same strategy; it is easy on me.”

Seelagy, for his part, credits an easy going approach off the ice with giving the team a winning chemistry to go with its depth.

“This team is special because we don’t exclude anybody, everyone is happy, everybody is welcome,” said Seelagy.

“Before the games we have dance-offs in the locker room and stuff to keep it loose. In the past few years we were really strict and everybody was quiet in the locker room. We wanted to make it loose and fun.”

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tears weren’t being shed by the members of the Princeton High girls’ swimming team last Sunday afternoon on the deck of The College of New Jersey pool even though they had just lost 100-70 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the state Public B championship meet.

Reflecting on a magnificent campaign that saw PHS roll to its second straight Mercer County crown and win all 15 of its meets coming into the final, including a 97-73 victory over Ocean City last Wednesday in the state semis, sophomore star Melinda Tang was all smiles.

“This season has been amazing,” said Tang. “Last year we lost to Ocean City in the semis and we knew that meet was going to be really close too and we weren’t sure if we were going to win that. Once we made it over that last obstacle and we were here, it was just about having fun.”

The Little Tiger realized that Scotch Plains-Fanwood posed a formidable obstacle to their quest for a state title.

“We knew that the meet was going to be really close because our frontrunners and their frontrunners were pretty close and we all had a lot of depth,” said Tang.

The PHS frontrunners proved their mettle, winning seven of eight individual events with Tang prevailing in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly while freshman Abbey Berloco won both the 50 and 100 free races, junior Madeleine Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, and junior Brianna Romaine was victorious in the 100 backstroke.

Tang was pleased with her individual wins. “I can never say anything about the 200 free because it is right after the (medley) relay so I just have got to finish swimming this and it is all good,” said Tang. “For the 100 fly, I was really happy because I got a best time (56.36).”

The Little Tigers finished on a high note as the quartet of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine won the 400 free relay, the final event of the day.

“We knew at that point that they were going to win,” recalled Tang. “We had already made it this far so we were going to go down with a fight.”

With a season of high school swimming under her belt, Tang was more emotionally invested in fighting to the end for PHS.

“This year, I have gotten a lot closer with all of my teammates because freshman year was a time of transition,” said Tang.

PHS first-year head coach Carly Misiewicz appreciated how her swimmers kept their heads up as they tasted defeat for the first time this winter.

“Why I love being a part of this team so much is that every person is so classy,” said Misiewicz, whose team posted a record of 15-1.

“They are not going to bad mouth the other team because we lost, no one is a sore loser. Every person on the team knows that we did everything that we could, they swam faster. You can’t swim faster than you are capable of swimming.”

In Misiewicz’s view, the win in the 400 free relay spoke volumes about PHS’s desire to get the most out of its ability.

“Our girls are fighters and they are not going to give up, they are not going to give them a race,” said Misiewicz, a former Rider University swimming star.

“I told them that one of my biggest things in college when I was a swimmer, the other team may win the meet but don’t let them win the last race. They put their hearts and souls into everything and it really showed. I am so happy with what we have done this year.”

Making it to the state final exceeded Misiewicz’s expectations at the beginning of the year.

“Looking and scouting when we were going to come against Manasquan (in the sectional final), it was alright here we go, this is our next hurdle and then Ocean City was our next hurdle,” said Misiewicz.

“I am just so happy and proud of them to make it to this point, so many teams would kill to be in our position. I would have never thought we would have made it this far.”

While PHS’s big four of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine certainly made a point with their dominance on Sunday, Misiewicz credited Scotch Plains-Fanwood for its talent across the board.

“Unfortunately you can win first in everything but not win the meet,” said Misiewicz, noting that Deardorff set a school record in the breaststroke with her time of 1:09.35.

“What it came down to today is that they were just deeper than we were but again you can’t change anybody else. You can’t affect the other team or the other swimmers. You have to worry about yourselves and that is what they all did.”

With most of its frontline swimmers returning, PHS is primed for a lot of big wins down the road.

“We do have quite a few girls coming back, which is phenomenal,” said Misiewicz.

“It just makes me even more excited for next year. I am just really excited to see where we leave off this year and where we are going to head into next year. Making it this far was huge and I couldn’t be any more proud of the girls.”

Tang, for her part, believes that PHS will be better in the future as a result of its experience on Sunday.

“If we had won, it would have been the first time since 1993 so we were all really, really excited for the meet,” said Tang. “I think this will help us because every winner needs to learn how to lose.”

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost twice to Notre Dame in the regular season, getting outscored by a combined 13-1 margin, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team was looking to fine-tune things as the foes met for round three in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Wednesday.

