PRINCETON — Greenbrier East’s Karim Ezzedine probably didn’t have the most memorable game of his high school career at Princeton on Friday night.
The Tigers aren’t likely to forget it.
The highly recruited 6-foot-9 senior wing got a critical rebound in the dwindling seconds of play, ultimately stroking a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to lift the Spartans to a 54-52 victory.
“Our kids played hard enough to win. But there’s a little span of time where we didn’t play smart enough to win,” said Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard.
Ezzadine — an arrival from France who has been getting looks from Division I programs like Indiana, St. Louis, Virginia Tech and Marshall — cut an impressive figure on the floor during the pregame. With 6-foot-5 post Garrison Hartwell sitting out the game recuperating from the flu, it was clear that Princeton was already shy of some needed height.
Ezzadine went on to collect at least a dozen rebounds for the Spartans, but surprisingly wasn’t a big offensive factor for most of the game. Greenbrier’s French connection went three quarters without scoring from the field and hit only one of four free throws.
With 10 seconds remaining in the game, however, Ezzadine was the guy who got it done for Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice.
With Princeton leading 52-51, Colton Fix missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Ezzadine’s long arms lassoed the rebound, which he kicked to Seth Brown. Seconds later, Brown got it back to the lengthy Euro-style wing, who let fly and drained his only 3-pointer of the game.
His teammates joyfully mobbed him on the floor. It was his first game-winning trifecta of the season.
“I thought personally that we were going to beat them by a lot. But they had a great game. Especially (Colton Fix),” said Ezzadine, who hit his first shot from the field when he made a stick-back with 1:14 remaining to cut Princeton’s lead to 49-48.
“I didn’t have a good game today. I was just able to make the last shot. I’m glad we won, but I wanted to play harder,” Ezzadine said.
The missed free throw by Fix — who’d put the Tigers up 41-36 penetrating to the rim on back-to-back possessions early in the fourth quarter — was the second of two missed bonus front-ends for the Tigers in the final 18 seconds.
Princeton hit 3 of 6 free throws overall in the final 1:14 of play.
“I’m very proud of the performance of our kids, except for down the stretch. We’ve got to make some better decisions. We had some chances to put the game away and we didn’t make the right decisions,” said Gilliard. “You add that with missing free throws ... you hit the free ones and (Ezzadine’s) shot doesn’t mean anything.”
Fix had 16 points and eight rebounds for Princeton (5-3) and Cole Cochran scored 16 points with 10 boards. Bryson Murphy had seven rebounds.
Gabe Ward scored 14 points to lead Greenbrier East. Seth Brown added 12 points.
Princeton travels to Oak Hill on Tuesday.
At Coach Ralph Ball Court
GREENBRIER EAST (7-3)
Josiah Rawls 4 0-0 8, Seth Brown 3 6-8 12, Gabe Ward 4 6-14 14, Evan Canterbury 3 2-2 8, Karim Ezzadine 2 1-4 6, Madison Erskine 1 0-0 3, Nathaniel Patton 0 0-0 0, Noah Dye 0 0-0 0, Logan Taylor 1 0-0 3, Kylar Topps 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 15-28 54.
Colton Fix 8 2-6 16, Jacob Whittington 4 0-0 11, Aaron McCabe 0 0-0 0, Cole Cochran 4 2-5 16, Bryson Murphy 1 3-4 5, Logan Watkins 2 2-3 6, L.J. Reed 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 9-18 52.
Greenbrier East.........15 7 12 20 — 54
Princeton....................13 14 8 17 — 52
3-point goals: Greenbrier East 3 (Taylor, Erskine, Ezzadine), Princeton 5 (Fix 2, Whittington 3).