By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It was a classic match-up of size versus speed as Woodrow Wilson held the size advantage and the Princeton Tigerettes had the better guards.
The Flying Eagles used their size to stay close for 22 minutes, but Princeton was able to pull away for a 60-49 victory on Tuesday night at Princeton Senior High School.
“Again, here we are playing against a big team,” Princeton head coach Debbie Ball said. “I guess I look at it if we can manage to beat bigger teams then we’re not doing to bad. I watched them (Woodrow Wilson) play (George Washington and their bigs weren’t as effective as they are against us.
“Of course, GW is a little bit bigger. I’m happy with a win.”
Woodrow’s 5-foot-10 Summer Butler and 6-foot-2 Bre Thompson combined for 26 points — most coming in the paint near the basket. It was an effective combination as the Eagles (5-11) rallied from several deficits to challenge Princeton (13-2), but it wasn’t enough as Marshall-commit McKenzie Akers scored 27 to lead the Tigerettes.
“We didn’t deserve to be in the game. I’ll be honest with you,” Woodrow Wilson head coach Bernard Bostick said. “Right now, we’re 5-11 and they’re 13-2. I thought our girls played as hard as they could play.
“We just don’t have the team they have and I think they have the best player in the state with Akers. I think she does a great job and she showed it in clutch time.”
The game started off slow with the first basket coming over a minute in on a three by Kavita Francois.
The lead changed several times in the opening period.
After a fastbreak score by Khadija Payne, Akers nailed two free throws to put Princeton on top. Thompson added two free throws to swing the margin in the Eagles’ favor before a fastbreak score by Payne.
The teams traded baskets again before Akers found Marissa Mullins on a fastbreak to give the Tigerettes the lead for good.
Francois hit a jumper then drove to the hoop for score, but Princeton led 15-11 after the first.
The Tigerettes’ advantage grew to nine, 24-15, after a three by Hannah Preservati. The Eagles would answer.
Woodrow Wilson closed the second quarter on a 10-3 run thanks to two lay-ins by Thompson and a putback from Butler as they trimmed the deficit to 27-25 going into the break.
“We basically played man-to-man tonight,” Ball said of trying to slow the Eagles’ posts down. “We tried to collapse on their big people. A lot of times when we didn’t do that, they scored. We’re a team in progress on defense.”
Akers helped Princeton break the game open to start the second half. The senior started the quarter with a strong drive then closed out a 12-3 run with a three and coast-to-coast score.
Trailing 39-28, Woodrow Wilson started using their size advantage once again.
Butler hit a jumper then Sarah Akers added two free throws. Butler followed with a spin and foul before finishing off the Eagles’ rally with a lay-in to make it 39-35 with 2:10 left in the third.
“Biggest game she’s had,” Bostick said of Butler’s play. “That’s the best game she’s had. We’ve been expecting that all year, but sometimes they have to understand how good they are instead of us.”
With Woodrow Wilson closing, Akers stepped up with six straight points to close out the quarter and give Princeton a 10-point lead.
A 10-4 run by the Eagles to begin the fourth pushed Woodrow Wilson within four points, but they would get no closer.
Akers found Jessica Inman open in the corner for a jumper and the Tigerettes went into a slow-down offense in the game’s final minutes to hold on for the win.
Akers led Princeton with 27 points and five assists. She went 11-of-15 from the line. Payne added 10 points, nine rebounds and seven steals while Mullins finished with 10 points.
“That’s basically what we’ve relied on this year is people stepping up when certain people aren’t hitting their shot or getting rebounds,” Ball said. “We haven’t been real healthy. Even Khadija is fighting a leg problem and of course, Hannah’s torn her ACL. We have little conditions on our team, but we’re playing right through it.”
Butler and Francois each had 15 points to pace the Eagles. Thompson chipped in with 11. No other Woodrow Wilson player had more than four points.
“We’ve got one of the biggest teams in the state size-wise and height-wise,” Bostick said. “We knew we were a tough match-up for them. We knew they had better guards with Akers, but I thought we had better post players. It looked like we did.
“We had some bad passes here and there. I don’t think 11 points was indicative of the game that was played. They did well in last couple minutes holding the ball. We’re getting there.”
Woodrow Wilson visits Ripley on Thursday. Princeton travels to Parkersburg on Thursday night before hosting Shady Spring on Friday.
At Princeton Senior High School
WOODROW WILSON (5-11)
Sarah Akers 4, Kavita Francois 15, Paige Lewis 2, Jasha Payne 2, Bre Thompson 11, Bre Staunton 0, Summer Butler 15, Rebekah Cook 0, Brooke Pudder 0. Totals- 18 12-16 49.
Jessica Inman 2, McKenzie Akers 27, Ashley Culicerto 4, Marissa Mullins 10, Khadija Payne 10, Hannah Preservati 5, Stephanie Lambert 0, Rachel Surface 2. Totals- 20 17-21 60.
Woodrow Wilson.............11 14 10 14 — 49
Princeton..........................15 12 18 15 — 60
3 pt field goals: WW 1 (Francois), PRI 3 (Akers 2, Preservati). Fouled out- Francois, Surface.