Gallery by Karen Akers
Shady Spring – The Tiger Den isn’t even favorable to its own kind.
The visiting Tigers of Princeton found that out the hard way Wednesday evening, trudging through the first half of a 61-49 loss to the Tigers of Shady Spring.
For Princeton it came down to execution and there was little of it through the first 16 minutes. The visiting Tigers followed up a 3 for 13 first-quarter shooting performance with a 4 for 14 showing in the second stanza. The poor shooting marks ultimately proved too much to overcome.
“That was definitely the difference,” Princeton head coach Robb Williams said. “Oddly we had some good looks. It wasn’t that we were forcing too many shots. We actually had some open looks but missed a couple easy, easy layups, and it was unfortunate for us. It didn’t help we had one offensive rebound in the first quarter. If you’re going to miss some shots, you gotta get some rebounds. And, you know, we just didn’t do that tonight. That’s how we beat South Charleston and Oak Hill and (Greenbrier) East – we shot better obviously but we got some rebounds.
“We fought hard and I think they won like 50 straight here so obviously you know you come in here and it’s going to be a dog fight. But we hung in tough. We were in the game and they’d pull away and make a big run then we’d make a run to come back and cut it to single digits a few times and then we’d just either get a tough call or make a silly mistake. So that happens, especially against a good team like that.”
Playing its third game in as many days, Shady didn’t share the struggles of Princeton which had been off for a week.
The hosts nailed 7 of 13 shots in the opening quarter with Brody Radford leading the way. Radford scored eight of his 11 points in the opening quarter, keying a spurt that saw Shady take a 20-6 lead after a quarter.
“We started with the defensive side and we did a lot better job,” Shady head coach Ronnie Olson said. “That defense was great – we held them to single-digit scoring quarters, and you’re going to win 95 percent of your ball games if you can play defense like that. I don’t know if it’s good enough to win state championships. But it’s good enough to take you deep and the defense stood up tonight. We looked lost in places tonight. I don’t know if we were tired because we were ball watching on offense and we didn’t do that last night. We definitely didn’t do that (Monday) in Fairmont. We’re ball watching. I don’t like excuses. These guys are young, you know, but in the second half, we kind of seemed like we wore down defensively. But the defense was so good. We will be able to lead and the offense played well in the first quarter.”
The 13-1 rebound advantage for Shady through the first quarter didn’t aid Princeton’s cause either, but after the horn blared to signal the second stanza Shady’s efficiency regressed back to the mean, and truthfully past it in the wrong way.
The hosts shot just 3 of 15 (20 percent) from the field in the second quarter, adding four turnovers. While Princeton fared little better, two of its four field goals in the quarter came from downtown and the five free throws it netted in the frame helped chip into the deficit, making it a 29-21 game at halftime after a Zayden Neely layup.
Unfortunately for Princeton the missed opportunities in the second quarter proved costly.
Shady found its groove out of the break, nailing 71 percent of its shots in the third quarter, including 8 of the 9 it took inside the arc. Ammar Maxwell proved particularly difficult for Princeton to handle, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the frame.
“He really was able to penetrate and he got a lot of boards and he killed us on the boards,” Williams said. “It seemed like any time there was a big board he got it. He had a couple of 3s, which he doesn’t shoot usually in the games I’ve seen. But he usually penetrates and we tried to cut him off and we doubled down on him. But he can finish with both hands for one which is really good because he’ll be in the air and moves with the ball. And he tends to hang in the air longer than most kids. I don’t want to compare him to this but it’s kind of like a (Michael) Jordan. He stays up longer but he’s a heck of a player and he’s a problem for anybody.”
After Princeton cut the deficit to eight points after a Britt Beasley 3 and Gavin Stover free throw, the hosts started pulling away. A pair of Maxwell layups complemented a 3 from the senior, highlighting a 9-0 Shady run that made it 42-25 in favor of Shady.
Beasley snapped the skid with a pair of 3s and a jumper but Maxwell continued to cook, nailing another trey to keep the advantage at 14. It sat at 16 heading into the final quarter but the wear of three competitive games started to show.
The host Tigers made just three shots over the final eight minutes, opening the door for Princeton. But the visitors never could bust it down, getting no closer than 10 points.
Escaping with the win, Shady will have a day off tomorrow before facing Greenbrier East on Friday, capping a stretch of four games in five days. Olson hopes to use the practice to correct some concerns after the closing performance in Wednesday’s game left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Optimistically it’s good. But our practice is really hard too and we practice six days a week,” Olson said. “We still bring it. We traveled Monday, yeah but the guys didn’t drive. They did sleep. They said they weren’t tired, but they were a little sore. And that’s been mental. That’s been mentally tough for them, because they don’t want to admit that they might be tired. So I don’t want everybody telling them that. We’ve got to be able to play through that because in the state tournament your legs are going to be sore. What if you’ve got to play every single possession? We’re not going to blow people out like we have in the past? I hope we do. But I don’t know. And that’s if we make the state tournament. If you look at the top teams in the state, you can look at our region and there’s no other region in the state that has many Top 10 teams as our region does. There’s like five or six of the Top 10. We’ve got to be ready.”
P: 6 15 15 13 – 49
SS: 20 9 23 9 – 61
Nik Fleming 14, Gavin Stover 3, Britt Beasley 20, Marquel Lowe 4, Koen Sartin 2, Zayden Neely
Jack Williams 8, Ammar Maxwell 24, Brody Radford 11, Gavin Davis 9, Jalon Bailey 7, Braedy Johnston 2