PRINCETON — Princeton’s luck against the Irish finally ran out Tuesday night at Prouty Gymnasium, where Seneca tripped the host Tigers 39-32.
Princeton had won five straight over the Irish since Russell Witte took over as head job when Doug Evans retired in 2009, including twice a year ago and twice the year before that. And even though the Irish came in undefeated at 7-0 with Princeton at 3-6, Witte knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the Prouty Gym park.
“Well, I tell you what. I knew Princeton was 3-6 coming in to it, but I knew they were going to be tough here. We haven’t beaten them at the varsity level, and I told the kids they were going to be ready to play in just their second home game of the season,” said Witte, who previously was head coach at Hall. “Princeton played phenomenal, and we made some free throws at the end.”
Tiger coach Jesse Brandt said it all came down to about three or four possessions.
“First possession of the second half we gave up a layup on an inbounds play. First half we gave up two open looks on three-point shots because we didn’t defend the proper way in our zone,” he said. “We didn’t turn it over as much tonight, (but) we had a couple key ones at times. When you’re trying to make a run or it’s a tie or a two or three-point game, you can’t turn it over. We turned it over, and they come down and make a shot.”
The Tigers led by as much as six points in the first half, taking a 13-7 lead in the second quarter on an Austin Mack baseline drive. Mack hooped again on a jump stop to put the Tigers up 15-11.
Conlan Callahan got loose on the Tigers’ zone, hitting back-to-back threes to put the Irish on top at 17-15. The Tigers closed within 20-19 at the break on baskets by Josh Kieffer and Austen Stewart.
J.J. Viccaro scored on an inbounds play and added a trey to knot the score at 26. Seneca hooped with 0:02 showing to gain a 30-28 lead after three quarters
Mack opened the fourth quarter with a bucket to tie the game at 30, but the Irish scored five straight points and tallied its final four points in a low-scoring final frame to walk out a 37-32 winner.
Excluding the open looks they allowed to Callahan for threes, Brandt said the Tigers’ defense played well, especially Mack in the post. He had several blocks and was called for a first-half goal tending call, much to Brandt’s chagrin.
“Austin Mack controlled the lane well,” Brandt said. “Two nights in a row we hold them under 40 and don’t win, They were good defensively, too. We didn’t shoot well, lot of baskets in and out about he basket. Things that could have went in but didn’t. Even there at the end, Austen Stewart makes that little turn-around jump shot, instead it bounces off and we got to foul.”
Cole Evenson led the Tigers (3-7) with 10 points; Viccaro added seven and Mack six. Callahan led the Irish with 15.
Seneca and Princeton both return to the Plano Christmas Classic, which will be seeded Thursday. Witte is hopeful the Irish’s 8-0 mark would land them a Top 2 seed. The Tigers beat the Irish at Plano 52-46 last Christmas.
Tiger tales: Garrett Duffin continued his hot hand, scoring 36 points to carry the Kittens to a 51-32 win in the soph prelim. Brenton Schmidt added 10 points. It's back on the road for PHS Friday to Rockridge. the Rockets are undefeated in seven games, led by junior Ethan Happ, who has verbally commited to Wisconsin.
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