By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It was a loss, but it may have been an indication of what the Princeton Tigers could do on the court this season.
Ryan Meadows scored 28 points in a 59-57 loss to South Charleston, which is always one of the top Class AAA teams in West Virginia.
They are definitely one of the top teams, he said. It would have been nice to pull out a win against them.
They nearly did. Princeton (2-1) has sandwiched wins over Shady Spring (79-56) and Winfield (63-57) around that loss, leaving Meadows optimistic about the season ahead.
“I think we should be fine, we started out with a good road win over Shady,” Meadows said, “Then South Charleston I think we were down 10 with 3 minutes left and made a crazy rally and almost came back, but just couldn’t put it away at the end.
“I think that will open the eyes of other teams in the MSAC and just show them that we are for real and we are not a team they can just run over anymore.”
A three-year starter for Princeton, the 5-foot-10 Meadows is closing in on the 1,000 mark for his career. In addition to the 28 points against South Charleston, he also had 21 at Shady Spring and another 26 at Winfield.
He’s not all the offense for the Tigers. Hunter Walters is averaging 13 points game, while Kyle Caron and Aaron Ferguson have also reached double figures for the Tigers.
That isn’t, however, the only reason why Meadows is excited about the possibilities ahead.
“I think our biggest thing is our defense and our rebounding,” Meadows said. “We have all kinds of offensive players, a bunch of firepower. We can shoot, we can take it (inside), we have good ball movement, as long as we get our defense right and box out we should be fine.”
Princeton will play three games in three days, beginning tonight with Nitro (2-1), followed by the Alpha Natural Resources Holiday Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Princeton Senior High School.
In the recent past Bluefield and PikeView has been part of the field, but it has changed this year, with the Tigers (2-1) playing James Monroe (3-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. That game will be preceded at 5:30 by Webster County (3-0), which reached the Class AA state semifinals last year and Patrick Henry-Roanoke (6-0), a Class AAA power, which scored 111 points in a win over Martinsville on Dec. 11.
If the Tigers were to play Patrick Henry, Meadows knows the Patriots will be tough to tame. Of course, so would any of the teams.
“I think our JV played Patrick Henry last year and they were pretty good, he said. “I have never seen their varsity play, but I am sure they are pretty good.”
The consolation and championship games will be played on Saturday night.
“Bluefield and PikeView are not in it this year so I don’t know how it sets up with the rivalries, but we still have Patrick Henry, Webster County and James Monroe,” said Meadows, whose Tigers will get their first shot at the Beavers on Dec. 28.
“We will still have good competition and it should be a good time, we are looking forward to it.”
Any success the Tigers have this season will involve Meadows. No one knows that better than Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard.
Ryan has been our leader for the last three years,”Gilliard said. “He represents the cohesiveness, the glue of the team, and actually the heart and the soul of the team, he really makes us go.”
So do eight seniors who have known each other for most of their lives. It’s that closeness that Meadows thinks could help the Tigers to big things in 2013.
“There are eight seniors in all, we have been playing together since before middle school for some of us,” said Meadows, who is getting attention from colleges interested in his services in the future. “The team chemistry is here, we bond together, it is more like a family this year and I think that is going to help us more than anything.”
It also helps to have that experience of being on the road. There are no easy trips for Princeton, which made a typical MSAC trip on Tuesday, traveling three hours on a bus to Winfield and returned having defeated the previously unbeaten Generals.
“It’s not too bad for the seniors because I guess we are used to it, but it is definitely tough, especially on school nights since we usually get home pretty close to midnight if not after midnight,” Meadows said. “It is just something you have to adjust to and be ready for and get your rest.”
They’re also expected to perform in the classroom, something Meadows tries to do on the ride to wherever they’re going next.
“I usually try to do most of my studying on the way up where I have light from outside because on the way back it is dark,” Meadows said. “We are all tired, we just try to get as much sleep as possible.”
The trip Meadows would like to make most is to Charleston in March for the Class AAA state tournament. They got within one game of that goal two years ago, but were knocked out in sectionals last season by Greenbrier East.
“I feel like we can definitely do it this year,” Meadows said. “We worked extremely hard over the summer, we grew together over the summer and I think it will help us this year and I think we can hang with anybody in the state.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org