Princeton beat arch-rival Rosewood for the second time in as many weeks to win the Carolina 1A Conference girls basketball tournament in a 49-30 win at North Duplin High Friday night.
Spring Creek’s boys earned the top spot in the playoffs and the tournament crown with a 73-69 win over James Kenan.
The win sends the Bulldogs (21-4) into the postseason on a 13-game winning streak. Princeton hasn’t lost since a 6-point loss on the road to Neuse Charter on Jan. 11 and will enjoy home advantage once the NCHSAA state playoffs begin next week.
Head coach Paula Wooten said she has hardly mentioned the roll her team has been on, preferring instead for her team to focus on one game at a time.
“I don’t really put a lot of emphasis on winning streaks,” Wooten said. “We’re just trying to improve each game.”
Wooten had great production from her frontcourt, especially down the stretch as the Bulldogs limited second-chance opportunities for Rosewood (15-11).
Jazmaine McCain earned a double-double, leading all scorers with 11 points to go with her 21 rebounds, although her coach pointed out she sat out the third quarter with foul trouble and could have been an even bigger factor down low.
“I just try to focus on the game,” McCain said, explaining she didn’t
Princeton again isolated Rosewood’s scorers with a Triangle-and-2 defensive look that put pressure on the Eagles’ best shooters.
“I’m happy for the seniors,” Wooten said. “It will give them confidence moving forward. Success breeds success.”
McCain echoed those sentiments, adding that the tourney showed her the team needs to work more on limiting turnovers and boxing out.
“We look at it as more of a practice for the playoffs,” she said.
Rosewood coach Tee Wooten, who refused to shake hands after the first meeting between the teams, suggested for the second time in two straight losses to Princeton that unfair fouls early in the game cost his team.
Princeton clinched the regular season championship outright on Feb. 9 with a 39-31 road win over Rosewood.
“The foul situation was one-sided,” he said.
The Gators (20-6) won the tiebreaker over the Tigers after splitting the regular-season series on the way to a shared title and will have home-court advantage when the playoffs open up next week.
James Kenan (17-5) trailed by three at halftime, but a 9-0 run by the Gators after intermission put coach Jeff Byrd’s team in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of.
“We didn’t have it on defense,” he said, noting that a lackluster third quarter was once again his team’s Achilles’ heel against the Gators. “We went cold in the third quarter. We just missed a lot of shots.”
Spring Creek coach Taylor Jones said his team was intensely focused even before the game started.
“They were as locked in today as I’ve ever seen,” he said, noting James Kenan out-rebounded his team in the last matchup, but the Gators boxed out and limited second chances. “We competed on the glass.”
The Tigers got within four during the final quarter, but the Gators closed out their opponent with impeccable free throw shooting led by Matthew Dupuy, who hit all six of his fourth quarter foul shots.
“You’ve got to go up there and be tough,” Jones said. “We knew they were going to make a run. It was a matter of us just continuing to attack.”
Jones said fighting off the Tiger comeback gave his team the postseason test they needed to play confidently when state playoffs action begins.
“I told them ‘If you can play through that, you can play through anything.’”