PRINCETON — Jesse Brandt was willing to try anything to get the Princeton Tigers out of their recent shooting slump. In Tuesday’s practice, he had them work out with an oversized basketball and when it came time to shoot, all they could do was say the word “shot” and dribble away to continue their offense.
He said he wasn’t sure if the practice scheme had anything to do with it, but he was happy with the results. They shot 48 percent from the field on the way to a 54-41 win over Bureau County rival Spring Valley Hall. It was their highest scoring outing in seven games for a team averaging 36.1 ppg in their last 11 games.
“We had a couple bad stretches there when we let them game back in the game. When we were patient offensively and executed what we wanted to do, (we) got the shot we wanted. It was nice to see some go in tonight,” Brandt said.
Even still, the Tigers needed a late 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to put the Red Devils away. Cole Evenson finished the night with a game-high 20 points, 10 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
“They were playing zone, and we had him in the middle. First couple of times he passed up some shots and we said, ‘shoot the dang thing,’” Brandt said. “We executed well, the kids made some nice passes and waited for him to get open, and they got it to him. He finished out the game well.”
Princeton never trailed in the game, but never led more than nine points until its fourth-quarter surge. The Tigers opened the third quarter with a free throw by Austin Mack, a jumper by Evenson and a runner by Mack to go up 32-23 with 5:42 to play in the third.
The Red Devils used a 10-2 run including a three by Danny Nolasco, a three-point play and pair of free throws by Brett Fanning and a basket by Miguel Villareal to close within 34-33.
In the end, Hall coach Mike Filippini said the Red Devils couldn’t overcome their shooting deficiencies (37 percent). Leading scorer Brett Fanning tallied 15 points on the strength of 9-11 free-throw shooting, but made just 2 of 10 attempts from the floor.
“It’s a three-point game, a one-possession game, then they rattled off nine points in a row. That’s why we’ve got the record we do. We’ve got to find some way, some how to get the ball in the bucket to kill a run like that,” he said.
Brandt said it was sure nice to see the number four show up in the turnover column.
“We haven’t had one of those for awhile, even with our real good teams,” he said. “That was a big part of the game. we took care of the ball.”