January 12, 2022

Sparked by Senior Star Petrone’s Hot Shooting, PHS Boys’ Hoops Rallies to Edge WW/P-North

SHOOTING STAR: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Jaxon Petrone puts up a shot against WW/P-North last week. Senior guard Petrine scored a team-high 17 points in the January 4 game as PHS pulled out a 48-45 win. Last Friday, Petrone scored 20 points in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 67-61 to Nottingham to move to 1-2. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Hopewell Valley on January 14 and then plays at North Brunswick on January 15 and at Robbinsville on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jaxon Petrone and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ basketball team were pumped to be hitting the court at WW/P-North last week to finally play their second game of the season after a two-week layoff.

PHS had its season opener at Hightstown on December 17 postponed, fell 54-33 to Hamilton on December 21, and then had another game postponed and a holiday tournament canceled.

“We were very excited to get out here, it stunk being at home,” said senior guard Petrone. “There were some nerves out there.”

Trailing 26-22 at intermission, PHS discussed blocking out the nerves and staying in the moment.

“We had a good talk out in the hallway at halftime,’ said Petrone. “It was, ‘we have just got to play, keep your head, no turnovers, get the ball, put it up and get it in the hoop.’”

Responding to that talk, the Tigers outscored WW/P-North 18-9 in the third quarter.

“We came out and hit a couple of shots and got hot,” recalled Petrone. “We settled in during the third quarter.”

Things got dicey down the stretch for PHS as it built a 44-35 lead only to see the Northern Knights respond with a 10-0 run.

“It was tough, they came back,” said Petrone. “It was getting scary, we fought them off.”

With less than a minute remaining in the game, Petrone came up with a pivotal play, whipping the ball to Ryan Cruser in the corner, who proceeded to drain a three-pointer to give PHS a 47-45 lead.

“He was open,” said Petrone. “Before the play, he was like ‘just throw it up and I will catch it.’”

While Petrone’s shooting was a key in the win as he scored a team-high 17 points, he is looking to bring more to the table for the Tigers.

“I think I shot really well, I wish I made a couple of more free throws,” said Petrone. “I just want to keep the guys playing hard and get everybody excited to play the next practice, the next game and keep it rolling with wins, wins, wins.”

Having starred at quarterback and defensive back for the PHS football team this fall and as a pitcher/first baseman for the Tiger baseball squad, Petrone enjoys competing year-round.

“Playing three sports teaches you to do it,” said Petrone.

“You meet new guys every sport, every sport is a little different. I just look forward to each season.”

PHS head coach Pat Noone is looking forward to seeing what Petrone can do this winter.

“He is doing everything, he is our guy right now,” said Noone of Petrone, who scored 20 points in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 67-61 to Nottingham last Friday to move to 1-2.

“He is the guy we go to down the stretch. He is playing really well. Defensively he brings energy, he is a good athlete.”

Noone liked the energy his team displayed as it returned to the court.

“It was finally not playing against ourselves, it was good,” said Noone.

“They haven’t played in two weeks and we didn’t play that much last year. It is almost like having the first game of the season all over again.”

At halftime, Noone emphasized sharpening things up on the defensive end.

“We just really had to stick into the scouting report and switching man to man,” said Noone. “I thought we could switch and get a little bit of pressure on them and get those turnovers that we got in the second half. We were a little sluggish in the first half on those switches, we were a little late. In the second half, I thought we did a lot better job of that. We got turnovers which freed us up for shots.”

Although WW/P-North hit some big shots in the fourth quarter to put PHS under pressure, Noone was confident that his squad could weather the storm.

“I was never really concerned,” said Noone. “I just wanted to keep moving on and make sure we are making the right execution. I thought they executed down the stretch which was great.”

The Tigers got some good execution from John Reardon, Connor McDowell, and Cruser.

“John played really good in the second half, he is a guy that missed his development last year so now he is finally getting his feet wet,” said Noone of Reardon, who scored 11 points with Cruser and McDowell chipping in four apiece.

“He played really well in the second half. Cruser had some injuries early but he has a lot of potential. He is flashy. Connor came in and played great. In that big run, he made some shots.”

In Noone’s view, the balance displayed by PHS against WW/P-N was a major positive. 

“It was a good team win, it was a good comeback,” said Noone, whose team hosts Hopewell Valley on January 14 and then plays at North Brunswick on January 15 and at Robbinsville on January 18.

“Everybody really played well. We were really happy with everybody’s performance. It seemed like everybody chipped in and stepped up.”

Petrone is confident that PHS will keep stepping up. “It is get back into practice, listen to what coach Noone is telling us,” said Petrone.

“It is hitting more shots, looking at the cutters a little more, making good passes and just sharpening it up.”