“We felt good about ourselves, we switched up a couple of little things,” said PHS head coach Terence Miller.

For the first 13 minutes of the contest, sixth-seeded PHS battled the top-seeded Irish on even terms, trailing just 1-0.

“We were happy with our start,” said Miller. “We played well. We had a tough turnover to give them their first goal. I thought an early goal for us would have helped, just to settle the group down. We didn’t get it.”

Notre Dame scored a late first period goal to make it 2-0 and then took control of the game in the second, scoring three unanswered goals.

“When they score, they seem to get goals in bunches,” said Miller. “We just couldn’t seem to stop them. They ran that cherry picking, hanging system. It worked because it took our minds off the offensive end. We are worried about getting back and defending that. You should be able to punish them. If they want to hang a guy, they are creating a power play for you. It gets your defensemen back, they start icing and now we are running for our lives.”

PHS cut the deficit to 5-1 early in the third period on a goal by senior Connor McCormick but Notre Dame shifted into a higher gear, scoring five unanswered goals. The Little Tigers did get a tally from sophomore defenseman Tooker Callaway in the waning seconds to make the final 10-2.

“The wheels came off in the third,” said Miller.” You could see that they were ready to pounce on mistakes. We got a little something going but when we made mistakes, they made us pay. That is the sign of a good team. We know they are deep, they had their legs going a little bit, they have speed.”

Miller was proud of how his team stuck to its game even as Notre Dame pulled away.

“We fought to the end but we didn’t get chippy,” said Miller, reflecting on the loss which dropped the Little Tigers to 10-9-2. “That is not our game, that is not what Princeton is about. I was happy that they kept their heads up and played to the end.”

With PHS starting action in the state Public B tournament this week, where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest, Miller is hoping the team can build on its MCT run.

“We got back to the semifinals, we are happy about that,” said Miller. “We would have liked to have had a better performance tonight. I am proud of my guys. We hung in.”

February 18, 2015
PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Peter Stanton didn’t enjoy much success in his first two years as the head coach of the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

Taking over the program in 1996, he guided the PHS to a 1-14 record. A year later, things weren’t much better as the Little Tigers posted a 2-13 mark.

But Stanton could sense that the program was turning a corner in that second campaign.

“Sometimes I tell people that I feel like I did my best coaching in 1997,” said Stanton.

“For some reason, that was the year with a combination of kids where I started to feel that we are going to get good at this. Everyone bought in. We kept the kids together; they had the feeling that we were going to achieve things.”

Staying the course, Stanton has gone on to achieve great things for PHS, leading the program to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles. His teams reached the Group 2 semifinals in 2006 and 2007 and the Group 2 state title game in 2010.

Earlier this month, Stanton, 48, earned the ultimate achievement, getting inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

In reflecting on the accolade, Stanton said it is the bonds developed among the players that has been a key ingredient in his program’s success.

“What stands out most to me is the chemistry that we have had and you see guys that are still close eight, nine years out of high school,” said Stanton.

“They are still part of each other’s lives well after college. We have really worked hard to build that chemistry. It is a priority of the coaches. I think it comes down to two things, first is performance. You play better if you get along and hold each other accountable. When you enjoy each other’s company and play for each other, it is a lot more fun.”

Stanton has enjoyed lacrosse since 1982 when he took the sport up as a sophomore at Hunterdon Central High School, having tired of football and baseball.

“I liked the combination of physical contact and the gracefulness of the game,” said Stanton, who played midfield in high school, starting on varsity as a senior.

Continuing his playing career at the college level, Stanton headed to Stevens Tech, where he was a two-time Knickerbocker Conference second-team selection, the team MVP in 1987, and the team captain in 1988.

Stanton’s first taste of coaching came when he guided the PHS junior varsity team from 1992-94. After a year hiatus from coaching, he took the reins of the varsity program.

The Little Tigers experienced a breakthrough campaign in 1998, going 9-4 and making the state tournament. Two years later, PHS had one of the great seasons in program history, going 17-1, falling to eventual champion Delbarton in the state quarterfinals.

PHS earned Mercer County Tournament championships the last two years, displaying a competitive fire that has made Stanton proud.

“When you have a team that overachieves, nothing is better than that,” said Stanton.

“We were not necessarily the most talented team but we played the best at the most important moments and that is very satisfying.”

An important factor in Stanton’s success has been the contributions he has received from his coaching staff over the years.

“I have had great assistant coaches; they have really helped with team building,” said Stanton.

