By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The scene was that of a fairy tale. A cold, snowy afternoon, a group of Lady Knights embarking on a journey far from their home, looking to slay a streak of female Tigers in the Tigers’ den.
The Tigerettes, as they are called, were fierce and jumped to a big, early advantage in the battle before the Knights made a final charge only to be quelled by the Tigerettes in the end.
The story was not one of Aesop’s fables but that of a Mountain State Athletic Conference girls basketball game Friday afternoon at Princeton Senior High School where the homestanding Tigerettes built a big, early lead and held on to defeat the Cabell Midland Knights 58-53 to remain perfect on the season.
Behind the point guard play of McKenzie Akers, who scored five points and dished out three first quarter assists, Princeton (5-0) rolled to a 20-6 lead after the first eight minutes of action.
Marissa Mullins scored eight, Khadija Payne four and Hannah Preservati three to stake the Tigerettes to their advantage against the bigger Cabell Midland (6-1) team.
Princeton, smaller but quicker, was able to grab rebounds from missed Midland shots and get the ball out in transition for first quarter points.
“We came out and we kind of played our game, then Cabell put us in a different mode of their game and they utilized their size against us, which hurt. Any time we play bigger teams, we’re going to have problems,” said Princeton head coach Debbie Ball.
“Any time we do play a bigger team and can bring a win, I’m happy.”
In the second stanza the Knights began to battle as their defense collapsed on Akers, the current Bluefield Daily Telegraph/Pocahontas Coal Association Player of the Week, denying her the basket and cutting off passing lanes.
Up stepped Hannah Preservati for the Tigerettes, who drained two three point baskets and another bucket in the quarter to help Princeton maintain the lead.
Cabell Midland warmed up in the second, shaking off the cold shooting from the first quarter and managed to score 14 points, most of them inside the paint, as Sierra Jordan, Emily Hardin and Emily Pitkin began to utilize their height advantage over Princeton.
The teams went to the locker room with Princeton holding a 34-20 lead.
Princeton found baskets tough to come in the third quarter, though Jessica Inman and Mullins did manage to connect on threes.
But the shooting exhibition came from Midland’s Alex Ellis who hit four shots from behind the arc to help keep the Knights in the game, pulling her team to within eight at one point in the quarter before the Tigerettes pushed their lead back to 14 and led 50-36 going into the fourth period.
“Their defense took McKenzie (Akers) out of the game because they concentrated on stopping her and we were hitting shots then,” Ball said. “We weren’t really hitting our shots the second half like we did the first half. We wanted to get the ball and run. We knew if we ran that big team, we could work on having more points.”
Cabell Midland opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run as Princeton struggled from the field.
Two free throws by Jordan with 2:51 to play made it a six-point game and a bucket by Pitkin with just over two minutes remaining brought Cabell Midland to within three at 54-51.
It got even closer when Grace Jarrell stole the ball and converted the lay up to make it 54-53 with 90 seconds showing on the clock.
Princeton went into the spread and took time off the clock. The Knights fouled Akers with 47.7 seconds to go. Akers sank those two free throws, plus two more with 28.8 ticks left for the game’s final points that secured Princeton its fifth win in as many starts.
Akers led Princeton with 17 points and seven assists. She was 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Mullins added 15 points including two threes, and Preservati finished with 13, with three treys.
Ball talked about the Tigerettes’ balanced scoring attack.
“That’s where we are fortunate this year, because if they do take McKenzie out, somebody always steps up,” Ball said. “That’s the thing about this team. As long as somebody does that, we’ll probably be in the win column.”
Jordan took top honors for Cabell Midland with 20 points. Ellis dropped in four from behind the arc and finished with 18.
Princeton returns to the court on Dec. 28 at South Charleston and there will be a short break for the Tigerettes over the Christmas holiday.
“We practice tomorrow (Saturday), but I’ll give them about three days off and that kills me to do that,” Ball said with a laugh.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Princeton Senior High School
CABELL MIDLAND (53)
Stephanie Bias 0 0-0 0, Haley Haggerty 0 0-0 0, Sierra Jordan 8 4-6 20, Grace Jarrell 2 0-0 4, Alex Ellis 6 2-2 18, Emily Harden 1 3-4 5, Emily Pitkin 3 0-1 6, Totals 20 9-13 53.
Jessica Inman 2 0-2 5, McKenzie Akers 4 7-7 17, Maranda Wimmer 0 0-0 0, Marissa Mullins 5 3-4 15, Khadija Payne 3 2-2 8, Hannah Preservati 5 0-0 13, Stephanie Lambert 0 0-0 0, Rachel Surface 0 0-0 0, Totals 18 12-15 58.
Cabell Midland.....6 14 16 17 — 53
Princeton............20 14 16 8 — 58
Three point baskets: CM - Ellis 4. P - Inman, Akers 2, Mullins 2, Preservati 3.