MANLIUS — Parker Neuhalfen was like a magician Saturday night, giving it the old now you see him, now you don’t trick.
The shifty Bureau Valley junior guard scored 27 points to lead the Storm to a 55-46 win over visiting Bureau County rival Princeton. Neuhalfen had 13 points in the first half and 15 in the second, including 9 of 10 free-throw shoots.
“Parker’s happy we won. He could have scored two and he would have been happy,” BV coach Jason Marquis said. “He’s a great leader for us. He helps us collect ourselves. People want to talk about his offense. They don’t realize how good of a defensive player he’s become. It wasn’t easy. As a freshman, his defense was suspect, I’ll say that with a wink. That kid’s worked hard on a his game. It’s just fun when your best player are great kids like him.”
Tommy Johnston added 16 points for the Storm (4-2). Princeton (1-4) was led by Garrett Duffin (19) and JJ Vaccaro (12).
Even with Neuhalfen’s scoring prowess, the Storm were unable to totally shrug the Tigers off. With Neuhalfen spending some time on the bench in the fourth quarter after giving up a three on defense, the Tigers managed to trim a 13-point deficit into single digits with a little over a minute left to play.
A pair of inside hoops by 6-5 senior post David Miller pushed the Storm up by 13 at 47-34. Vaccaro hit a three-pointer and after a BV hoop by Tommy Johnston, Duffin hit a two pointer and a two free throws to make it 49-41 with 1:15 to play.
The Tigers got as close as 53-46 on a three-pointer by Tyler Clark with 36.8 left, but Neuhalfen finished off the Storm win from the charity stripe with a pair of free throws a second later for the final points of the night.
“We couldn’t quite get over the hump,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said. “They gave us some chances there. They missed four or five possessions in a row and we couldn’t convert on them. … It was a frustrating loss.”
“It’s no mystery, Princeton’s a big rival for us. The kids were excited, the coaching staff was excited,” he said. “We get to play them once every year, next year it will be twice. Hopefully after that were play everybody once, and it will be once again. So it was a good win for the kids, and I’m excited for them.
“People can say what they want about Princeton, but Princeton’s a good basketball team. They played some tough teams down there at Orion. This is a good win for our kids. Our first on our floor, we love the home crowd. We love getting out every day where we practice and play. They can enjoy this until midnight on Sunday night. When 8 a.m. comes around Monday, we’re going to get ready for conference.”
When the Bureau County rivals meet next year, it will be as Three Rivers East foes with the shift of the conference lines form North/South to East/West. The Three Rivers is exploring playing a full conference schedule beyond that.
BV scored six straight points, including two hoops by Neuhalfen to open up a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Neuhalfen hit a three to start the second quarter up with a 17-7 lead. The Storm stretched their lead to 28-15 at the half on a drive by Neuhalfen and a basket by Johnston.
Brandt just didn’t play smart basketball in the first half, getting into too much early foul trouble..
“It wasn’t the officiating. We made some silly fouls. First quarter fouls are just as important as third and fourth quarter. Puts you on the bench earlier. That’s a different guy who’s in there that doesn’t play as much.”
Duffin hooped to open the third quarter for Princeton. The Storm answered with five straight with a bucket by Johnston and Neuhalfen scoring on a drive and two free throws to give the Storm what would be their biggest lead of the night at 33-17.
A three and a two by Duffin and a jumper by Clark pulled the Tigers within 39-28 at quarter’s end.
Marquis said the Storm played with passion on defense in the first half, but showed fatigue in the second and didn’t get out on shooters like they should, “but buckled down when they needed to.”
Notes: The freshmen got the day off at 3:30 p.m. with some excitement with the Storm topping the Tigers 54-51 in overtime. Schoff led the Storm with 17 points with PHS countering with Colby Robbins (18). There was no drama in the sophomore game, where the Kittens ran away to a 23-1 first quarter lead on the way to a 71-35 triumph. Jake Reinhardt led the Kittens with 15 points with Skye Behrends, Tanner Kuhne and Isaac Salazar adding nine each and Dalton Jilderda eight…. Princeton returns to action at Prouty Gym Tuesday vs. Rochelle with the sophomores tipping off at 5:30 p.m. The Storm travels to Amboy on Friday.
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