By Michael Held
GOLDSBORO—The Princeton girls basketball team fell to fellow Carolina 1A Conference rival Rosewood 32-17 Monday night in the first round of the NCHSAA 1A playoffs.
The Eagles’ backcourt tandem of Alicia Burns (12 points) and freshman Lexi Mercer (10 points) provided enough firepower to get past a very familiar foe in the Bulldogs for the fourth time in 28 days.
After a pair of blowout victories over the Bulldogs in the regular season, Rosewood (17-7) had a more difficult time against Princeton in the semi-finals of the conference tournament four days earlier winning by just seven points.
Struggling yet again in a defensive battle in which points were hard to come by, Eagles coach Ryan Wells tried to rally his squad in the second half.
“I told them that it was ugly out there,” Wells recalled telling his team at halftime up just 17-10. “Our ugly just had to be better than their ugly.”
The Bulldogs (13-12) appeared to gain the upper hand in the third quarter, however, and trailed just 21-17 after freshman Kelsey Peedin drilled a three-pointer.
On the Bulldogs’ following two possessions with a chance to make the contest a one-possession game, misfired on an another three-pointer and had a basket nullified by a traveling call.
The Bulldogs would not score again the rest of the night as the Eagles outscored Princeton 11-0 over the game’s final 13 minutes.
“Defensively they just gave us problems tonight as we did not get the shots we’ve gotten in the past against them,” Princeton coach Marty Gurganus said. “But even when we did get open looks, it was one of those nights when nothing was going down for us.”
Savanna Massengill tried to will her team to victory as the junior forward collected eight points and nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
The Eagles had a difficult time in their halfcourt offense operating against Princeton’s diamond-and-one defense designed to limit Rosewood’s leading scorer, Mercer, from taking over the game.
Mercer tallied six quick points in the first quarter in helping the Eagles take an early 9-0 lead but was kept quiet for much of the rest of the night.
Burns accounted for all of Rosewood’s offense (eight points) in the second quarter to help pick up the slack.
“Lexi is, of course, their motor but they have more than just Lexi,” Gurganus said of the Eagles who advance to take on Lakewood in the second round. “They’ve got girls who can shoot from the outside and are a deep and balanced team.”