December 13, 2023

Breaking Into Starting Lineup for PU Women’s Hoops, Hill Provides Inside Presence as Tigers Top Quinnipiac

TOP OF THE HILL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Parker Hill looks to unload the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior forward Hill scored a career-high 14 points to help Princeton defeat Quinnipiac 79-70. The Tigers, who edged Villanova 61-58 last Monday to improve to 7-3, host Rutgers on December 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s basketball team, Parker Hill toiled in a reserve role, appearing in 39 games with no starts and just 210 minutes of action.

After riding the bench for the first seven games this winter, junior forward Hill broke into the starting lineup on December 3 against Rhode Island in a 60-58 loss. Last Wednesday night as Princeton hosted Quinnipiac, Hill got her second start and first at Jadwin Gym.

While excited to finally be a starter, Hill is not changing her approach to the game.

“It has been great, it is obviously a position everybody aspires to have,” said Hill, a 6’4 native of Bethesda, Md. “This was my first home start, which I think is also really fun. I had my parents in the stands to get to see me do that. But at the end of the day, it is the minutes you play and what you do what that time. The start isn’t everything. I would say nothing has changed too much in terms of how I play.”

Hill played well from the start against the Bobcats, scoring six points in the first 3:15 of the contest as the Tigers jumped out to a 10-4 lead.

“It is always nice to start off with some points and get the momentum started early,” said Hill. “It definitely comes from amazing assists like from Kaitlyn [Chen], who had 10. It definitely comes from having great teammates who know how to get you open and get you the ball.”

Continuing to get the ball in the paint, Hill ended up tallying a career-high 14 points as Princeton prevailed 79-70.

“I had a couple of misses today, so you can always strive to get a couple of more, but 7-of-9, I will take that,” said Hill. “It is a momentum I want to keep going.”

Coming into the Quinnipiac game, the Tigers were looking to regain momentum in the wake of the loss to Rhode Island.

“We definitely wanted to come out strong and turn a new page,” said Hill. “It is a new game, a new day and we are at home. We wanted to come out strong for sure and set the first impression. It was important to punch first and I think we did. We came out pretty strong at the start.”

With Princeton moving to 7-3 with a 61-58 win at Villanova last Monday night, Hill believes that playing strong foes will help the Tigers down the road.

“We have played some really tough teams, we want to prepare to be a strong team at the end of the season,” said Hill, who had two points with five rebounds, one assist, and one blocked against Villanova. “We are setting ourselves up for that now, playing a tough schedule with quick turnarounds, tough teams and quick scouts. Everyone wants to be undefeated, but we will take the losses now if it means we will be better.”

As she gets more playing time, Hill is looking to get better and better.

“I think the biggest areas of progress are just looking for myself on offense a little bit more,” said Hill who is now averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game with a team-high 13 blocked shots. “I am passing still, but looking for my openings when I have them and just being more confident with shots I take.”

Princeton head coach Carla Berube is confident that Hill can keep making an impact in the paint.

“Parker is just a really big presence inside, both defensively and offensively,” said Berube. “She is a great target; she has got great hands and finishes really well at the rim. She is just smart, she has a good basketball IQ and reads things really well. She has really emerged well for us.”

In Berube’s view, topping Quinnipiac was big for the Tigers in the wake of the loss to Rhode Island.

“We came out with some really good energy,  the offense was just rolling pretty well,” said Berube. “I thought when we got defensive stops, we got out on the break and got some easy scoring opportunities. Quinnipiac did a good job of keeping it close. They made some shots, boy did they make some shots. Grace LaBarge (20 points on 6-of-6 shooting) was on fire. We just need to do a better job when we are playing against somebody that has caught fire.”

Princeton’s reserves did a very good job against the Bobcats, scoring 36 points.

“We got a lot of people playing time, there are so many good players to go to on my bench,” said Berube, who got eight points off the bench from junior Paige Morton with freshman reserves Mari Bickley and Ashley Chea scoring seven points apiece and freshman Fadima Tall chipping in five points and senior Chet Nweke contributing four points.

“It is just trying to figure out the right rotation, it kind of depends on who we are playing too. It is great to have so many great options to go to and so many great skill players. The morale is great right now.”

Senior star point guard Kaitlyn Chen triggered the offense against Quinnipiac, passing for a career-high 10 assists.

“Kaitlyn was finding the open players, just dropping some dimes in there,” said Berube. “She did a good job of finding people in our out of bounds plays as well and transition. She saw the floor well today and we need that. We need her to be a facilitator and make those plays for her teammates.”

Benefiting from Chen’s playmaking, sophomore guard Madison St. Rose was on target, draining 7 of 10 shots for a team-high 17 points.

“When Maddie starts a game like that, we are in a good position because she can catch fire and things start to go well for us,” said Berube. “She shoots the ball well in practice and any time she is shooting in the gym. So it is nice when it can translate in games as well. She has been great, she has really taken her game to another level.”

Facing a gauntlet of tough foes has helped the Tigers sharpen their game.

“We are growing and building, we are getting better,” said Berube, whose team hosts Rutgers on December 13. “Our defense isn’t where it needs to be yet. It needs to be a lot better on Monday if we are going to guard Villanova and their system. It will be a test on Monday and then Rutgers on Wednesday. It is a big week ahead.”

In Hill’s view, Princeton’s 77-63 win over then-No. 20 Oklahoma on Thanksgiving shows that the Tigers can do some big things this winter.

“We pride ourselves on that game a bit to show that we are truly a contender,” said Hill. “We have been getting a little more respect over the last couple of years and it continues. We lost some big seniors from last year but we are still Princeton, we are still here.”