January 25, 2023

Sparked by Fearless Play from Freshman Star Winters, PHS Girls’ Hoops Tops HoVal, Kosa Gets 300th Win

CRUNCH TIME: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Anna Winters, center, battles two Princeton Day School players for the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, freshman star Winters scored 19 points to help PHS defeat Hopewell Valley 60-38 as Tiger head coach Dave Kosa earned his 300th career victory. PHS, who fell 37-26 to Robbinsville last Friday to move to 7-7, hosts WW/P-South on January 27 and Allentown on January 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Anna Winters and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ basketball team had some extra inspiration to come through with a win as they hosted Hopewell Valley last week.

“We were really aggressive today,” said PHS freshman forward Winters. “I think we all had the mentality that we wanted coach (Dave Kosa) to get his 300th win.”

Displaying that aggressive mindset, the Tigers jumped out to a 31-21 halftime lead over the Bulldogs in the January 17 contest.

“We worked as a team and we played really good today,” said Winters. “We knew they were going to be tall and we don’t have a lot of height on our team. It was fun to play them.”

The Tigers had a lot of fun in the second half, pulling away to a 60-38 triumph, giving Kosa his 300th win and triggering a touching postgame celebration with cake, balloons, and posing for team pictures with their beaming coach.

“Coach is one of my favorite coaches that I have had,” said Winters. “I know it meant a lot to him to get the 300th win.”

The win meant a lot to the players as they are trying to improve their postseason seeding.

“We all felt like we have got to win this; we have got to get the power points,” said Winters.

In the win over HoVal, Winters was a powerful force, scoring 19 points, repeatedly driving to the hoop.

“I was feeling good today, I took it to the rim a lot,” said Winters, who also had six rebounds and three assists against the Bulldogs. “This was definitely one of my good games. I didn’t take as many outside shots, a lot of my points were from layups.”

That relentless play has been a staple of Winters’s game for years.

“From when I started playing basketball, I was always aggressive,” said Winters, who also plays for the PGHoops AAU club team. “I had the mentality that I needed to win.”

With half of a varsity season under her belt, Winter has been fine-tuning her

“I have definitely learned how to see the court more,” said Winters. “I have learned how to use my teammates and get good shots.”

For Kosa, hitting the 300-win milestone was a very good moment.

“It means a lot, it means a lot for all of the players I have coached,” said Kosa, a graduate of South River High, who has guided both the boys’ and girls’ hoops teams at PHS along with the girls’ basketball programs at Monroe, Piscataway, and Haddonfield. “We go back a long way, it spans a couple of decades. I started in 1995 or so.”

Kosa was proud of how his current players stepped up in topping HoVal.

“They played awesome,” said Kosa. “I thought we played really played really well together. We took care of the ball.”

Freshman standout Winters has been playing very well in her debut campaign for the Tigers.

“Anna is stepping up big-time, she is so tough,” said Kosa. “She keeps on getting knocked down and popping back up. She has a fearlessness as far as taking the ball inside. She has great body control. She gives us another added option to Rachel [Luo] and Riley [Devlin] there.”

Devlin also stepped up in the victory, contributing 19 points, six rebounds, and two assists.

“It is nice to have the ball in her hands because she makes some great decisions,” said Kosa. “She takes the ball to the basket. Her game is strong overall. She can knock down the outside shots, she has great body control, and her instincts are uncanny as far as taking the ball in and getting fouled.”

Junior Gabby Bannett has had a great impact on the squad.

“It is great from a leadership standpoint, she is like a glue girl for us,” said Kosa, who got 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals from Bannett against HoVal. “She plays the two (shooting guard), the three (small forward) and the four (power forward) for us. She knows a lot of the positions, she is solid.”

With PHS having gone a solid 6-3 in its last nine games, Kosa attributes that surge to a defensive adjustment.

“We made a little change, we are playing more man [man-to-man defense],” said Kosa, whose team fell 37-26 to Robbinsville last Friday to move to 7-7 and hosts WW/P-South on January 27 and Allentown on January 31.

“I think that has really picked us up. It gets us moving, it gets us going. The last couple of games we have scored more than 40 each time, we had 60 tonight and 52 on Saturday (a 52-44 win over Piscataway on January 14). Sitting back in a zone was not aggressive.”

Winters, for her part, credits Bannett and Luo with playing a key role in picking up the squad as it has bounced back from a 1-4 start.

“Gabby and Rachel are such good captains, they help the team out and they are always positive,” said Winters. “They are really helpful to the team and they are good leaders. I think we are going in a good direction.”