What a difference a week can make.
A week after losing by 27 points to rival North Johnston at home, Princeton’s boys basketball team turned the tables on the road, pulling out a 53-50 victory on Friday night.
In the girls game, North Johnston completed a season sweep, winning 41-32.
North Johnston’s boys led 50-47 with 1:30 left in the game but did not score another point in dropping to 4-2. Princeton improved to 3-2.
Free throws by Earl Gibson and Rahjai McPhatter pulled Princeton with 50-49 with 49.4 seconds remaining. After a missed free throw by North Johnston, Princeton took the lead at 51-50 on a basket by Austin Sullivan with 16.5 seconds left.
The Bulldogs added a pair of free throws in the final 9.1 seconds.
“This is a big rivalry,” Princeton coach Jeff Davis said. “Last week we played horribly. They had beat us five times in a row. I’m just happy for the kids.”
Sophomore Colby Sullivan led the Bulldogs with 18 points and senior Austin Sullivan, Colby’s brother, had 15.
North Johnston got 12 points each from Kameron Williams and Trey Whitley.
Princeton was up by 10 points in the third quarter at 36-26 after a 7-0 run but pressure defense got North Johnston right back into the game. It was 38-34 at the end of the third period and the Panthers charged back early in the fourth quarter – putting together an 8-0 run that included an alley-oop dunk by Whitley – to go up 44-41.
It was back and forth from that point, with Princeton making the plays down the stretch.
“I’m just proud of them for hanging in there and winning,” Davis said. “Any win is a good win especially when it’s against North Johnston.”
North Johnston coach Chris Batten warned his team before the game not to look past Princeton because of the lopsided score in their first meeting.
“We didn’t look past them,” Batten said. “We just shot the ball poorly the first half. We couldn’t hit anything from the field, couldn’t get any rhythm.”
He continued: “Then we used the press to get back in it and were up by three (at 50-47) but we were too impatient. We had our opportunities but just didn’t finish it off.”
North Johnston’s girls improved to 6-0 with the victory, getting 21 points from junior Tayanna Jones.
But it was defense, not offense, that won this game for the Panthers, who won the first game against Princeton by 25 points.
“Princeton did a good job of turning it into a halfcourt game,” North Johnston coach Jay Poole said. “We like to get out and run but they did a good job of getting back on defense and made us play halfcourt offense.
“I felt like we hit enough shots to keep them at bay and I thought our defense did a tremendous job. We held them to nine first-half points. That was huge.”
North Johnston was up 17-9 at halftime and extended the lead to 33-20 by the end of the third period.
Princeton (2-3) was led by senior Jazmaine McCain with 12 points.
“We definitely played them a lot tougher,” Princeton coach Paula Wooten said. “I was much more pleased with the effort tonight.”