MANLIUS – Anna Murray scored Princeton’s first four points of the game the last time the Tigresses played Bureau Valley, but did not score again in a 46-34 loss in the finals of the Princeton Holiday Tournament last month.
The Princeton senior standout solved the Storm’s box-and-1 defense the second time around, scoring a pair of three-point plays in the fourth quarter alone to lead the Tigresses to a 49-40 win over the rival Storm at the Storm Cellar Monday night. She finished with a game-high 17 points.
Murray said the Tigresses were ready for the box-and-1, and she got plenty of help from her friends in blue, including sophomore Kenzie Coleman (9) and junior Jacey Jensen (8), who combined for 17 more points. Senior Sara Grieff tossed in six points and junior Kelly VanDenBussche added five.
“We passed the ball around more and looked for the open person, not necessarily just me,” Murray said. “My teammates were able to knock down shots when they were open. We knew they were going to play a box-and-1 on me.”
“We showed tonight other kids can get involved,” PHS coach Tiffany Gonigam said. “I thought Anna was very selfless, and we really spaced the floor well. She wasn’t afraid of giving up that ball. Trusting in what we’re doing and trusting her teammates.”
The Tigresses (5-3, 2-1) threatened to blow the game wide open early, scoring 11 straight to go up 11-2 at the end of one quarter.
Coleman knocked down two straight 3-pointers and Murray scored twice to run the Tigresses’ lead to 21-6 late in the second period.
VanDenBussche opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Grieff followed with a deuce as the Tigresses extended their 12-point halftime lead to 26-9.
The Storm (6-2, 1-1) mounted their comeback, scoring 10 straight to pull within seven. Saige Barnett lit the spark with a 3-pointer and hit two free throws on the back end with 4 minutes to play in the third quarter to make it 26-19.
Princeton calmed the Storm tide with another 3-pointer by Coleman and hoops by Jensen and Grieff to go back up 33-21.
Down 33-26 after three, senior Christen Hurley provided a spark for the Storm. She scored eight straight points for Bureau Valley as the Storm fought back to within 36-34 with 3:10 left to play.
“We dug ourselves into big of a hole in the first half and couldn’t get out of it. It was just too big of a hole. We did make a nice little run and got them to turn the ball over quite a bit and finally started hitting some shots,” BV coach Jim Nugent said.
That’s when Murray took over. A little Michael Jordan-esque, she converted one three-point play on a hustle play which saw her come up dribbling after a loose ball in the corner and scored a layup and bonus. She added a second 3-point play on a drive to give Princeton a 46-40 lead with 1:20 left in the game.
Nugent didn’t believe the Storm played the box-and-1 on Murray as well this time as last, but said she had a lot to do about it.
“I would bet that Anna was a little more hungry and a little more assertive, and that could be why we didn’t do as good a job on her,” he said. “She’s a good athlete. I’m sure when she puts her mind to it, there isn’t too much she can’t do.”
Gonigam, a BV alum who came to PHS last year after coaching the Storm, said the Tigresses, who also won on the road at Newman last week after a three-game skid, continue to make great strides on the journey they call the 2017-18 season.
“These last two games, the girls have just played phenomenal. Beginning of the season we preached the journey and being a process, and we know we have so much room for growth,” Gonigam said.
“We went through a period of three games there we’ll call growing pains, not that our growth is over, but we had some really rough games that challenged us and made us look at what was causing us to maybe to not play with as much intensity. That doesn’t just fall on the girls, it falls on us (coaches) too.
“We made a lot of adjustments, offensively and defensively, to get the girls to play with more passion, and they’re taking to that very well.”
Hurley finished with a team-high 16 points for BV. Barnett had 10.
• Notes: BV won the sophomore game 37-18. ... The Bureau County and TRAC rivals will meet again Jan. 18 at Princeton. ... PHS hosts Hall Thursday while BV travels to Prophetstown.
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