PRINCETON — Depending on your point of view, Tuesday’s TRAC East boys basketball match-up at Prouty Gym between the Princeton Tigers and Hall Red Devils was either a defensive battle or an offensively challenged contest.
While the two rivals normally combine to put up about 120 points between them, they tallied just 10 in the first quarter and 30 for the first half.
In the end, the Red Devils scored just enough points, thanks to senior Brant Vanaman’s 11-point effort in the fourth quarter, to steal a 38-35 win over the rival Tigers.
“When you win, you call it good defense. Coach Freds probably calls it bad offense,” Hall coach Mike Filippini joked. “We average close to 60 and I know Princeton averages more than us. That’s two nights in a row, where our offense stunk. But our defense is great. We held St. Bede to 42 points and Funfsinn to (10). Tonight we held Reinhardt to (nine), Parry only to seven.
“I can’t say enough about our kids defensive effort. We practice defense a lot and they take a lot of pride in. I don’t know how many (points) Brant had, but his defensive is worth a thousand times more than his offense will ever be. He just takes the other team’s best perimeter player and shuts them down. He held Reinhardt to nine points in his own gym. … And it’s not just Brant. everybody played great defense.”
Filippini said the Red Devils as a whole did a good job executing on bumping Princeton’s cutters through the lane. He said it’s paid off to practice defense 25 minutes a day.
Vanaman said the Red Devils have been playing good team defense. They just need to pick up the offense.
Tiger coach Michael Fredericks said it was a tough one to lose.
“Losing at home is a bummer. Hate losing at home, especially to a rival. This was a big game,” he said.
Vanaman was held scoreless until it counted most. He scored all of game-high 11 points down the stretch as Red Devils rallied down six early in the fourth quarter.
Vanaman popped for two and then a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 26 with 4:55 to play. He scored on a drive to give the Red Devils a lead they would never give up at 31-27.
“I just kind of told myself to be a better leader, take control and calm it down, because at the beginning we came out sloppy,” Vanaman said. “Coaches told me to shoot, so I took advantage of that and they were dropping.”
Fredericks said Vanaman got away from the Tigers.
“He’s awfully smooth,” he said. “I thought couple his shots, he caught on the wing, took one dribble, pull-up, nobody’s there. That’s not acceptable. We’re playing a 2-3 zone, stay in front of him. We know he’s in of their top layers. We have to be able to find him and we didn’t find him tonight, especially in the fourth.”
Hall’s Sean Riordan perhaps delivered the dagger. Having not played until the fourth quarter and not at all last Friday in the Red Devils win over St. Bede, the senior sharpshooter swished a 3-pointer deep from the left corner, complete with a lasting Michael Jordanesque flick of the wrist.
“He didn’t play a second against St. Bede and that’s the coach’s fault. I should have found some time to put him in,” Filippini said. “You haven’t payed the last game, you haven’t played the whole half. You go in cold and hits a 3, I mean that shows a lot of heart out of Sean. That was a 1-point game at the time and gave us a 4-point lead, and that pretty much won the game for us.”
Vanaman scored on an inbounds play under the hoop and added two free throws to make it 37-33 with 17.4 left.
Josh Reinhardt scored for the Tigers, then flung the loose ball to stop the clock, in which the Tigers were assessed a warning for delay of game. Alex Castelan was fouled on the ensuing inbounds and made 1 of 2 free throws with 0.7 remaining with Tiger Christian Parry’s making a full-court heave after rebounding the miss on the second.
Fredericks said the Tigers did a poor job boxing out which led to too many second-chance shots for Hall and they didn’t make their open looks they had.
“I thought we missed a ton of bunnies. We have to finish in the lane,” he said. “I understand that we’re an undersized team, but we have to finish. We had tons of easy opportunities in the paint and didn’t convert.”
Wozniak added six points for Hall, which improved to 12-5, 3-0.
Reinhardt and Branden Haring had nine points each for the Tigers (10-4, 3-2).
Princeton outscored Hall 8-3 to close the first half out for a 16-14 lead. Parry hooped twice at the end, including a high-arcing 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to close out the half.
Only 12 points were scored in the third quarter, with Princeton netting the last four on a run-out by Reinhardt and a buzzer-beater by Haring to take a 23-19 lead.
Notes: Freshman Jamie Reinhardt made a steal and an off-balanced layup at the buzzer to lift Princeton to a 48-46 win in the sophomore game. … Hall travels to Bureau Valley Friday while PHS steps out of the league circuit to host Rock Falls.
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