The Princeton girls basketball team clinched its first regular-season Carolina 1A Conference title since 1987 with a 39-31 road win over rival Rosewood Thursday night.
Jordan Benson scored 10 second half points to pace the visiting Bulldogs (18-4, 13-1), who will enter next week’s conference tournament as the top seed and on a 10-game winning streak.
The Eagles (13-10, 11-3) snapped an eight-game win streak and lost a share of the title after falling behind in the second quarter with three starters on the bench due to foul trouble.
“When the foul situation is one-sided there’s not much you can do,” said Rosewood coach Tee Wooten.
The Rosewood boys hit free throws down the stretch to preserve a 47-39 victory at home.
On top of losing to a rival, Princeton boys’ coach Jeff Davis said the road loss cost his team seeding position going into next week’s conference tournament and state playoffs later this month.
“It stinks because that’s a big rivalry, and if we had won we would have finished tied for fifth,” he said.
Davis said he was happy to limit the Eagles to 18 first half points, but his players just couldn’t hit open looks to keep pace in the second half.
“We didn’t make nothing. Defensively we played pretty well,” he said. “We over-dribbled. We missed a lot of wide open looks.”
Rosewood boys coach Daniel Mitchell said his team’s poise in the late stages of the game helped to seal the win.
“Free throws down the stretch were big,” he said. “That’s two in a row for us so hopefully we can build on it. We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
By coach Paula Wooten’s count, Princeton had gone three decades between regular season conference championships.
The Bulldogs last won an outright title in 1987 and archrival Rosewood – less than 8 miles up the road – could not only play spoiler, but earn a share of the title with a win at home on Senior Night.
Princeton held the Eagles to just 3 points in the second quarter and relied on stellar defense late to earn a 39-31 win and the top seed in next week’s Carolina 1A Conference tournament.
Getting a high-pressure win over a rival on the road was a tall task and it’s given Wooten and her team an additional shot of confidence heading into the postseason.
“It’s big,” Wooten said.
The Bulldogs (18-4, 13-1) isolated Rosewood’s scoring threats with a triangle-and-two defense early on that stifled the Eagle offense and could make the team dangerous when the playoffs begin later this month.
“I knew if we could keep them from scoring we’d have a chance,” she said.
A trio of Rosewood players hit multiple 3-pointers in the team’s 47-39 victory over Princeton, but Mitchell said his team still prefers to get touches inside to open up the floor.
Noah Grantham hit four from behind the arc and led the Eagles with 13 points, while Jonathan Peacock and Kolby Harris each finished with 6 points.
“We normally try to work the ball inside out,” Mitchell said.
That game plan came into fruition later in the game when the Bulldogs were in a halfcourt zone trap and looking to extend the game.
The Eagles found Tucker Chapin open on the baseline on four trips down the court and he nailed four free throws down the stretch to finish with 12 points – all in the fourth quarter.