With Senior Rinaldi Providing Leadership, Intensity, PHS Boys’ Hoops Keeping Upbeat Despite 0-3 Start
PUSHING THROUGH: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Chris Rinaldi dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior guard Rinaldi scored eight points in a losing cause as PHS fell 48-33 to Hightstown. The Tigers, now 0-3, will be competing in the Montgomery High tournament on December 27 and 29 and then playing at Nottingham on January 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Chris Rinaldi got things off to a good start for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team as it hosted Hightstown last Thursday, draining a three-pointer a minute into the contest to put the Tigers up 3-0.
Senior guard and co-captain Rinaldi added another three pointer in the second quarter to help PHS jump out to a 16-11 halftime lead.
“I was feeling my shot from the start,” said Rinaldi, reflecting on his perimeter play. “I felt we were playing really good defense, we just had to score. That is what it was going to come down to in the end.”
In the second half, Hightstown got it going on the offensive end, outscoring the Tigers 22-8 in the fourth quarter to pull away to a 48-33 win.
In reflecting on the defeat, which dropped PHS to 0-3, Rinaldi acknowledged that cold shooting doomed the Tigers to defeat.
“We turned it over, we weren’t converting on offense and they went on a run,” said Rinaldi. “Holding Hightstown to 11 points in the first half was pretty good. Our defense is really good, but we have to find a way to put the ball in the basket.”
Rinaldi, who ended up tallying eight points in the game, tying Jihad Wilder for the PHS game-high, is aiming to put more balls in the basket this winter.
“I am scoring more, I didn’t shoot too much last year,” said Rinaldi. “This year my goal has been to shoot more. I didn’t shoot too much in the second half today, I started off pretty strong in the first quarter.”
As the team’s point guard, Rinaldi’s dribbling and passing have been a constant.
“I feel like my ball handling has gotten a little better,” said Rinaldi. “It was pretty good last year — it is still in the same realm.”
With PHS having dropped its first three games this season, Rinaldi is determined to keep things upbeat in his role as a team captain.
“I joined the varsity as a sophomore and I played a lot last year,” said Rinaldi. “I got some bonding with some of the kids who are still on the team now, most of the starters. We have some new people coming up from JV. I am just trying to keep everyone’s heads up and keep good vibes and all of that, trying to get some wins this season. It is a rough start.”
PHS head coach Pat Noone credits Rinaldi with holding things together for the Tigers.
“Chris has been awesome, he is a captain,” said Noone. “He was All-CVC honorable mention last year. He gets so many deflections and he has such a good motor. He is giving everything he has.”
Noone got a good effort on the defensive end from his squad against Hightstown.
“The defense was great. We got a lot of turnovers, we played hard, and we had a lot of movement,” said Noone. “They got a little confused — we did what we had to do. They have got two future college basketball players over there [Robert Eaves, Keenan Reiss] so that is a great job for us.”
PHS, though, didn’t do a great job on offense against the Rams.
“We didn’t score,” said Noone. “We looked good on defense and then missed shots led to some breaks for them and they got some easy put-backs on offense rebounds. We wanted to keep the lead but unfortunately we didn’t pull that off.”
Junior forward Wilder has looked good in the early going for the Tigers.
“Jihad has been great, he had 17 the other night against Ewing [a 58-49 loss on December 20],” said Noone. “We have played teams that have some size, Notre Dame has the 6’8 kid and tonight this dude Eaves is 6’5, so he is running up against some walls. He has done great, he has good touch around the basket.”
The trio of junior Dante DiGiulio, senior Ryan Guy, and junior Remmick Granozio has also done some nice things for PHS.
“Dante had a great game tonight; he had flu to start the season, so he missed the first week of practice,” said Noone. “He is getting his lungs back, he has been a great addition for us. Ryan has been a great senior leader for us. Remmick has been good too, he has a good stroke. We are just waiting for some shots to fall.”
In Noone’s view, the Tigers can break the ice if they can put together a good shooting night.
“I think it is scoring, it is making plays at the opportune time,” said Noone. “In the first half, we could have extended the lead to double digits. I think we were 0-9 on the foul line. It should have been 26, 27-11, we didn’t capitalize there. We did well in the second half, we turned them over. We have got to make buckets to counter their buckets.”
With taking part in the Montgomery High
tournament on December 27 and 29 before playing at Nottingham on January 3, Noone believes that competition will help steel his squad for the challenges ahead.
“They are really good Group 4 schools,” said Noone, whose team will be facing host Montgomery and North Hunterdon in that event. “To make the states, you have to play those teams.”
Rinaldi, for his part, is looking for PHS to keep playing hard.
“I think today could have had a win, but we let it slip away from us,” said Rinaldi. “We have to keep our heads up and look for next game.”