“So many of the best ideas came from Jason Carter. Chip Casto has such a wealth of knowledge. He is learning more and more about the game and finds ways to help us do things more efficiently. He is such a professional. When you have someone like that doing so much work, it makes my life easier. I get the credit but he is a big part of it.”

In accepting his Hall of Fame honor, Stanton was quick to spread the credit.

“What it really means is that I have been part of a really good thing for a long time,” said Stanton.

“I have had great people, great teams, great players. We have had phenomenal parental organizations. I have been fortunate to have been in a great situation.”

With the 2015 season around the corner, Stanton is fired up for another good campaign.

“This is the real reward and the reason I keep doing this,” said Stanton, a math teacher at PHS since 2004.

“Coaching is something that is always going to be very important to me. As a season comes up, you think it is a lot of work and a lot of effort. Part of me wonders if I can still do it but midway through the season, I can’t believe I was thinking that.”

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Expecting a close battle with second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final last Friday, Madeleine Deardorff and her teammates on the top-seeded Princeton High girls swimming team relished the challenge.

“We all came in here with a lot of confidence and we knew what we had to do,” said junior star Deardorff. “Everyone was so positive.”

PHS got the meet off to a very positive start in the 200 medley relay as Deardorff combined with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco to win the event in a program and pool record time of 1:48.89.

“That was amazing; that was very unexpected,” said Deardorff. “We were all very happy. I think just that alone made us super confident for the rest of the meet. I think everybody from there on knew what they were capable of, not only with the relay that won but all of us did an amazing job. I think just getting off to that start really set the tone for the whole meet.”

PHS rolled from there, cruising to a 103-67 victory as it improved to 14-0 on the season.

Individually, Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly while Tang won both the 200 freestyle and 100 fly, Romaine prevailed in the 100 free and 100 backstroke and Berloco placed first in the 50 free and second in the 100 free.

For Deardorff, the 200 IM was an amazing swim as she edged Manasquan’s Kathryn Petrone by 0.34 in setting a personal best of 2:08.19.

“I know Kathryn from club swimming, I knew she was a very good swimmer,” said Deardorff.

“We both know what each other are capable of. That was an amazing race, that was crazy. I don’t think either of us knew that we were doing that well. I think just being next to her made me motivated. It could have gone either way. I am definitely happy with what I did, it was my best time.”

In the 100 fly, Deardorff battled with another very good swimmer in teammate Tang.

“It was just amazing; we race each other all of the time,” said Deardorff, noting that she and Tang both compete for the X-Cel club team.

“Our teammates said you were in synch the whole time. To be able to pull out a 1-2 on that was amazing and then we continued to do that. Abbey and Bri went 1-2 in the free after that so that was really awesome.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz saw the 200 medley relay record as a spark for her team as PHS won its fourth sectional title in the last six years.

“I remember looking over at the girls and Maddie Deardorff specifically,” recalled Misiewicz.

“I looked at her and she looked at the clock and she looked at me and her jaw dropped. We said at counties that we want to get under 1:50 so to go 1:48 today is just phenomenal. That just set the tone for the whole entire rest of the meet. From there, the ball just kept rolling.”

In reflecting on the win, Misiewicz said it was a total team effort with good performances from all lanes.

“We knew they had frontrunners, they knew we had frontrunners,” said Misiewicz.

“What was going to matter was the seconds, the thirds, and the fourths, the little points that we picked up. Our depth carried us through without a doubt. Our top swimmers did what they had to do and everything just fell into place. We had good times across the board.”

Misiewicz was thrilled by how Deardorff rose to the occasion in the 200 IM.

“Her IM was her lifetime best time I think she said by two seconds,” said Misiewicz.

“Maddie definitely stepped up in the IM, pulling out that win. That was really close towards the last 12 and a half. She is a competitor and really pulled it out.”

With PHS facing Ocean City in the Public B semifinals on February 18 for a spot in the state finals on February 22, Misiewicz  believes her squad is going to be hard to beat.

“I think it is a team that can go all the way, they feel it, I feel it,” said Misiewicz,

“Meet after meet, we are getting stronger and closer. Everybody has stepped up; it is positive all the time.”

Deardorff, for her part, is confident that PHS will keep stepping up. “I think this year we have a very special team,” said Deardorff. “I don’t think we have seen anything like this in a while. I think that our depth has carried us so far and I am excited to see what happens in the next few meets.”

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Facing third-seeded WW/P-S in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday, it looked like sixth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team might not be around long in the tourney.

Getting off to a sluggish start, PHS trailed 3-1 after the first period as the Pirates seemed to be quicker to the puck.

