One down, five to go.
That was the mantra for the Class AAA No. 3 Flying Eagles Wednesday night after successfully knocking off Princeton 61-43 to advance to the Region 3, Section 2 championship game, bringing Woodrow Wilson one step closer to bringing home state championship number 17 to the City of Champions.
While Princeton came into the contest with just eight wins, it didn’t play like it. The scrappy Tigers gave the Flying Eagles all they could handle, disrupting the normally hot Woodrow offense in the first half to 33 percent shooting from the field, while they shot 56 percent.
And much to the shock of Flying Eagle Nation, Woodrow led by only six points at the half, 30-24.
But just as he has done for much of the past two seasons, senior guard Donte Nabors showed why he is a Davis Award candidate and a returning first team all-stater, picking up the pace for the Flying Eagles and carrying them to victory.
He finished with 18 points.
“He’s stepping up like an all-state kid should,” Woodrow coach Ron Kidd said “He’s put us on his back and is carrying us. A lot of the other guys on the team need to look at what he’s doing and learn from it.”
While Nabors was picking up the Flying Eagles, Princeton’s 6-8 center Aaron Ferguson was doing his best to stop him. Ferguson dominated the paint for the Tigers, tearing down rebound after rebound and scoring a game-high 26 points. No other Tiger finished with more than five.
“Princeton came with an attitude that they had everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Kidd said. “They played extremely hard, but our kids battled hard, too.”
Despite the less-than-standard performance from Woodrow, Nabors isn’t going to let it keep he and his teammates from the final goal — another championship banner hanging high above Dave Barksdale Court.
“Princeton came to play and we came out sloppy,” he said. “We picked it up and kept on playing and playing and kept on fighting.”
While none would admit it, the Flying Eagles may have been salivating thinking of a rematch with longtime foe Greenbrier East. The Spartans won their only matchup of the season 62-49 in Fairlea. But now Woodrow gets a chance for revenge, and this time they’ll have the senior leader with them. Nabors missed the previous matchup due to an injury suffered against Oak Hill on Dec. 28.
Tigers head coach Ernie Gilliard said, “Our kids played well and I am very pleased. We came out and competed well for three, three and a half quarters.
“We didn’t get any scoring from the perimeter and if we could have, it could have helped us stay close. At the same time we settled for jump shots that were out of our character, which led to them having runouts and scores. Their talent was deep and did not fall off.”
While Princeton finished the year 8-14, Gilliard believes the foundation is in place for improvement next season.
“We were a little inconsistent throughout the year but we demonstrated we could be a good ball team,” Gilliard said. “We showed the benefits of a solid defense and hopefully the good will carry over for us into next year.”
At Raleigh County Convention Center
Colton Fix 0 0-0 0, Arrien Porterfield 0 0-0 0, Ian Southcott 1 0-0 3, Mason Kroll 0 1-2 1, Jay Palmer 2 0-0 5, Logan Watkins 0 0-0 0, Michael Mills 0 1-2 1, Logan ANgell 1 0-0 2, Zen Clements 1 0-0 2, Logan McKinney 0 0-0 0, Aaron Ferguson 11 4-5 26. Totals: 17 7-11 43.
WOODROW WILSON (19-4)
Devan Bentley 1 0-0 2, Corey Acord 0 2-2 2, Nick Deems 0 0-0 0, Jaylon Breckenridge 1 3-4 5, Donte Nabors 4 8-9 18, Chase Hancock 5 1-3 11, Dai Dai Fortune 3 1-2 8, Noah Hancock 1 0-0 2, Nequan Carrington 1 5-7 7, Brent Osborne 2 2-2 6, Dylan Ray 0 0-0 0, Tarek Payne 0 0-0 0, DeAndre Risner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 22-29 61.
Princeton..........................9 15 8 11 — 43
Woodrow Wilson.............16 14 11 20 — 61
3-point goals: P - 2 (Southcott, Palmer); WW - 3 (Nabors 2, Fortune). Fouled out — None.