Prior to the start of the current basketball season Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard talked of the numerous scoring threats on the Tigers’ team. Saturday afternoon in its regular-season finale, Princeton got double-figure scoring from four players and completed a season sweep of the rival Bluefield Beavers 66-57 in the PHS gymnasium.
Ryan Meadows, Derek Jennelle, Hunter Walters and Aaron Ferguson each scored in twin digits as the Tigers erased a four-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and gained the nine point win.
“We just had to go ahead and focus on some of the things we felt we were getting, and one of those things was attacking inside,” Gilliard said. “I think at that point we had two, or three baskets from our big guys and that helped us.”
In the beginning it was Bluefield with the hot hand. Back-to-back threes by Michael Yost and a D.J. Edwards bucket put the Beavers on top 8-0 before the game was two minutes old. Princeton, however, charged back. A three-point play by Meadows, a basket by Walters and a trey by Jennelle knotted the contest at eight. Princeton took its first lead when Jennelle went to the bank from the top of the key to make it 10-8.
Bluefield then grabbed the momentum. Matthew Woodrum tied the game at 10, Edwards converted a three-point play and Lykel Collier drilled a three to stake the Beavers out to a 16-12 advantage.
Collier’s two free throws with 55 seconds left in the opening period not only gave Bluefield a six point lead, but the points were the 999th and 1,000th of the junior guard’s career at BHS. Collier was recognized for his achievement and received an ovation from the capacity crowd.
The Beaver lead grew to eight before they hit a wall. Baskets by Ferguson, Meadows, Jennelle, Meadows again and Walters carried Princeton on a run that saw the Tigers go ahead 33-28. Collier hit a long three at the buzzer to bring Bluefield to within one at halftime, 33-31.
Collier promptly pulled Bluefield even on the Beavers’ first possession of the second half and for most of the period the Beavers maintained the lead, albeit a slim one. The Bluefield defense came to fore in the quarter and held the Tigers to only eight points on three baskets and two free throws. Bluefield led 45-41 as Princeton sent the ball inbounds to start the final quarter.
Within the first two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth period Princeton had erased Bluefield’s four-point lead and built it’s own five point advantage when the Beavers called time with 5:30 left in the game. That would be as close as Bluefield would get the rest of the contest.
Princeton converted on 22-of-28 free throws in the game and 14-of-16 charity tosses in the fourth period and did not turn the ball over late in the contest.
“Taking care of the ball is extremely important when you play Bluefield, simply because they like to turn you over and they like to get transition baskets,” Gilliard said. “They (Bluefield) were a little short-handed today, so that cut down on the number of people we had to look out for.”
The Beavers did not score in the fourth until 2:15 was left on the clock and by then it was too little too late.
Meadows and Jennelle both tallied 19 to lead Princeton in scoring. Ferguson and Walters scored 10 apiece.
Ferguson said, “It’s good to get the win and have momentum going into Wednesday against Greenbrier East. They’re going to come at us and it’s going to be a good game. We’re all healthy and we just have to get a good week of practice.”
Bluefield played without two starters, leading scorer Anthony Eades who averages more than 21 points a game, and post player Corey Coppola, both out with ankle injuries. Collier led the way for the Beavers with 19, Edwards added 13 and Yost popped in 12.
Bluefield head coach Buster Large said, “I knew we were going to be shorthanded by two. Injuries are a part of the game. We don’t make excuses.
“We came over here and played, got as good an effort from all the kids we could ask. Princeton has a really nice basketball team. We’ve just got to get ready for Tuesday night. I’m happy to get the regular season over and we will now concentrate on sections and regionals.”
Princeton, 17-5 will play Greenbrier East on Wednesday in the first round of the Class AAA, Region III, Section 2 tournament at the Brushfork Armory.
Bluefield, 19-3, will play James Monroe on Tuesday in the first round of the Class AA, Region III, Section 2 tournament at Princeton High School.
Dakota Smalls 1 0-0 2, D.J. Edwards 6 1-2 13, Lykel Collier 7 2-2 19, Trevor Mullins 0 0-0 0, Michael Yost 5 0-1 12, Jordan Ponder 9, David Woodrum 0 0-0 0, Matthew Woodrum 1 0-1 2, Raheem Reed 0 0-0 0, Totals 23 3-6 57.
Ryan Meadows 4 11-12 19, Derek Jennelle 8 1-2 19, Storm McPherson 0 0-0 0, Zen Clements 0 1-2 1, Hunter Walters 4 2-4 10, Kyle Caron 1 5-6 7, Aaron Ferguson 4 2-2 10, Totals 21 22-28 66.
Bluefield..............................20 11 14 12 — 57
Princeton............................16 17 8 25 — 66
3-point baskets: B - 7 (Collier 2, Yost 2, Ponder 3); P - 2 (Jennelle 2)
Fouled out: B - Edwards. Technical fouls: None