In between periods, the Little Tigers decided to be more aggressive. “After the first period we came together and convened and talked about our plan,” said sophomore forward Brendon McCormick. “We were going to go out and attack and we just executed.”

McCormick took matters into his own hands, scoring two goals in the period as PHS pulled into a 3-3 tie heading into the final period.

“It was to get the puck deep, get a lot of shots, crash the net, and try to get on the goalie because he was playing well,” said McCormick.

Neither team scored in the third period and the game was deadlocked at 3-3 heading into overtime. With both teams getting power play chances in the extra session, PHS cashed in on a goal by senior John Reid with 3:44 left in OT to earn a 4-3 win and book a spot in the semis against second-seeded Notre Dame on February 18.

“We got lucky going into OT, we started on a power play to get up our momentum,” said McCormick, reflecting on the win which improved PHS to 10-8-2.

“That was a big key because that started the ball rolling. We got a little frustrated. They got a scary one there, hitting the post. We just pulled together. John had a great play.”

With the Little Tigers needing to lift their record to .500 to earn a berth in the upcoming state public tournament, the team has thrived with its back to the wall.

“The past few weeks we have been battling,” said McCormick. “It has been like a playoff atmosphere around our team so we were prepared for this game. Going into OT, we were ready with the great mindset. It is a sense of urgency. Coach has been telling us we have got to win this one, and then the next one. We just go out there and win it because we need to.”

McCormick has shown urgency in the MCT, tallying seven points on five goals and two assists as PHS topped Nottingham 10-0 in an opening round contest the day before his big effort against WW/P-S.

“I feel like I am playing better,” said McCormick. “I had a slower start to the season, now I am playing with John on a line and he is really helping me out. We are helping each other out.”

PHS head coach Terence Miller appreciated the work he got from McCormick in the win over WW/P-S.

“Brendon just never seems to get tired; his heart and his legs never stop,” said Miller. “We really had to lean on him at the end, killing off those penalties and on the power play. He was huge, his engine just never seems to stop.”

The Little Tigers displayed huge resolve in rallying for the win over the Pirates.

“I think we have shown some resiliency here, especially falling down early 3-1,” said Miller.

“We have fallen behind a few times this year and we have battled back so that speaks to the character of the group, especially our senior leaders, John (Reid) and Connor (McCormick). When it got to 3-1, we knew we had to get the next one and not let the game get out of hand. Our guys showed a lot of heart, battling back.”

Miller acknowledged that the heart-stopping overtime jangled his nerves. “Sawyer (Peck) came up with some big saves for us, they had a shorthanded breakaway,” said Miller.

“We were dead even in shots. They are a well coached team, they play hard and this game clearly could have gone either way. By that overtime period it was just hold your breath and hope you can get the next one.”

In Miller’s view, it was fitting that senior co-captain Reid notched the winning tally.

“John Reid was buzzing, he is a guy we bump back to defense when we need him there, he is on the penalty kill, he is on the power play,” said Miller.

“I was happy for him to get that game winner. He has had to carry us all year, through a lot of ups and downs. He was due, I am glad he got it.”

Looking ahead to the MCT semis, Miller is confident his squad can keep up its resilient play.

“Hopefully this can catapult us into the semifinal,” said Miller. “We know we are going to get another tough test there with one more shot to get back into the final. Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the next one.”

McCormick, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are going to be tough to knock out.

“I think we can put a good run together,” said Reid. “We have been working hard. We want to keep going as long as we can go for the seniors and keep their season alive for the last time.”

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a frustrating first half for Shayla Stevenson and the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team as they hosted the Solebury School (Pa.) last Thursday.

PDS trailed the Spartans 22-13 at halftime and sophomore guard Stevenson was scoreless.

As the Panthers met during the break, the emphasis was on playing harder. “We just had to make open shots,” said Stevenson. “We had to be more intense, we had to attack the basket more. One of their best players had four fouls so we had to attack her. We just had to be confident in our teammates.”

Minutes into the third quarter, Stevenson drained a long three-pointer from the corner that helped get her going.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Stevenson. “Then my teammates having confidence in me and finding me when I was open was great.”

After outscoring Solebury 8-4 in the quarter to cut the deficit to 26-21, the Panthers turned the game into a nail-biter, forging ahead 34-32 with 3:20 left in regulation. PDS, though, never scored after that as it lost 36-34 in moving to 5-13.

“I definitely think we had good momentum,” said Stevenson. “(Bridget) Kane and I were shooting threes and Ryan Robinson was attacking the basket. Even though Ryan and I had three fouls each, we still played hard.”

