PRINCETON — The Princeton Tigers could have folded several times against the Bluefield Beavers last Saturday night. They didn’t.
Playing on its home court for the championship of the annual Princeton Christmas Tournament, Princeton kept its composure for the most part and held off its rival for a slim 65-63 victory in a tightly-officiated contest.
“Our plan all along was to slow them down a little bit,” said Princeton head coach Robb Williams. “We slowed the pace down to maintain a game speed that’s fairly normal for most teams.”
“We really did preach all week, if we play Bluefield, we know what they’re about. We know they’re going to be in your face, they’re going to push you, they’re going to be physical.
“And we’ve got to be able to maintain (our composure). And the guys stepped up. They did a great job tonight.”
Ethan Parsons rang up 29 points and cleared seven rebounds for Princeton (4-1).
The 6-foot-4 junior fell to the court with a minute left in the third quarter with an apparent lower leg injury. He limped to the bench — but he returned for the final eight minutes, scoring nine points to help the Tigers overcome a 50-44 deficit.
Williams said, “He came to me and said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to get back in.’”
Bluefield (2-1), which took its first loss of the season, sprang out to an 11-0 advantage in the first 4:05 of the game. Parsons then scored all of Princeton’s points in a 7-2 run that gave the home fans some hope.
Sean Martin, the massive Beavers’ center, was called for his third foul early in the second period and was in and out of the lineup thereafter, further changing Bluefield’s approach.
Parsons hit a 3-pointer with two minutes to go before halftime to create a 27-27 tie, the first of eight ties in the game. A putback by Delathon Wilborn knotted the score at 31-31 at intermission.
Kaulin Parris scored eight consecutive points in the third quarter to give Bluefield a 47-40 margin, and Braeden Crews nailed a pair of treys for a six-point advantage at the end of the period.
Parsons hit his final 3-pointer with 3:21 remaining to forge the last tie, 61-61, and sank a bucket in transition for a two-point lead. A free throw by Peyton Brown pushed the score to 64-61 with 40.4 seconds left, but Crews tossed a layup through at the other end to trim the edge to a single point.
With the clock showing 2.5 seconds, Bluefield committed its 10th foul of the half, putting Peyton Brown at the line for two free throws. He missed one and made the second for the final score of the game. Brown finished with 17 points.
Crews’ 3-point try at the buzzer missed and the Princetonians began to celebrate.
“Obviously, Bluefield’s a powerhouse team,” Williams said. “A win against a team that’s talent-laden like they are, that’s huge for us. … This is a huge win for the program.”
“We out-rebounded them tonight 33-20, from our statistician … . We fought really hard on the boards, and I’m really pleased with that.”
“To see the boys as excited as they were, heck, I couldn’t be more happy for them — and for the coaches.”
Parris had 22 points and Crews popped in 20 for the Beavers. The two combined for seven of Bluefield’s eight 3-pointers.
Bluefield had 22 fouls and Princeton was called for 20.
In the first game of the evening, Mount View took its first win of the season, topping PikeView 62-49.
Aaron Jackson scored 18 points for Mount View’s Golden Knights (1-4) and Justin Haggerty made three treys on his way to 13 points. Brendon Rotenberry scored 10 points.
PikeView (1-3) was paced by Alex Young with 16 points. Three Panthers had nine points each.
The Panthers led 18-9 after the first quarter, but were outscored 12-3 in the next eight minutes, and the Knights continued their scoring dominance in the second half.
Jackson said the first win “feels good, it feels like we’ve got the chip off our shoulder. Now we just need to go out and play basketball the rest of the year.”
Mount View head coach Gary Brown said that Jackson “did a good job” on Saturday.
“He gave us an inside presence.”
He said about the team’s approach to the rest of the season, “We’re just wanting to grow, each and every game … and be ready for February and March.”
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