By Jonathan Green
For The Register-Herald
On paper, Princeton had a clear advantage over St. Albans. The Tigers had the edge in experience and size, but the Red Dragons weren’t going down without a fight.
Every time Princeton started to pull away, St. Albans would battle back. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Tigers found their groove for a 72-56 victory on Wednesday night at Princeton Senior High School.
“We’re not as crisp as we were at the beginning of the year,” Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard said. “We made a lot of mistakes defensively. We weren’t patient enough to run our sets that we should be offensively.
“We had prepared for box-in-one defense and things of that nature, and the kids just kind of lost their composure. They didn’t stick with the game plan.”
Princeton (10-2) led the entire game, but the Dragons (4-6) closed within 1-point near the end of third quarter until a buzzer-beater by Ryan Meadows made it 49-45. St. Albans cut it within four several times thereafter, but the Tigers were able to seal the game late.
“I thought we played real well,” St. Albans head coach Marshall Kiser said. “I thought our defense had them confused most of the game. We jumped in and out of four different defenses. The Meadows kid is really, really good.
“He’s good off the catch and shoot, he’s good of the dribble and he sees the floor well. We had some kids shoot the ball well and keep us in the game. We played well up until the final quarter. I think we just got tired and Princeton stepped up.”
Meadows had a game-high 24 points including a three-quarter court buzzer--beater that rattled in as the horn sounded. The senior standout seemed to have the perfect answer every time the Dragons found their rhythm.
“Ryan is pretty steady. I wish everyone on the team would work as hard as he works,” Gilliard said. “I’m not sure what his rebound total was, but he did a heck of job getting some rebounds and eliminating them from getting second shot opportunities.”
St. Albans kept it close as they answered Princeton shot for shot to begin the third. They answered a fastbreak by Meadows and three by Walters with a three from Ryan Broderick. A McNeil drive and Watkins score made it 46-45 with seconds remaining.
“It was nice to see that,” Kiser said of his team battling back. “We’ve got some kids that can shoot the ball pretty well. We played a lot of guys tonight.”
Walters finished with 18 points and Ferguson had 11. Eight different players scored for Princeton.
McNeil’s 17 points paced the Dragons. He was their only player in double figures.
Princeton hosts George Washington on Friday while St. Albans visits Spring Valley.
ST. ALBANS (4-6)
Broderick 5, Clark 5, Young 6, Beck 4, Carter 4, Watkins 6, Nathan McNeil 17, Aliff 0, Moss 9. Totals 22 8-16 56.
Lee 0, Ryan Meadows 24, Jennelle 2, Rogers 2, McPherson 0, Clements 8, Hunter Walters 18, Caron 6, Aaron Ferguson 11, Mills 1. Totals 27 14-17 72.
St. Albans.......................10 21 14 11 – 56
Princeton.........................14 23 12 23 – 72
3-point field goals: SA 5 (Young 2, Broderick, McNeil), PRI 4 (Walters 3, Meadows). Fouled out- none. JV- Princeton won 76-42