PRINCETON — The Mercer Christian Academy boys varsity wanted to face some extra-tough competition as it heads down the stretch of its regular season, so MCA scheduled a game with Princeton — which massively outsized them.
The Cavaliers did not succeed in toppling the Class AAAA Tigers. But the little guys had a pretty big time along the way.
A defensive surge in the fourth quarter finally shook off scrappy Cavs and Princeton went on to wrap up a 73-57 victory at MCA, on Tuesday night.
“That was not as convincingly as I would have liked ... but we won,” said Tigers head coach Robb Williams. “They shoot the ball really well land they really hustled. I was very impressed with their hustle. They’re going to give some teams trouble in their playoffs.”
Princeton hit nine 3-pointers on the night, five of which were drained by Ethan Parsons, who led the Tigers with 23 points. Delathan Wilburn had 17 points, all in the second half. Chase Hancock and Grant Cochran added 10 points apiece.
Princeton hit five 3-pointers en route to an early 17-5 lead. But the Cavaliers refused to fold. MCA managed to close it to within three points in the fourth quarter before a final surge of pressure got the Tigers out of harm’s reach.
The towering Tigers dominated the boards, with Grant Cochran, Parsons and Garret Goins racking up 10-plus rebounds each.
“Sometimes, a smaller school ... a bigger school can look past them. I was worried about that tonight and it was a close game into the fourth quarter,” said Williams. “We put some pressure on them at the end to try to close it out. They were very scrappy. They shot the ball well. They moved very well. Our size, I think, was a major difference at the end of the game.”
MCA head coach Jeff Boothe would have obviously preferred a victory, but in the end his team got what it needed out of the matchup.
“I’m really pleased with my team’s effort. They didn’t back down and it’s all good. Hat’s off to Princeton,” said Boothe.
“No disrespect to them, but I thought it was a good matchup for us. We’ve played a pretty tough schedule — and we’re always outside. Our tallest player is 5-foot-10,” Boothe said.
Mercer Christian hit 11 trifectas as a team, led by Sam Boothe, who hit five en route to pacing the Cavaliers with 25 points. Sam Boothe also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists. Sophomores Briar Lucas and Cruz Testerman added 11 points apiece.
“We’re guard-oriented. We have some speed and we have several shooters. So I was confident we could play them tough,” said Boothe, whose team shot 44 percent from 3-point range.
“We shot real well ... we knew we would have to, against that size. We moved the ball really good and had some nice looks and knocked them down.”
Booth knew his team would have to minimize turnovers in order to be able to hang with the Tigers. The Princeton press finally wore on Mercer Christian in the final period. But 10 turnovers for the entire game wasn’t a bad outcome.
“I was proud of our guys. I thought we played a good game against a really, really good team,” said Boothe Mercer Christian (8-6) has been competitive in most of its public school match-ups in spite of only having one starter returning from last season and six sophomores out of 10 players. They lost to Mount View by four points, split with River View and have a win over Montcalm. Among the private school opponents, they’ve beaten Teays Valley Christian and split with Beth Haven Christian.
Princeton plays Westside in the NRCC tournament tomorrow in Beckley.
Contact George Thwaites at firstname.lastname@example.org