By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
At this point in the season it is all about finishing for the Princeton High boys basketball team.
The Little Tigers are just 2-5, but they have had a chance to win in four of those five losses. Princeton picked up a much-needed win on Monday when the Little Tigers held off a challenge by Princeton Day School for a 60-55 win.
“We have had horrible first quarters and horrible second quarters,” Princeton coach Mark Shelley said after the win over the Panthers. “We corrected the first quarter problem tonight. The second quarter was bad. But it feels good to finally get over the hump. The last few games we have played Ewing and then three Group 4 schools right in a row. And in all of those cases we got close in the second half and then couldn’t quite get over the hump.”
Princeton was able to get over the hump against PDS. After letting a lead slip away the Little Tigers regrouped and played well down the stretch to win. They did not come away with a similar result the next night, letting a nine-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter in a loss to Lawrence.
“We have had our problems this year with slow starts,” said senior Matt Hart, who led the Little Tigers with 18 points in the win over PDS. “In the third quarter, as always this year, we played really well and that sort of put us over the hump. Every third quarter we play well. It’s our best quarter every game. We always come back.”
Hart’s 18 points led a balanced offense as Zahrion Blue had 14 points and Michael Dowers added 13 in the win. Hart and Blue were expected to be big scorers for the Little Tigers, so getting 13 points from Dowers was a pleasant surprise.
“The last couple games we had two guys in double figures but we needed a third,” Shelley said. “Before tonight, Hart and Zahrion had 19 and 17 averages but the next guy after that was under five. You can’t win like that. So we have worked a lot in practice about taking advantage when teams do double team or use extra help on those guys. I thought it was huge to get Michael Dowers off to a good start tonight. And I felt like our guard play was the best it has been all year.”
Hart knows his main role is to score. But he also knows there are other players around him who have shown they are capable as well so the load does not fall entirely on his shoulders.
“I am just doing whatever it takes to help the team win,” Hart said. “(Blue) is taking a lot of the scoring off my shoulders and that is helping. Dowers had a good game and that took some of the pressure off. It was a pretty balanced game for us.
“There is not as much pressure and I can relax more.”
The win over PDS snapped a four-game losing streak for the Little Tigers. They came close to making it two straight wins before letting the game against Lawrence slip away.
“Our goal is to win some of these games coming up,” Hart said. “Hopefully we can get some wins and some momentum going.”
PDS, which received 21 points from John McArthur and 19 from Chase Lewis, led at halftime before Princeton came out and outscored the Panthers, 25-14, in the third quarter.
“We challenged them to play aggressively and to play smart,” said Shelly, whose team will play at Steinert tonight. “When we subbed some of our starters out we don’t necessarily score as much but we can’t make some of the mistakes we’ve made. We have to maintain the lead.”
PRINCETON: Little Tigers finish strong
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor