Tigers on guard
Bluefield (45) Vs. Princeton (60)
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — Not only was Princeton on guard for Bluefield, their guards were on.
Powered by strong play out front and a hometown crowd all around them, the Tigers defeated the Beavers for the first time in three years, 60-45, on Tuesday night at the Ralph Ball Court.
Princeton (3-0) never trailed in the game and kept Bluefield’s speed in check for the most part.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids,” said Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard. “I think they’re beginning to settle down, and have confidence in ... our game plan. They’re starting to execute it pretty well.”
“You get solid guard play, then I think you can compete.”
The game started slowly and sloppy. Princeton turned the ball over on its first three possessions, and two minutes passed before the first field goal fell through the hoop.
Said senior Jacob Whittington, who had 14 points for the Tigers, “We’ve just got to look past it and win the next play.”
Princeton’s first four points came from 6-foot-5 Garrison Hartwell in the post.
Hartwell said, “I knew all week that if we came in and executed, we were going to be in the ballgame, and we were going to have a chance to win, and I just wanted to go out there and give it all for my team.”
The inside game freed up the perimeter enough to get Princeton rolling. An 11-0 run in the first half gave the Tigers their first double-digit lead, 17-5. Aaron McCabe launched a 55-foot shot just before the first quarter buzzer that put Princeton ahead by 10.
Princeton guard Colton Fix got in foul trouble in the first four minutes and took a seat, but came back to score 14 points in the game.
Fix said, “I went to the bench with two fouls early in the first quarter, and I had full confidence in my team to keep it going. ‘Junior’ McCabe, he’s a great point guard.”
“We can all handle the ball pretty good,” Fix said. “We have good chemistry together.”
Things slowed down in the second quarter, which ended with Princeton ahead 23-14.
Jeremy Thompson scored nine points for the Beavers (1-2) in a 11-4 run in the third quarter that cut Princeton’s lead to 33-27.
Gilliard said, “You can never relax on a Bluefield team, simply because there’s no quit in them. They’re going to keep fighting until the end. And they’ve got some tremendous athletes there.”
Led by Thompson, Bluefield made one more run in the fourth quarter, producing a 45-38 score with 4:57 left. But Princeton scored 10 of the next 13 points in the game and Fix sank 5 of 6 free throws in the last 1:07 to maintain a safe cushion.
Thompson said, “We knew we had them against the ropes, so we had to keep pushing, had to keep running, keep the intensity up ... and they made a couple of good plays. We didn’t get back on a couple, which hurt us. But we tried to keep the intensity up, to keep it on our side.”
Thompson led Bluefield with 19 points, all coming from field goals. He connected on all three treys scored by the Beavers.
“We knew it was going to be a high-intensity game,” Thompson said. “It’s a rival game, so we knew the crowd was going to be a factor. But we just had to come out and play Beaver basketball. That’s what we tried to do (but) we struggled here and there.”
Bluefield head coach Buster Large said the contest was “a great high school game. Give Princeton all the credit in the world. They out-played us. They’re very deserving of this win.”
“Our kids battled back. I’m very proud of that, but sometimes you fall a little bit short.”
Gilliard said about Bluefield, “They’re still a very good basketball team.”
Fix said, “We haven’t beat Bluefield since my freshman year, when I was on the bench. ... For us to come out victorious, it feels good. It feels real good.”
Princeton junior Cole Cochran led the Tigers’ scoring with 18 points.
Gilliard said, “What we want to get out of this is, we need to know that we’re capable of being a decent basketball team, but at the same time, we can’t become complacent and think that we’ve conquered the world.
“We’ve got to come back to work tomorrow, and get ready for the next opponent.”
Gilliard credited the support from the stands as well.
“Home crowd is huge. It’s huge,” he said. “That’s what interscholastic sports is about. You get your local communities involved. I couldn’t be any more proud of our hometown fans than I was tonight. It was a great turnout and a great showing.”
Thompson said, “It sucks, losing to Princeton. It’s bragging rights, just like Graham. We lost. It’s over. There’s nothing we can do about it. So we’ve got to get back in the gym, hit the drawing board, work, get better each and every practice.”
Large said, “We’re struggling a little bit right now, on both sides of the ball. But it’s early in the year. ... We’ve got plenty of time. We’ve just got to get back to work. And believe me, we’re going to work hard.”
Princeton hosts its Christmas tournament on Friday and Saturday. Bluefield faces another tough opponent with Westside coming to the Brushfork Armory next Tuesday.
— Contact Tom Bone at

At The Coach Ralph Ball Court
Donta Hopkins 2 0-0 4, Jaray Williams 3 0-2 6, Jeremy Thompson 8 0-0 19, Mookie Collier 5 2-3 12, Devin Goins 0 2-2 2, Elijah Greene 1 0-1 2. Totals 19 4-8 45.
Garrison Hartwell 1 1-2 3, Colton Fix 3 8-10 14, Jacob Whittington 6 0-0 14, Aaron McCabe 1 2-4 5, Cole Cochran 9 0-0 18, Bryson Murphy 2 0-2 4, Logan Watkins 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 11-18 60.
Bluefield.........................5 9 18 13 — 45
Princeton.....................15 8 18 19 — 60
3-point goals — BHS 3 (Thompson 3), PSHS 3 (Whittington 2, McCabe 1). Total fouls — BHS 16, PSHS 14.
Game Scoreboard
Bluefield 5 9 18 13 0 45
Princeton 15 8 18 19 0 60
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