Despite falling just short, the trio of Stevenson and freshmen Kane and Robinson showed that they have a bright future as Stevenson and Kane each ended up with nine points in the loss with Robinson adding eight.

“We are developing something; we are having a lot of chemistry,” said Stevenson. “That is one thing we are trying to work on in practice and in games, getting better team chemistry with team building and team bonding.”

Stevenson has put in a lot of work to build herself into a better player. “From last year to this year, I have tried to improve on my handle and my shot,” said Stevenson.

“Last year, my shot was a little bit off so coming into this year, I wanted to make a lot more threes and get open for teammates and just be there. Last year was really hard for me, because I had a lot on my shoulders.”

As the Panthers start play in the Mercer County Tournament this week, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20, Stevenson believes they can build on their hard effort against Solebury.

“Going into MCTs, I think this is a good game to lead off from and we are going to just keep this momentum,” said Stevenson.

“I think the second half in this game is how we have to play the full game.”

BLUE LINE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Briana Blue drives to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, senior star Blue scored seven points to help PHS edge WW/P-S 33-32 and snap a six-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, now 7-13, play at Robbinsville on February 18 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLUE LINE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Briana Blue drives to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, senior star Blue scored seven points to help PHS edge WW/P-S 33-32 and snap a six-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, now 7-13, play at Robbinsville on February 18 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After defeating Hightstown on January 16 to improve to 6-7, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team experienced some hard times.

Playing a murderer’s row of tough foes like Trenton, Notre Dame, and Allentown, PHS dropped six in a row.

During the skid, the Little Tigers struggled offensively and its 50-36 loss to Howell last Thursday was a case in point. Scoring just three points in the second quarter, PHS found itself trailing 27-13 at half.

While his team didn’t throw in the towel, Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise acknowledged that inconsistent production has been an issue.

“If we don’t score, we don’t win,” said Van Hise. “We went into a drought in the second quarter. In the second half, we fought. We always fight. We got it to eight or nine but then Howell took the air out of the ball and we are not fast enough to trap them. We put them at the line and they made their free throws.”

PHS showed its fight last Monday as it edged WW/P-S 33-32 to snap the losing streak and improve to 7-13. Junior Julia Ryan scored 11 points in the win with Briana Blue adding seven and Mary Sutton and Zoe Tesone chipping in six apiece.

“We are still taking steps in the right direction, we have doubled last year’s win total,” said Van Hise, noting that the Little Tigers went 3-16 last winter. “We still have some winnable games and I don’t want them to be complacent.”

Van Hise believes that some of his key players have taken steps forward as the season has unfolded.

“Briana and Zoe had 18 points combined against Howell, they have found a niche inside,” said Van Hise.

“Catherine (Curran-Groome) is a solid contributor in every way that she can. Mary and Julia are the x-factors, when they are shooting well, we are tough to beat.”

PHS is shooting to do some good things in the postseason as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week before taking part in the state tournament. The Little Tigers are seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20. In the states, they are seeded 15th in the Central Jersey Group 4 tourney and will play at second-seeded Marlboro in the opening round on March 2.

“We have HoVal on Friday in the counties, they are always a solid team who can shoot,” said Van Hise.

“I don’t think they outmatch us athletically like some of the other teams. If we play our best game of the season, we have a chance. I am proud of the team for making states. I know we are a low seed but we feel pretty pumped up about it.”

Van Hise is confident that the six-game losing streak won’t get his players feeling down on themselves.

“We are not a different team than we were earlier even though it feels like it with these losses,” said Van Hise.

“The mood is good. We have talked this year about when things get tough, we have to stick together and not make excuses.”

February 11, 2015

Blake Brown was especially happy to see Evan Barratt return to action for the top-seeded Hun School boys’ hockey team as it hosted fourth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy last week in the state Prep semis.

Last winter sophomore Brown combined with classmates Jon Bendorf and Barratt to form a high-powered line that helped Hun win the Independent Hockey League and Mercer County Tournament titles.

With Barratt sidelined with a knee injury all season until the semi contest on February 3, it was like old times when the trio reunited.

“It helped that Evan was back, that was huge for us,” said Brown. “It adds a huge offensive element for us, it is a big part of our game.”

Brown benefitted right away in the contest against Montclair Kimberley, scoring two first period goals as the Raiders jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

“We were able to score a couple of goals quick,” said Brown. “Right from the start, we were back to where we were. We felt like the beginning of the season again.”

Reflecting on his two early goals, Brown didn’t take too much credit for the tallies.

“Those were some shots I could not have missed, they put the pucks perfectly to me,” said Brown. “If I had missed those, I shouldn’t be playing hockey.”

