By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Playing its first game in nine days, the Princeton Tigers held off the Riverside Warriors and claimed a 74-66 Mountain State Athletic Conference victory, Saturday at the Ralph Ball Court at Princeton Senior High School.
In a game of streaks, the Tigers had one final fourth-quarter spurt to pull away from the Warriors and improved to 12-4 on the season. Riverside dropped to 7-11.
With the snow swirling and accumulating outside the gymnasium, Princeton was hot enough to melt the snow at the onset.
Running out to a 5-0 lead the Tigers controlled the game until big man Aaron Ferguson picked up his second personal foul and went to the bench with 2:26 to play in the opening quarter.
The Tigers then benefited from Riverside turnovers and scoring in transition. Up by as many as eight, Ryan Meadows led the Princeton scoring column connecting on a three and several transition baskets to finish the quarter with 10 points and the home team ahead 18-10 after the first eight minutes of play.
Princeton opened its biggest lead of the first half in the second quarter at 22-13 only to see Riverside chip it away.
A three by Josh Butcher midway through the period made it a one-point game, 22-21, at which time Tigers’ coach Ernie Gilliard sent Ferguson back into the game. In the meantime, the Tigers other post player Zen Clements, also got into foul trouble and had to sit.
The squads battled through the remainder of the second and with just seconds remaining before the break, Ferguson picked up his third personal.
Princeton carried a 31-29 lead into the locker room.
Gilliard felt the Tigers were not clicking on all cylinders after the first quarter.
“That was a big part of one of the reasons why we sort of got out of rhythm, out of synch somewhat, simply because we felt like we could have a good inside presence with those guys on the floor. They got in foul trouble so we had to change up our game plan,” Gilliard said.
“The bottom line, we’re still not shooting the ball very well from the perimeter and so we’ve got to continue to work on our shooting and hopefully we can clean that up.”
Riverside came out charged in the second half and tied the game on a jumper by Quan Brock and later took its first lead on a put back by Marcus Reed.
Princeton tied the game at 36, Riverside drew even at 41, but then Princeton went on a 13-6 run in the final minutes of the third quarter and led 54-47 headed to the fourth period.
Ninety seconds into the final stanza Ferguson was charged with his fourth foul and Riverside continued to hang close as Princeton Derek Jennelle and Riverside’s Butcher traded three point buckets. It was a two-point game with 5:20 to go when the Tigers called time.
Treys by Jennelle and Kyle Caron and a bucket by Meadows got Princeton off the skids and the Tigers lead grew to 10 points on Hunter Walters’ free throw with just over a minute left to play.
Riverside again drew closer, coming to within six with half a minute to play, but Meadows, who made 9-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter, pushed the Princeton lead to its final margin of victory.
While getting the victory, Gilliard believes the Tigers must do some things if they are going to be successful the remainder of the season.
“We’ve got to just stay with our offensive set and just be patient, the game will eventually come to us,” Gilliard said.
“I think right now what we’ve got are some kids that are rushing and may be concerned about personal accomplishments more so than team accomplishments and sometimes we get a little frustrated. We’re going to go back to practice and we’re going to work on that.”
The game started early due to the snow in the area and Riverside left immediately following the final horn.
The Tigers host Parkersburg on Tuesday.
Gilliard said about the Big Reds, “Well, they are very disciplined. We should have a size advantage on them, we’re a little bigger than they are.
“They’ve got some athleticism, they’ve got a couple of kids that shoot the ball well and they’ll run their sets very well.
“They are very patient offensively, they’ll run their sets and they work pretty hard defensively. So we’re going to have to make sure that we stay focused on our game plan and execute those things that make us successful.”
At Princeton Senior High School
Marcus Reed 5 8-9 20, Tamar Lawson 1 0-0 2, Quan Brock 5 2-3 12, Nick Light 1 1-2 4, Tyus Wood 6 1-3 14, Trevor Smith 0 0-2 0, Tim Womack 1 3-6 5, Josh Carpenter 0 1-2 1, Josh Butcher 3 0-0 9, Totals 22 16-27 66.
Lamont Lee 1 0-0 2, Ryan Meadows 5 15-18 26, Derek Jennelle 2 0-0 6, Ryan Rogers 0 0-0 0, Storm McPherson 0 0-0 0, Zen Clements 0 0-0 0, Hunter Walters 7 3-4 17, Kyle Caron 3 0-1 7, Aaron Ferguson 6 4-6 16, Totals 24 22-29 74
Riverside……10 19 18 19 — 66
Princeton……18 13 23 20 — 74
3-point baskets: R - 7 (Reed 2, Light, Wood, Butcher 3); P - 4 (Meadows, Jennelle 2, Caron 1).