The late Jim Valvano, basketball coach at North Carolina State once said regarding his battle with cancer, “Never give up ...”
Tuesday night at the Ralph Ball Court the Princeton Tigerettes never gave up, battling to the final buzzer before falling 73-70 to the Parkersburg Big Reds in a Mountain State Athletic Conference contest.
“My girls always show effort. They are a hard-working team and the reason they stay in ball games is because they don’t give up and they work so hard,” said Tigerettes head coach Tesla Akers. “We are really big on intensity. We think that is one of our main aspects and we think that keeps us in a lot of games.”
With early ties at two, then seven, the visiting Reds went on a 6-0 run late in the first quarter forcing Princeton to call time. Parkersburg led 22-14 after the first eight minutes of play.
Key for Princeton in the first period was free throw shooting. The Tigerettes went to the line 10 times and sank eight. Princeton also got baskets from Taylor Hamm, Adrianna Mitchem and Kaleigh Barker. Parkersburg relied on two threes from Kailey Cox and three buckets by Brooke Kurucz.
Parkersburg moved ahead by as many as 11 points in the second stanza before once again Princeton clawed back. Sarah Cole’s triple midway through the quarter pulled the Tigerettes to within six and Barker’s two free throws made it a three point game. Ashley Culicerto closed the gap to two with a three, but Parkersburg then went on a 12-0 run. Hamm broke the steak with a three with 20 seconds to play before halftime and the Big Reds led 44-35 at the break.
“I had prepared them for the game with the scouting report and I told them Parkersburg hadn’t done anything I hadn’t told them before the game,” Akers said. “I said, ‘You are not playing your style of defense. You’ve got to go out in the second half and show them what you’re made of. Be tough and show them whose house they came to tonight.’ And I thought they did.”
Princeton came out with an energized defense to start the third period and quickly pulled to within three. Danielle Hall and Hamm were thieves on defense, taking the ball from Parkersburg and Barker had six points in the quarter, including four-of-four shooting from the free throw line. The Tigerettes trailed by five, 57-52 as the final period started.
Hall’s two free throws with 5:41 to play made it a three point game and Culicerto’s trey 11 seconds later, following a steal, knotted the contest at 57. Princeton took the lead midway through the final stanza when Culicerto hit her third triple of the game.
The teams fought back-and-forth and exchanged the lead for the next few minutes before it got extremely exciting for the final two-and-half minutes. Hall’s baseline drive and basket tied things at 63 and the ensuing free throw put Princeton back on top 64-63.
Enter Kurucz for Parkersburg, who began going to the line and in the final minutes made four-of-six charity tosses. The Big Reds eventually moved ahead by four points in he final minute of action and secured the win.
The Princeton partisans expressed disapproval of officiating throughout the game in which a total of 41 fouls were called, 22 on Princeton, 19 on Parkersburg. However, it was the Tigers who won at the free throw line, making 25-of-34 compared to Parkersburg who made 18-of-26 charity tosses.
Three Tigerettes scored in double-figures, led by Culicerto with 16 points. Hamm added 11 and Barker 14 before fouling out with 1:54 remaining in the game.
“I think we have progressed tremendously and every coach I talk to, they say that as well,” Akers said. It’s good to hear, but we still think we are not where we want to be. We just take it one game at a time. Like I told them, everybody is 0-0 come tournament time. We are working to get there.”
Kurucz led Parkersburg with 21 and Kam Snyder tallied 10.
Big Reds coach Kenny DeMoss said, “It was an exciting game. I loved the atmosphere with the band, the cheerleaders, the kick dancers. Coach Akers’ kids played really hard and we are kind of both craving for wins. We’ve come off a tough loss against GW (George Washington) the other night and are craving to win ball games.
“Their kids played really hard and hurt us at times. They had a lot of energy. Their little point guard (Hamm) was extremely fast...”
Princeton returns to action Thursday night at Capital.
At Princeton High School
Kameron Snyder 3 2-2 10, Taylor Foster 1 0-0 2, Katelyn Herod 0 0-0 0, Hannah Bailey 0 0-0 0, Kailey Cox 3 0-0 9, Brooke Kurucz 7 5-10 21, Haley Ackerman 2 3-3 7, Nicole Dent 0 7-8 7, Alison Schumacher 4 1-2 9, Holly Ackerman 1 0-0 3, Susanne Oplinger 2 0-1 4, Totals 23 18-26 73.
Danielle Hall 3 3-5 9, Taylor Hamm 5 4-6 15, Anna Saunders 0 1-2 1, Ashley Culicerto 4 5-6 16, Sarah Cole 3 0-1 7, Adrianna Mitchem 2 4-6 8, Kaleigh Barker 3 8-8 14, Audrey Gallinger 0 0-0 0, Totals 20 25-34 70.
Parkersburg..............22 22 13 16 — 73
Princeton..................14 21 14 21 — 70
3-point goals: PAR - 8 (Snyder 2, Cox 3, Kurucz 2, Ho. Ackerman); PRI - 5 (Hamm, Culicerto 3, Cole).
Fouled out: PAR - None; PRI - Barker.