Hun head coach McNally credited Brown with working hard to get into perfect scoring position.

“Blake can move the puck with Jon and Evan but he can also wait until they find their shot and bang in the rebound,” said McNally.

“He is the workhorse. He is the dog that goes into the corner to get it and then goes to the front of the net and it eventually comes back to him.”

When MKA made a comeback to narrow the Hun lead to 5-3 late in the third period, Brown tallied with 1:41 left in the period and then added another 38 seconds left to seal the deal for the Raiders.

“It was everything,” asserted Brown of his insurance goal. “It secured the win for us and we are going to the championship.”

The win also marked another achievement for a Hun program on the rise. “Each year we have been progressing,” said Brown. “Last year we won Mercer counties and this year we are in state final.”

Brown helped Hun continue that progression, scoring two goals to help Hun beat second-seeded Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game last Thursday.

McNally, for his part, was not surprised that Brown was the top goal scorer for Hun in its Prep title run.

“Blake had six goals in two games and they were all within two feet,” said McNally, noting that Brown’s final tally against Mo-Beard marked the 100th point of his Hun career. “He was in the right spot.”

In Brown’s view, Hun’s team camaraderie has put it in a very good spot. “Everyone loves each other; it is a big family for us,” said Brown. “Everyone hangs together at school, it is like a brotherhood.”

The Hun hockey band of brothers is looking to keep the titles coming.

“This brings the school together; we don’t get a lot of championships at Hun,” said Brown, who will be shooting to help Hun gain another championship as it goes after its second straight Mercer County Tournament crown next week.   “Hopefully we will bring a new chapter to Hun and start winning a lot of championships.”

SQUEEZE PLAY: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt squeezes between two defenders to control the puck against Montclair Kimberley in the state Prep semis. Last Thursday, sophomore Barratt, playing in his second game this season after being sidelined by a leg injury, chipped in three assists as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the state Prep title game. It marked the program’s first Prep title since 1996. The Raiders, now 14-2-4, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded first and have a quarterfinal game slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SQUEEZE PLAY: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt squeezes between two defenders to control the puck against Montclair Kimberley in the state Prep semis. Last Thursday, sophomore Barratt, playing in his second game this season after being sidelined by a leg injury, chipped in three assists as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the state Prep title game. It marked the program’s first Prep title since 1996. The Raiders, now 14-2-4, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded first and have a quarterfinal game slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Facing second-seeded Morristown-Beard last Thursday in the state Prep championship game, the top-seeded Hun School boys’ hockey team was serenaded by derisive chants of “overrated, overrated” by the fans at the Twin Oaks Rink.

Noting that his players laughed off that greeting from the Mo-Beard partisans, Hun head coach Ian McNally sensed that his team was ready to silence its doubters.

“They were in a very good place,” recalled McNally. “There was a lot of excitement in the room, you sensed that when you saw how they were preparing.”

Hun showed why it had been rated so highly coming into the tourney, jumping out to a 4-1 lead through two periods and holding off a late Mo-Beard charge to prevail 5-3 and earn the program’s first Prep crown since 1996.

Led by its Killer B’s line of sophomores Blake Brown, Jon Bendorf, and Evan Barratt, the Raiders were buzzing from the opening face-off.

“You could tell right from the start, Evan, Jon, and Blake spent 40 seconds in the offensive zone on the first shift and had three good chances,” said McNally, whose team scored late in the period to go ahead 1-0.

“The first period was good, the guys were excited. We felt the goal was coming but if it never does, you do get frustrated and worried. The goal was beautiful. It was Evan to Jon to Blake like tic tac toe so we were able to get on the board.”

When Mo-Beard scored the first two goals of the third period to make it a 4-3 contest, Hun wasn’t fazed.

“We were still in control of the game; it didn’t feel like they were coming,” said McNally.

“The first of the two goals was a shot that bounced off Chris Rossi’s skate. On the next goal, the guy came in and had a nice shot. When it is 4-3, you are worried that one mistake could tie the game. They took two penalties in the last five minutes. Blake scored and things slowed down. We were able to get a breath.”

Having the trio of Barratt, Bendorf, and Brown to trigger the offense helps McNally breathe easier. Brown and Bendorf each scored two goals in the championship contest with Barratt chipping in three assists as Hun improved to 14-2-4.

“It is huge, you put those guys out and you know you are going to have the puck in your offensive zone,” said McNally, noting that Barratt just returned to action after being sidelined since the fall due to a knee injury.

