PRINCETON — The Princeton Tigers never trailed but had to overcome a late-scoring run by the Orion Chargers as the Tigers went on to a 45-39 victory Friday night at Prouty Gymnasium.
Both teams started off slow offensively as Orion’s Allen tied the game 4-4 at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter to give Orion its second and last tie of the game.
Princeton slowly built a 16-point lead spanning 13:52 of play after junior guard Garrett Duffin took a charge which gave the Tigers some momentum with the game 13-8 at 6:52 of the second quarter.
The Charger offense had no answer for the Tiger defense which only allowed 11 points on three Orion field goals in the first half.
“We were really good in the first half defensively. I thought we got them to turn the ball over, and in the second half we gave up some easier baskets, but in the end we made a couple of stops that were crucial that allowed us to get the victory,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said.
The Tigers went on a 14-3 scoring run during the span and grabbed their largest lead of the game capped off by with a steal by senior forward Nate Duffy which translated into a Duffin layup at the 7:00 mark of the third making the score 27-11.
Orion wouldn’t go quietly scoring the next eight points as senior guard Clay Vanderheiden and junior forward Christian Allen each added two baskets to cut the Tiger lead in half 27-19 with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“We had our lead at like five or six points after they scored a few times, and they were kind of in a position that they had to chase from there. Like I said, I’m proud of the guys for the way we played, and I wish we were able to add to the lead we had at half, we weren’t able to do that but we were able to come away with a win,” Brandt said.
The Chargers slowly chipped away at the Tiger lead until sophomore guard Christopher Dhabalt made a nice crossover dribble for a layup with 1:20 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Princeton lead to 38-37.
Princeton took the lead for the remainder of the game as Duffin took the very next possession down the court and buried a jump shot with 3:40 to give Princeton a lead the wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
Princeton made 7 of 9 free throw attempts in the last minute of play to hold on for the victory.
“I’m happy that we got the win here for the kids, it’s been a while since we’ve got a victory so I’m glad we pulled that out. We had a good first half both sides offensively and defensively, second half we shot the ball poorly and our defense wasn’t as effective as the first half but I’m proud of the way we finished the game. We knocked down free throws when we had to, made defensive stops and got rebounds too.”
Duffin led the Princeton offense with 23 points on 8 of 19 shooting and was followed by three other Tigers, junior guard Brenton Schmidt, junior forward Zach Frieland and senior forward Zach Andersen as each added four points.