February 8, 2023

Inspired to Come Up Big for Luo on Senior Day, Devlin Stars as PHS Girls’ Hoops Tops Spotswood

RILED UP: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Riley Devlin looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Devlin scored 14 points to help PHS defeat Spotswood 54-26 and improve to 10-9. The Tigers host Medford Tech on February 8 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming off a tough 36-28 defeat to Trenton Central last Friday, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team was determined to get back on the winning track when it hosted Spotswood a day later.

“We lost yesterday, it was tight,” said PHS junior guard Riley Devlin. “We really knew that this game was important.”

The Tigers had additional motivation when they hit the court as the program was holding its annual Senior Day celebration with the star guard Rachel Luo as the sole honoree for the varsity.

“We were so excited, all we wanted to do was to make sure that it was memorable for Rachel,” added Devlin. “We knew we had to play really tough for Rachel.”

The Tigers played tough from the opening tip-off, jumping out to a 28-12 halftime lead.

“We worked really hard,” said Devlin. “I think we played as a team and we shared the ball.”

PHS kept playing hard in the second half, cruising to 54-26 win as it improved to 10-9.

“We didn’t want to stop there, we knew they could always come back,” said Devlin of the Chargers, who came into the contest with a 16-5 record.

Devlin came through with a big game against Spotswood, totaling 14 points, four rebounds, and one assist.

“I think I have just grown more confident from last year with the support from my teammates,” said Devlin, reflecting on her performance which featured several drives to the hoop. “They are passing it to me and if I am open, I will shoot it, and if they are open, I will pass it.”

That increased confidence stems from the work Devlin put in over the offseason.

“I have worked on rebounding, I have worked on passing and getting assists,” said Devlin. “My driving is just confidence-based. I think last year I was a bit timid.”

The influence of Luo has also helped Devlin become a better player.

“Rachel is just an awesome player,” said Devlin. “She can make shots, she can pass, she can take it to the hoop, she can do everything. Rachel and Gabby [Bannett] are great captains, they take me under their wing.”

Devlin’s prowess in lacrosse, which saw her tally 54 goals and 13 assists last spring for PHS, has translated to the basketball court.

“Playing midfield, running back and forth really helps me,” said Devlin. “It also helps with eye-hand coordination, catching and shooting and just doing that fast break and pushing it fast. It is what I like to do in lacrosse, and I like to reflect it on the court.”

PHS head coach Dave Kosa liked the way his team pushed hard.

“We played last night and it was a tough one,” said Kosa. “This is the second back-to-back. We lost a couple of weeks ago to Steinert and then we came back against Piscataway and played really, really well. This is the second back-to-back where you are thinking that your team is going to be tired, especially after an emotional loss, and we came out clicking. It is really good to see as the state tournament and county tournament get going.”

The Tigers came out with some extra emotion as they wanted to come up big for Luo, who ended up with 14 points in the win.

“It was something that we talked about in the beginning of the game,” said Kosa of Luo who is heading to West Point this fall. “She has put in a lot of hard work and commitment; she has played four years. It is great to have somebody in the program that has worked so hard, it is a testament to her dedication. She is an all-around person. She leads by example — it is great for the younger girls to follow her example.”

Devlin’s all-around game has been a big plus for the Tigers this winter.

“When we are hitting from the outside it really opens up the lane,” said Kosa. “Riley is fearless and she takes the ball fearless to the basket. Whether she is getting fouled or knocking down athletic layups, it really helps us as far as scoring the basketball because sometimes we do have trouble scoring. When she is scoring, everybody feeds off of that.”

Freshman Anna Winters, who also scored 14 points against the Chargers, has been bringing some fearless play to the Tigers.

“She is young, she is physical, she loves taking the ball to the basket and then when she gets her outside game going, it just makes us so much tougher,” said Kosa. “We have a trifecta of her, Riley, and Rachel and they are all around 10 points a game. There are some games where we are not hitting, but when we are all clicking like that you can see the result.”

With PHS heading into the Mercer County Tournament, Kosa is looking for his squad to keep clicking.

“You just have to be playing your best basketball, we are going be playing good teams and that its why we picked up this game,” said Kosa, whose team hosts Medford Tech on February 8 before starting action in the MCT. “We have Mount St. Mary’s (on February 7) and Medford Tech, they are two teams that have really good records. We want to continue to play good basketball against the good teams, and I think we are doing that.”

Devlin, for her part, believes that the Tigers will continue to progress.

“We had some games where we didn’t do very well, but I think that we are going to bounce back,” said Devlin. “We are getting better. We are a young team, we are mostly freshmen. We have great leaders.”