“They work so hard and they are so competitive. Jon and Blake were getting it done without Evan but having him back does change things. He is a dynamic kid in every way. He has energy, skill, and he doesn’t stop talking on the ice. You can’t help but notice him. When he gets the puck the other teams are thinking I want to stop that guy and they pay attention to him and one of the other two gets open. They find each other.”

In McNally’s view, senior stalwarts Danny Seelagy and captain Chris Rossi are deserving of special notice.

“They were freshmen and it was my first year; it is neat to have gotten to this point,” said McNally.

“We have added something every year. We won the Independent Hockey League when they were sophomores, then the league and county last year and now preps. It was not like it was imminent for them when they came in. They had to work through it. They are in our top four defensemen. Danny set up the second goal against Mo-Beard and Chris had some big physical plays in the d-zone.”

In becoming a top team, Hun has shown that it possesses the intangibles to go with its talent.

“We have the skill but we also have chemistry and work ethic and you don’t always get that with the skill,” said McNally. “If you have those three things, you can do well in any league.”

Hun is now looking to do well in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament as it goes after a second straight county crown.

“The most fun we had in a long time was that Notre Dame game in the final last year,” said McNally, whose team is seeded first in the MCT and has a quarterfinal contest slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park.

“The guys are definitely excited for the counties, they have siblings and friends who have played in it. It is great that we have the preps and then the counties so it is not just a two-day tournament. It feels like a real postseason.”

BORDENTOWN Hun School boys’ basketball player Kyle Borden puts up a shot in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior Borden scored 10 points off the bench to help Hun defeat Metuchen High 40-24 and win its ninth straight game. The Raiders, now 14-7, will be competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BORDENTOWN Hun School boys’ basketball player Kyle Borden puts up a shot in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior Borden scored 10 points off the bench to help Hun defeat Metuchen High 40-24 and win its ninth straight game. The Raiders, now 14-7, will be competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kyle Borden wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Hun School boys’ basketball team when it hosted Metuchen High last Wednesday but he was confident he would impact the game.

“I don’t mind it, I enjoy it,” said senior forward Borden, reflecting on coming off the bench for Hun.

“I bring energy, that is something I love to do. My coach (Jon Stone) told me he is going to bring me off the bench to bring a spark to the game. I take pride in doing that.”

Borden entered the contest in the first quarter and made a key contribution, scoring seven points in the first half as Hun jumped out to a 25-5 halftime lead.

“Something I have learned this season and the whole team has learned, is to take the best shot,” said Borden. “Today I was in rhythm; I stepped up and made them.”

The whole Hun team showed a commitment to defense against Metuchen as it took a 34-7 lead into the third quarter on the way to a 40-24 win.

“We came with defensive intensity, that is something our team prides itself on,” said Borden.

“You definitely have to learn how to have fun but you have to play defense first, that is what wins games. That’s what we did, we made a statement.”

Borden has had fun developing over his Hun career. “It is growing a lot and learning how to be a leader on and off the court,” said Borden, who ended up with 10 points in the win over Metuchen. “I worked on developing my game over the summer because I knew I had to step up this season.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone liked the way his team stepped up in the early stages as it jumped out to an 18-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. “I think our defense was very, very good,” said Stone, whose team improved to 14-7 as it won its ninth straight game.

“We were able to get some good looks, both in our halfcourt and our transition. Unfortunately it only lasted for a quarter. Fortunately our defense lasted a little longer. Our defense was very good for at least two and a half quarters.”

In Stone’s view, Borden has given Hun some very good play off the bench. “He’s been doing that all year long,” asserted Stone. “He plays with a lot of energy and he has been giving us a spark off the bench.”

Senior center Dominic Robb gave Hun a big spark in the win over Metuchen, scoring a game-high 15 points and making a number of blocked shots.

“Dominic effects the game in so many ways, he has the ability to finish,” said Stone. “You saw his blocked shots out there today, two in one possession. He really adds a great dimension to the rest of the team.”

With his team riding a late surge, Stone is hoping its best basketball is to come.

“Your hope is always that you peak at the right time,” said Stone. “I think we have just been competing well. We have shown some mental toughness and the ability to play well together and to just get more and more comfortable with each other.”

Stone knows his team faces a tough challenge this weekend as it competes in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15.

“It looks like we are going to be the two seed, it is anybody’s tournament to win because anybody can beat anybody on a given night,” said Stone.

“You just hope you are playing good basketball and you know you are going to play some really good games and they are probably going to come down to the wire so it should be a lot of fun and a great weekend. I think we have been climbing and making moves in the right direction, the time is now. We are ready to test ourselves and see how good we are.”

