GARDNER – The Princeton Tigers have no problems embracing diversity. Friday night’s 77-44 victory at PikeView High School is a case in point.
Six Tigers scored seven or more points for Princeton (4-3), which substituted freely after pulling out to a 14-0 lead.
Defensively, presses of both the full-court and half-court varieties set the table for the offense.
“When we bring energy to our pressure game, we’re a pretty good basketball team,” said Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard. “That’s why we use that, to get ourselves going, and it’s been pretty good for us the last couple of nights.”
“We’re a work in progress. We’re getting better. Our understanding is getting a little deeper about situations, about the roles that we play.”
The sparkplugs for the Princeton engine, Drew Hopkins and Cade Fix, finished with 20 and 13 points respectively. They each had three of the Tigers’ 16 steals. Hopkins and Chiron Canaday each had nine rebounds, and Canaday pried the ball away from the Panthers five times.
Hopkins said the energetic start was “extremely important. We’re trying to pick up momentum right now. We came in with a good game plan, and just executed.”
Gilliard said Hopkins and Fix are “probably our two best offensive players we’ve got, and floor leaders. Drew’s doing a fantastic job for us, running the point now. We’ve moved Cade to the wing, and we can take advantage of his ability to score – which, in essence, has actually created some scoring opportunities for Peyton Hudgins, who’s one of our other better scorers.
“We’ve got a little diversity going.”
Hopkins was more than pleased with his teammates’ level of performance.
“We could sub in players off the bench and they’d keep the momentum going,” Hopkins said. “It was like we had the starting five back out there. That’s always helpful, and that’ll be great for us later on in the season.”
PikeView head coach Colton Thompson said, “We’re young, and we’re learning on the fly. … I feel like we’re making little strides, every practice and every game.”
“Coach Gilliard did a great job of knowing our strengths and weaknesses, and countering everything. … It’s one of those games you’ve got to grow up in.”
The Panthers (1-9) were coming off their first win of the season, against Liberty 10 days before. Thompson said it was like “the gorilla off the back kind of thing. I think it kind of made them hungry, too. … I feel like we’re going to play (teams) closer as the season goes along, hopefully.”
PikeView senior Kieran Blaicher led the Panthers with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Peyton Meadows added 11 points and six boards, and freshman Gage Damewood had two of PikeView’s three steals.
Thompson said Blaicher is “absolutely setting the bar for the team, working hard in every drill (in practice), and it carried over tonight. ... He’s really grown up a lot since he was a freshman. It’s really nice to have a kid like that around your program, to set an example for all the young kids we’ve got.”
Thompson said, “A lot of these guys are being thrown out there as freshmen, and they’re being tried by fire. I think, a couple of years from now, we’re going to have a really good group.”
Princeton has won two in a row following a Tuesday night road win, 68-39, at Greenbrier East.
Gilliard said, “We’ve had some cancellations because of snow, or weather. We took advantage of that time (and) got some quality practices in. And that’s showing on game night.”
“We want to keep this going,” Canaday said. The key to that, he said, will be “effort, heart (and) ball movement.”
At PikeView High School
Ace Lipscomb 1 0-0 2, Chiron Canaday 2 4-6 8, Steven Lugo 2 2-2 7, Javon Porterfield 1 0-0 3, Payton Hudgins 2 2-2 7, Drew Hopkins 6 7-8 20, Tanner Lockhart 5 0-2 10, Zach Powell 1 1-2 3, Cade Fix 5 0-0 13, Ryan Burks 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 16-22 77.
Gage Damewood 1 0-0 3, Kobey Taylor-Williams 3 1-2 7, Peyton Meadows 2 1-9 11, Alex Young 1 0-0 2, Kieran Blaicher 5 6-8 16, David Parsons 1 0-2 2, Jakob Coalson 1 1-3 3. Totals 14 15-24 44.
Princeton…………18 18 18 23 — 77
PikeView……………2 12 16 14 — 44
3-point goals – PSHS 7 (Lugo 1, Porterfield 1, Hudgins 1, Hopkins 1, Fix 3); PV 1 (Damewood).
Total fouls – PSHS 25, PV 16. Fouled out – PSHS, Lockhart. Technical fouls – none.