Princeton Times

Sports

February 22, 2013

Tigers look to rebound, head for sectionals

PRINCETON — For the Princeton Tigers, there are no easy games this time of the season.

With the regular season winding down and postseason play about to begin, the Tigers took on a talented Huntington team last Friday in the MSAC third-place game.

Princeton defeated the Highlanders earlier in the season, but had no answer for them this time as Class AAA ninth-ranked Huntington won 84-55.

“Well, after I got a chance to think about it and look at some film on it, they just shot phenomenally well,” Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard said Wednesday after practice. “We were flat, yes. We don’t want to ever accept playing flat or coming out flat for a ballgame.

“The truth of the matter is they shot so well that every adjustment we made, they countered with a big shot. Our kids didn’t do that bad, but at the same time, we should take from that game that every game we came out and impose our will on our opponents.”

The game was close 21-19 after the first quarter, but the Highlanders used a 25-13 second quarter to take control and never looked back. They outscored Princeton 63-36 the final three quarters.

“I think we know that we’re a good enough team to play with anybody,” senior Hunter Walters said. “It’s just we have to come prepared to play every night. We didn’t come no where near prepared.

“We didn’t do our defensive assignments, we didn’t shoot well or push the ball or do anything we needed to do to win. I think that was a learning experience. We need to stay focused every game.”

Meadows and Walters were the only two Tigers to score in double figures. Meadows led with 14 points and Walters had 11.

Tavian Dunn-Martin scorched Princeton for 26 points and Shaquan Miller had 17. Arick Tubbs and Chancelor Wooding had 15 and 13 points respectively.

The Tigers schedule allowed for a week off as they close out the regular season tonight against county rival Bluefield.

Coming off a rough loss, many teams would want to get right back out there, but Gilliard and Princeton are using the time to get back to the basics and what they do well.

“That gives us a chance to go back to the basics and do some of the fundamental things that may have helped us in the Huntington game,” Gilliard commented. “It gives us a chance to look at the previous game film on Bluefield and try to build on those things we did well and try to improve on the areas we didn’t do so well.”

Senior guard Ryan Meadows agreed saying, “After a game like Huntington, it was good for us to have this week off. We got a chance to regroup and get back to the things that made us successful. Especially going into a game like Bluefield, I’m glad we had this week off to prepare.”

Princeton won the first meeting with Bluefield back on Dec. 28 at the Brushfork Armory, 68-61. Aaron Ferguson had 22 points while Meadows added 19. Zen Clements finished with 11.

This time around, the Tigers will get to host the Class AA top-ranked Beavers. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

“We need to be consistent and we’ve got to defend well,” Gilliard said. “We have to make sure their shooters don’t get any uncontested open looks. If that happens, they’ve got great shooters and great athletes.

“They can really hurt you. We got to make sure we come out and compete from the opening tip to the final buzzer. We’ve got to box out, we’ve got to get back in transition and we’ve got to cut off their penetration.

“They’re starting to penetrate well and they’re sharing the ball extremely well. They’re feeding the ball to the posts well and that’s a concern.”

Bluefield likes to play an up-tempo style built around their pressure defense. Princeton did a good job handling that the first go around expect in the third quarter when the Beavers outscored them 20-12.

“We just have to stay under control and not try to force anything,” Meadows said. “Not try go to the game, but just let the game come to us. [As the point guard], I have to stay patient, get my teammates involved and try to be a true floor general.”

As with the last several match-ups between these teams, the game should be close to a sell-out. Bluefield has only lost twice this season – both to AAA teams – while Princeton brings a 16-5 record in the tilt.

With bragging rights and more riding on the game, emotions will be high from all.

“It’s going to be a hyped-game,” Walters said. “It’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be fun. It’s the last rivalry game.

“I think as long as the fans and community get out, I think we’ll be able to stay composed and we’ll be ready to play. We’re going to enjoy it and hopefully, we can come out with a win.”

Gilliard added, “I think that is probably one of the biggest challenges we as coaches have right now. We have to make sure our kids don’t give over-hyped and that they just embrace it as another game with another tough opponent. We need to come out and perform those things we’ve done all year long that have made us successful. If we can do that, I like our chances.”

A win for Princeton would be great heading into postseason play. The Tigers open sectional play Wednesday against top-10 ranked Greenbrier East.

Princeton defeated the Spartans 63-52 less than two weeks ago.

“Friday is nothing compared to what we have Wednesday against Greenbrier East,” Meadows said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’d be great to beat Bluefield. We want to go upstate – that’s the ultimate goal and try to win a state championship.

“To do that, we have to win Wednesday then try to get a sectional championship so we can get the regional [co-final] at home.”

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