Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 5
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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JAM SESSION: Princeton High boys’ basketball junior center A. J. Dowers slams one home in a recent practice session. Last Friday, Dowers registered his first career dunk on the way to a 13-point performance as PHS rallied to beat Robbinsville 52-43.

With Dowers Coming Up Big in the Paint, PHS Boys’ Hoops Nears State Playoff Spot

Bill Alden

He towers above the opposition at 6’8 but A.J. Dowers wasn’t taking advantage of his size last year for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

“I think I played scared in the past,” said Dowers. “I was just scared of getting hit, scared of getting injured. I think my teammates and God have given me the strength to go out on the court without fear.”

Dowers showed no fear last Friday as he scored 13 points to help PHS rally from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Robbinsville 52-43 and improve to 7-6 on the season.

The junior center punctuated the comeback as he produced his first career dunk late in the fourth quarter, prompting PHS head coach Jason Carter and assistant Shahid Abdul Karim to bump fists in celebration.

“Skye [Ettin] got me the ball and I went up and I thought ‘wow, I’m really high up there,” recalled Dowers. “I just threw it down. It was nice; I was going nuts.”

Robbinsville, which came into the game with a 4-11 record, was driving PHS nuts for most of the first half as they sizzled from the perimeter and built their lead to 16 at one point.

“I think we thought we were going to come out and just take it to Robbinsville,” said Dowers. “Obviously they came out to play.”

With Coach Carter lighting a fire in his troops at halftime, the Little Tigers played hard from the start in the third quarter as they reeled off a 10-2 run to get back into the game.

“In the second half we decided we were going to take it,” said Dowers. “We just needed to come out with some intensity on defense. I think as the game went on, we started to ride the crowd a little bit and they gave us a little bit of adrenaline.”

Coach Carter’s halftime message centered on getting his players to come out in the third quarter with a more aggressive mindset.

“We made a couple of coaching adjustments,” said Carter, whose club is one game over the .500 mark needed to clinch its first state playoff bid since 2001 with the cutoff set for February 2.

“We went to a zone; they were hurting us in the first half by penetrating and kicking out. We were also settling for jump shots in the first half. In the second half we were penetrating and getting to the basket. Some of the guys really stepped up big in the second half.”

Carter likes the way Dowers has been stepping up. “He’s gradually improved, that’s what I can say for a player who wants to be good or even great that he improves every game,” asserted Carter.

“It’s nice for a coach to have a 6’8 guy who wants to get better every time he steps on the court.”

The Little Tigers collectively impressed Carter with the resilience they displayed in their rally against Robbinsville.

“I think this team has great character,” said Carter, whose club hosts Ewing on February 1 before playing at Florence on February 4 and WW/P-S on February 5.

“We showed it today. In the second half, they played with some intensity and heart. Most of all, they played together. The biggest thing is that they never stopped believing. Playoff teams have to believe they can win every time they step on a court. I think we are starting to do that.”

Dowers, for his part, sees a growing self belief in the Little Tigers. “I think we have a lot more confidence in ourselves,” said Dowers.

“We have a little more confidence in our teammates and in each other in general.”

And with Dowers showing no fear on the court, he is becoming a source of confidence for his teammates.

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