Gallery by Greg Barnett
Princeton – The last time Princeton and PikeView played, Princeton left the door open for its Mercer County foe which took advantage and nearly rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit.
Leading by 11 at the break in the second meeting of the season Friday evening, the host Tigers took that door off the hinges and bashed the Panthers with it, outscoring PikeView 30-6 in the third quarter in 79-32 win on senior night in Princeton.
With both teams trudging through the first 16 minutes the game was still in question at the intermission. That wasn’t the case for long.
“That’s exactly right, we left the door open last time,” Princeton head coach Robb Williams said. “I actually mentioned that at halftime. We had a pretty direct conversation at halftime about how poor we were moving offensively and really the first half we actually played okay. But it’s not what we really wanted to play, but we played their game. We were slow and methodical, and that’s not what we do. That’s not our basketball. I told them we’re gonna run and we turned up the defensive pressure. It was just kind of lazy the first half. They listened at the half and came out with an urgency on defense and we pushed it and just to be honest, we just ran them out of the gym.”
For Princeton the goal was evident early – make PikeView’s backcourt uncomfortable and take front court standouts Jared Vestal and David Thomas out of the game on offense. That strategy proved effective and sustainable.
Thomas scored the first points of the game before Princeton seniors Nik Fleming, Gavin Brown and Reece Rhodes pieced together a 6-0 spurt capped by a Koen Sartin free throw. Elijah Hall stopped the bleeding momentarily with a jumper but Princeton’s seniors continued their onslaught. Gavin Stover nailed a layup before Fleming followed with one of his own. Stover capped another mini spurt with a 3-pointer and with 2:49 to play the Panthers found themselves down 14-4.
A pair of Austin Bennett buckets trimmed the deficit to six but it sat at 16-8 heading into the second stanza after another Sartin bucket. Bennett was again true for the Panthers early in the second, cutting the deficit back to six where it stayed for nearly five minutes with both teams going cold.
The two teams traded buckets with under three minutes to play before the Tigers scored the final five points of the half to lead 23-12 at the break.
That 5-0 run turned into a 13-0 run with Princeton netting the first seven points of the second half, pushing the lead to 18 points. But the barrage continued. After Bryson Bailey nailed a pair of free throws to pull PikeView back to within 15 at 32-17, Princeton put the game away with a 16-0 run. It was never in doubt afterwards.
“I mean their half-court trap killed us.” PikeView head coach Les Farmer said. “They changed it up. We thought they were going to look at a half-court diamond which they have done in the past and they switched it up on us a little bit. We didn’t attack it right at all. We drew it up several times during timeouts and never got the feel of what they were doing. They had different motions where the ball was swung, never adjusted and we never got in our sets and never got it in the back. I don’t think we crossed the foul line area at all the entire third quarter. But I mean, probably the worst offensive game we played all year long. I mean, I don’t think we scored 10 points in any quarter. And you’ll have nights like that. I mean we’ve had a good two weeks. We played Shady well and had a two or three-game winning streak here but just had a bad night. That’s gonna happen. We battled through adversity and we’re on to the next one.”
Part of Princeton’s effectiveness on defense came from its ability to consistently deny Thomas and Vestal. Thomas was held to just four points on four shot attempts through the first three quarters while Vestal was held without a point until the fourth quarter.
“That was really actually what we wanted to do – up top put the pressure on their guards and deny,” Williams said. “And then again it goes back to the first half when we didn’t put the pressure on them. We played pretty solid D but we didn’t put the pressure on them so it gave them time to try to look inside. We’re fortunate enough that we would double down when they did get it and they missed a couple of shots. But in the second half, we extended everything out and really turned up the pressure where they really couldn’t get it inside. They went out to the wings and we trapped the wings and they just couldn’t get those big guys going and they didn’t really touch the ball a whole lot just to be honest.”
Every player who dressed for Princeton scored led by Britt Beasley with 21 and Nik Fleming with 20.
Elijah Hall led PikeView with 10.
PV: 8 4 6 14 – 32
P: 16 7 30 26 – 79
Austin Bennett 6, Elijah Hall 10, Greyson Weatherly 3, Bryson Bailey 2, David Thomas 6, Jared Vestal 4, Josh Davis 1
Nik Fleming 20, Gavin Stover 5, Gavin Brown 2, Britt Beasley 21, Marquel Lowe 3, Reece Rhodes 4, Kalum Kiser 2, Jayce Gumm 4, Koen Sartin 12, Zayden Neely 6