Princeton Times

Sports

February 15, 2013

Tigers tame tough team

PRINCETON — Getting a win over a sectional opponent is always nice. Getting a win over a quality team is even better.

The Princeton Tigers accomplished both with a 63-52 victory over Class AAA No. 4-ranked Greenbrier East Tuesday night in Fairlea.

“We needed what you’d call a quality win over a good team,” Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard said. “They are a well-coached and very talented team. That win served two purposes for us.

“It was excellent for the development of our character. And, it was a good win for our confidence level as we get ready for sectional play. With a win of that magnitude, I hope it lets our boys know that they’re capable of winning big games.”

The Spartans (17-2) were limited to single digits in the third and no more than 16 points in any quarter by the Tigers (13-4).

Princeton used a mix of defenses to frustrate Greenbrier East all night long.

“It wasn’t anything I saw on tape, but it was from when I went over and watched them and Bluefield,” Gilliard said. “Bluefield had an excellent game plan. We took from that what we felt was a good combination of some zone plays that would help us locate their shooters.

“They have great shooters and guys who can put the ball on floor. We had to make sure we were fundamentally sound. It looked like a man-to-man defense, but we used the zone to limit their play making ability.”

Gilliard added, “We took a page from Bluefield who used a 1-3-1 half-court trap. We felt like that was an excellent scheme and would allow us someone in the vicinity of their three playmakers – Rondale Watson, Brice Woodliff, Derek Weiford. All three are excellent players and we need to know where they were on the floor at all times.”

Ryan Meadows paced Princeton with 24 points including going a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. Hunter Walters added 17 points and Derek Jennelle finished with 12 points.

“That was huge for us,” Gilliard said. “We told Hunter at halftime to start being more offensive minded. In the first half, he wasn’t very offensive minded. In the second half, we told him to look to score more.

“He’s very capable and that just shows you the type of player he is. He’s very unselfish and is very team oriented.”

Gilliard said Meadows was his steady self as always. He added, “He always comes up big in ball games like this. We’re thrilled he’s with us. He cherishes the momentum of big ball games. He’s lives for that type of atmosphere. That’s crucial in high school basketball especially local high school basketball.”

Besides being a win over a quality team, the Tigers were able to go into a hostile environment and earn a victory in front of packed house.

“That makes our kids battled tested playing in front of a big, raucous crowd,” Gilliard said. “Greenbrier East has a tremendous student body section who does a fantastic job of making it difficult for the visiting team to play especially on a concentration level. Going in there and getting a win was huge for us on concentration. We were able to block out all the other things in the gym and focus on the assignments we planed for.”

With Princeton’s win over Greenbrier East, the top of their section is very crowd with the top three teams all having a loss to one another.

The Tigers have defeated the Spartans who took down Woodrow Wilson. The Flying Eagles were the last team to beat Princeton. In total, the three teams have just 10 combined losses.

“It puts everybody on their toes so to peak,” Gilliard said. “Woodrow beat us and they’re playing excellent right now. Greenbrier East beat Woodrow. We were fortune to get win over East.

“It promotes an exciting sectional tournament coming up. All three teams all have a legitimate hope and chance.”

The Tigers have won five straight games and six of their last seven games going into their final two regular season match-ups. Gilliard said he doesn’t think his team is peaking at the right time, but finding their rhythm at the right time.

“We have a long way to go including two more key games,” he said. “Friday, we play a very good Huntington who played us extremely tough here. The following Friday we play cross-county rival Bluefield. They’re a tremendous basketball team and they have a lot of talent. They’re extremely quick and right now are distributing the ball well.

“We can’t look too far ahead. We have to live for the moment and play one game time. I think we’re starting to get a better rhythm and I would not use the word peak. That should come on championship night or week.”

Princeton hosts Huntington Friday in the MSAC Night of Champions third place game. The Tigers defeated Huntington 67-60 earlier this season in a tightly-contest game. Gilliard knows they need to play better to get another win.

“Most definitely, we need to be more consistent,” he said. “Number two, we need to play as good defensively as we played in second half the first time around. We had to make change at half and we came out playing man-to-man. That’s what sealed the win for us.

“It was only a seven-point game which means it was only a two-possession win. The game was extremely close. We need to match our intensity from the second half of the first time we played them.”

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