January 18, 2023

Hall Shows His Resilience with Strong 2nd Half As PDS Boys’ Hoops Rallies to Win Over HoVal

HALL PASS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jaden Hall, right, looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard Hall tallied 13 points to help PDS defeat Hopewell Valley 50-42. The Panthers, now 5-5, play at Hightstown on January 18, host Hunterdon Central on January 20, play at Princeton High on January 21, and then host Franklin High on January 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jaden Hall got off to a slow start for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team as it hosted Hopewell Valley High last Saturday afternoon.

Senior guard Hall tallied just two points as PDS found itself trailing the Bulldogs 22-16 at halftime.

“We wanted to focus on playing together; it was keep our heads up, play through adversity, and stick together,” said Hall, recalling the halftime message. “We are known to not have good third quarters — our coach (Eugene Burroughs) emphasized coming out strong. We just wanted to focus on our energy; we wanted to have a good third quarter.”

With Hall scoring five points in the third quarter, PDS seized momentum, outscoring HoVal 20-12. The Bulldogs fought back in the fourth quarter, knotting the contest at 40-40, but PDS ended the game on a 10-2 run to prevail 50-42 as Hall hit some key free throws down the stretch.

Hall, who ended the game with 13 points, spread the credit around for his second half surge.

“My teammates were helping me out with shots, I wasn’t getting that many shots in the first or second quarter,” said Hall. “In the third quarter, my teammates found me. Credit to Jaden Dublin, he started getting me some good shots.”

In the waning moments of the contest, Hall helped PDS close the deal with some clutch free throw shooting as it moved to 5-5.

“I wasn’t making as many jump shots, so I just wanted to equal it out at the foul line,” said Hall. “I just want to do anything to help the team win. I know for all of the other seniors, that is their goal too. Definitely having an all-around game helps a lot.”

Over the last year, Hall has developed some deep bonds with fellow senior backcourt star Dublin.

“We were in the gym all fall and all summer, so it is building that connection,” said Hall.

“He came here as a junior last year — I just wanted to get to know him as a player and a person. We talk a lot when it comes to basketball and outside of basketball; the connection obviously shows on the court.”

Coming into the clash with HoVal, PDS was looking to show its strength.

“We just wanted to make a statement,” said Hall. “People don’t really look at us as a good team, they look at us like we are weak. We want to make ourselves known.”

In the wake of the victory over the Bulldogs, Hall believes that the Panthers can go on a good run.

“I think we are in a good spot, the defense is going to anchor our ability to win games,” said Hall, who will be playing at the next level as he has committed to attend Kings College and play for its Division III men’s hoops program. “We are good on the offensive side of the ball; defense is where it really counts and we have to work on that more.”

While PDS head coach Eugene Burroughs acknowledged that his squad struggled in the early going against HoVal, he was confident it would right the ship.

“I think defensively we did a great job, just holding them to 22 points,” said Burroughs. “We rebounded the basketball. I felt we were making them take tough shots. I think offensively for us, we got great shots, but we just didn’t make them.”

In the third quarter, PDS finally got shots to fall. “We made some shots and we stayed with what we were doing,” said Burroughs. “We told the kids to be confident and have a positive attitude. I know we can score the basketball. We just had to share it and move it and I think we got back to that.”

Keeping up the intensity on the defensive end paved the way for the comeback.

“Everything stemmed from our defense, our defense led us,” said Burroughs. “We were scrappy, which allowed us to get some easy buckets in transition which we needed because we struggled a little bit in the half court. It was defend, rebound, push, and score.”

Hitting free throws was another key to the win for the Panthers.

“They have done a great job of making free throws; we have been focusing on free throws because in games like this, it makes a difference,” said Burroughs. “If we miss those free throws, it is a totally different game. The fact that we were able to get the stops down at the other end was a testament to them buying in and digging down and finding a way to win today.”

Burroughs credited Hall with digging deep after his lackluster first half.

“Jaden was just resilient. When you are a scorer, a guy who shoots the ball, you are going to have nights where it just doesn’t go in,” said Burroughs. “Now it is ‘what can you do to help your team win?’ He had a great assist, he made some free throws, he got some rebounds. Those are things a senior does, I think it is great that he just hung in there and fought in that game. We need those 12 points he got in the second half. He is a guy who is going to score for us. He was smart with the ball, he took it out, ran some clock, and got fouled.”

Dublin had some great moments as he scored a game-high 19 points and made some key rebounds and steals.

“He is so athletic, there is a loose ball in the air at half court and he is an explosive athlete and he goes and gets it,” said Burroughs. “He gives us rebounding. He is still finding his way a little bit too — I am excited to see him go forward. I think the game is going to come easier for him. He is trying to find ways to navigate. He is an unselfish player, he brings a lot to our team. He is a catalyst for us. He plays well off of Jaden. He had some great drives to the rim today, he can really go. I think he played a great game and he is getting better too.”

Freshman guard Jordan Owens, who tallied seven points against HoVal, has been getting better.

“Jordan made some shots, he can make free throws,” said Burroughs. “He is progressing. He is maturing and he is learning. He is a young player so game experience is the best way to learn. He is getting in there and learning from his mistakes. We are trying to coach him through it. He has gotten better and he has more room to grow. He is still scratching the surface but he is a great
complement to the team. He can shoot the basketball, he is probably shooting over 50 percent from three.”

In the view of Burroughs, a 54-50 loss to the Solebury School (Pa.) on January 9 proved to be a wake-up call for PDS.

“The Solebury game was the game that we all felt; we were ahead and we took our foot off the gas and got a little too complacent in that game,” said Burroughs. “It is one that we gave away and it recalibrated us to come back. We can’t play two quarters, we have to make it to four. This is a game where we played with a consistent energy effort-wise the whole game. Offensively we made buckets at the right time and we made stops at the right time.”

If the Panthers keep bringing that energy, they can compete with anyone.

“We have had our ups and downs like every team and we are trying to hit our stride again,” said Burroughs. “I think we are hitting that stride of playing the right way and just buying in and believing that hey we can play with these teams. I think we have shown that.”

Hall, for his part, is determined to savor his last few weeks with the Panthers.

“It is just to have fun, that is what it comes down to,” said Hall. “Having fun with our teammates that we are not going to see for a long time after this year. We want to build a connection we are going to have for a lifetime.”