As the final buzzer went off in overtime of the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional boys’ basketball tournament, that sound marked the end of Princeton High School’s 2019-20 season.
Manalapan High School defeated Princeton, 60-54, with an overtime victory in the opening round of the state sectional tournament on March 3 in Manalapan.
The game turned into a thriller when Manalapan had to hold off Princeton’s rally from in the third quarter.
The Little Tigers up-tempo style on defense and offense resulted in their first lead of the game and had erased an eight-point deficit in the third quarter.
But Manalapan seized momentum with just under 1:12 left in overtime to advance in the state tournament–and end Princeton’s season.
“We did a great job in pushing this team. Our guys are a resilient bunch. They team did everything we asked and unfortunately it was not enough,” Princeton coach Pat Noone said. “You want them to get the joy from winning a state game, so it is disappointing for that part, not because of the loss. Our guys deserved it and earned it with how hard they played.”
He state that Princeton defensively executed really well and had a good game plan.
“Unfortunately, Manalapan hit some deep threes,” Noone said.
Princeton with the loss ended its season at 13-12.
But the program will continue to grow and remain positive, according to the coach.
“The offseason will be key. The big thing is that we carry on. This is my fourth year and my first senior class I have had,” Noone said. “We came in together and have been able to build the expectations here and how we want to play. As long as that carries over, we will be in good shape.”
Senior leadership Princeton played an important role during the season, according to Noone.
“All of the seniors enjoyed this season. I have had them since they were freshmen and they will be a tough bunch to miss,” Noone said.
The team consisted of nine seniors during the 2019-20 season.
“Nothing will be changing philosophy wise for this team. We will be known for playing defense and giving people fits,” Noone said. “I am so proud of these guys being down how they were in this game and battling. A key for the returners next season will be to make shots.”
He pointed out that he wants returning players to learn from the bitter taste of the loss to Manalapan and be hungry for next year.
Princeton’s offense against Manalapan was led by senior forward Gefen Bar-Cohen, who paced the Little Tigers with 20 points, while senior guard Jack Suozzi collected 14 points and junior forward Ethan Guy produced 13 points.
During the season, Bar-Cohen has steered the offense by averaging 15.6 points per game and five rebounds.
He was joined by Guy, who averaged 13.1 points and 5.0 rebounds, while junior guard Tim Evidente contributed 9.9 points a game and three assists and Suozzi averaged 8.5 points.
“I love this team and would do anything for them. We want to win and it does not always happen. We fought hard but did not get the win unfortunately,” Bar-Cohen said. “It was a long season we have down and we have been up. We just knew the important thing was to put your head down and fight.”
He explained that he wanted to make certain he performed for the guys with this being his final season with the Little Tigers.
“I love these guys. Our team is tight and with one goal in mind, which is to win,” Bar-Cohen said. “We love to play fast and be all over pace and I know the guys returning will continue that effort.”