Borden, for his part, believes the Raiders are headed in the right direction.

“When we first started playing, it was rocky,” said Borden “We had to learn all of our different personalities, where we wanted to be on the court, and the chemistry and now it is there. We have bought into the system and we have become a family. We were a team of individuals in the first couple of games and now we play for each other. Our goal is the MAPL championship and that is what we are going for.”

HOT HAND: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Kevin Kane heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Kane scored a game-high 26 points to help PHS top Trenton 68-58 and improve to 7-10. PHS hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOT HAND: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Kevin Kane heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Kane scored a game-high 26 points to help PHS top Trenton 68-58 and improve to 7-10. PHS hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, pulling out a win over a strong Allentown team last Wednesday gave it a lift as it hosted Trenton two days later.

“The Allentown game was really good, it was the first game this season where we really held the lead in the fourth,” said PHS senior guard Kevin Kane. “We got confidence, we knew we could play with Trenton.”

But when PHS struggled in the early stages against Trenton, Kane’s confidence in his offensive skills helped keep the Little Tigers in the contest.

“I was just trying to attack the basket in the first half,” said Kane, who scored 15 points in the half as PHS trailed 33-28 going into intermission. “Matt Hart got into early foul trouble so I knew I had to put up more shots.”

PHS kept attacking in the second half, outscoring Trenton 40-25 over the last two quarters in rolling to a 68-58 victory and improving to 7-10.

In Kane’s view, the Little Tigers seized momentum in the third quarter when it erased the Trenton lead with a 19-13 run.

“We were passing the ball well,” said Kane. “Zahrion [Blue] played well keeping us in it, going to the basket. We handled the pressure well and we guarded Derek Dix well.”

The fourth quarter turned into the Kevin Kane show as he scored 11 points, draining a trio of three-pointers in the process.

“That was awesome,” said Kane, who ended the evening with a game-high 26 points.

“My role is to keep the team’s heads up and when I am open shoot the ball. My teammates, J.C. [Silva], Zahrion, and Chris [Diver] do a good job, dribbling through the lane and getting me the ball. There is more balance and we have good team chemistry.”

Having narrowly lost 60-55 to Trenton a week earlier, PHS was looking to play better team defense in the rematch.

“We just wanted to trap more,” said Kane. “Today with our traps in the second half, coach Karim (assistant coach Shahid Abdul-Karim) was saying that we have to stand there and don’t jump. We got four turnovers because of that. We had to box out, which we did, and hold them under 60, which we also did.”

In the view of PHS head coach Mark Shelley, the formula for success in the rematch was simple.

“We wanted to play more fundamental and harder,” said Shelley, noting that the tape of the first Trenton game showed PHS standing around on defense at times.

It took a while, however, for PHS to get into a groove against the Tornadoes.

“I thought they came out with a little more energy than us in the first half, we struggled with that a little bit,” said Shelley, who got 17 points from sophomore Blue in the win with junior Hart chipping in 12.

“We need Kevin’s scoring, obviously. He really played well overall tonight. He got some key rebounds. He played well defensively, he is so much better in that area. His scoring really kept us in it. We got down by seven, four or five times in the first half but we managed to get it to five at the half.”

Like Kane, Shelley believed that PHS applied the lessons it gained from the Allentown win.

“It was sort of like the Allentown game,” said Shelley. “We were the more fundamental, patient, harder working team in the second half. In the third quarter tonight, we were methodical. As good as we were in the fourth quarter, to me the key was winning the third. We went from down five to up one. That was the key for me because then we just built on that. We hit a flurry of 3s, which we can do. Kevin’s threes were key, it is hard to guard us when one of our guys are stroking it.”

Starting the week with a 60-58 win over WW/P-N in double overtime on February 3 that snapped a six-game losing streak and got things headed in the right direction for the Little Tigers.

“I told them for several weeks, I thought if we could just get one, we would be fine,” said Shelley, whose team hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest.

“We beat North and Steinert and then we lost to Nottingham with just a terrible fourth quarter. Then we had that slide where Hopewell was close, Notre Dame was close and Hightstown was overtime. We just couldn’t get over the hump and we were a little dispirited and coach Karim gave a pretty excited talk at halftime of the North game. It got us going. Matt Hart had a great shot to win it. He literally hit a 17-foot fadeaway step back swish with three seconds left. It was a tough shot.”

Kane, for his part, believes PHS will be tough to beat down the stretch. “This is a great win; it just shows how our character has built through the season,” asserted Kane. “We have lost a lot of games late. Tonight we got the lead and kept it, which was really good.”