Princeton knew it was in for a dogfight Wednesday night against visiting Wallace-Rose Hill in the second round of the NCHSAA 1A boys basketball tournament. What the host Bulldogs didn’t expect was to experience a pair of “Dirty Dozens.”
But that’s what happened as Princeton went on a 12-minute second half scoring drought while turning the ball over 12 times in a 65-44 second round exit.
Leading 35-29 with 6:19 to play in the third quarter, and having apparently taken control of the game with a 15-2 run which started with 2:20 to play in the first half, everything came apart for Princeton.
And just about everything went right for Wallace Rose-Hill, which turned up its frenetic full-court pressure and suffocating half-court defense, turning a white-knuckle, see-saw affair into an easy win.
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“We went off the rails,” said Princeton coach Jeff Davis. “The score was not indicative of the game. We just can’t turn the ball over 12 times in a half against a good team like that; we just can’t.”
But they did, and Wallace Rose-Hill took advantage, scoring 17 points off nine of Princeton’s miscue: three easy baskets coming off turnovers on inbound passing.
And when the visiting Bulldogs weren’t scoring off turnovers, they were taking advantage of Princeton’s icy, 1-of-13 stretch from the floor that lasted 12 minutes.
Which added up to a 19-3 run which closed the third quarter, and in all, a 36-9 blitzkrieg to finish the game and end Princeton’s season with a 17-8 mark.
J. J. Glaspie started the surge for Wallace-Rose Hill with a pair of baskets to trim the gapto35-33, and Jamal Jones nailed a 3-pointer tying matters at 36-36 with 4:52 left in the third period.
Princeton went ice cold at that point, missing its next six shots while turning the ball over three times with Wallace-RoseHill taking advantage.
Alex Lisane buried a pair of baskets, giving Wallace Rose-Hill a 40-36 lead, Ty Scarborough connected on a free throw and Jones scored on a turnover underneath the basket on an inbounds pass, pushing the margin to 43-36.
Alex Whitley, who led Princeton with 11 points, scored on a lay-up with 58 seconds left in the quarter to trim the margin to 43-38, but a 3-pointer by Lisane and a lay-up from Taekwon Carr pushed the lead to double digits at the end of the period, 48-38.
Wallace Rose-Hill dictated the tempo the rest of the night, forcing Princeton into eight turnovers and allowing only six shots.
Wallace - Rose Hill, which entered the tournament as the 13th-seed in the Mideast pod and had stunned fourth-seeded Voyager Academy in the first round, improved to 12-13 and will face the pod’s No. 1 seed, Neuse Charter, a 73-36 winner over Granville Central Friday in a third round encounter.
“In the second half, I thought we played tremendously hard,” said Wallace-Rose Hill coach Steve Robinson. “That’s what you have to do.
“We don’t have a lot of tremendously great basketball players, but what I thought got the game turned around, is that they (Princeton) got tired.”
Davis didn’t agree with that assessment.
“I don’t believe that we go tired,” Davis said. “We’ve been playing seven and eight deep all season. We have three seniors and two juniors who know what they have to do.”
Princeton knew what it had to do in the first half, rallying from a nine-point first quarter deficit to take a temporary lead in the second period, only to fall behind by seven points, rallying again to forge a 27-27 halftime standoff.
Tanner Woodard, Colby Norris and Alex Whitley handled the brunt of the scoring for Princeton in the half, with Norris tallying seven of his game total of eight, Woodard al ten of his and Whitley four of his team-leading 11.
“I told the guys after the game,” Davis reflected, “we had been dodging raindrops for the past nine games, we have played all but two games this season which could have gone either way.
“You can’t do that in the state playoffs — not against a team that has a lot of athleticism like they (Wallace- Rose Hill ) did.”