Spartans outduel Princeton
Princeton (42) Vs. Greenbrier East (50)
Feb 26, 2016
for the Daily Telegraph
FAIRLEA — It looked a little different this time around, but the result for Greenbrier East was the same. Another sectional championship.
Princeton forced East out of its comfort zone Friday, but the fifth-ranked Lady Spartans found another way to reach their goal.
A typically perimeter oriented East team took advantage of a smaller group of Tigers, going inside early and often when the jumpers weren’t falling to secure a 50-42 victory in the Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 championship game at Spartan Gym.
With the win, East (19-3) earned the right to host No. 7 George Washington, which fell to South Charleston in the Region 3, Section 1 title game Friday, in a Region 3 co-final Tuesday with a trip to what would be a 10th the state tournament appearance since 2000 on the line.
“It’s big,” said Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice of getting to play that do-or-die regional at home. “But it also puts a lot of pressure on them. They want to perform in front of their home fans. We’ll have a big challenge against a great team.”
Early on, it looked as though the Lady Spartans would cruise into that game against the Lady Patriots. Justice’s club scored the game’s first eight points against Princeton, attacking the basket and then going inside-out for a Kiara Smith 3-ball.
A Kaleigh Barker runner 5 minutes in finally broke the ice for the No. 8 Tigerettes (14-6), and Barker’s teammates rode the wave of momentum, scoring 12 straight points to close the quarter and take a four-point lead into the second frame after a Barker 3 just before the buzzer.
“They played really hard,” said Justice. “They were killing us on the boards and getting all the 50-50 balls.”
Autumn Bradley scored inside to start the second quarter, extending the run to 12-0, but then it was East’s turn.
Kat Walton found Piper Nunley for an easy layup, Lexi Tincher knocked down a 3 and Smith got to the hole to put East ahed 18-14. The Lady Spartans took a 19-16 advantage into halftime, despite shooting just 2 for 11 from downtown.
Sending a clear message that it wasn’t going away, an aggressive and scrappy Princeton group opened the second half with seven straight points, capped by a Danielle Hall 3 that put the visitors ahead 23-19 with 5:55 to play.
Tincher, who crossed the 1,000-point plateau in a win over Shady Spring Wednesday, wasn’t about to see her senior season end that way.
The Energizer Bunny of a wing player broke a three-minute drought for East, scoring on a beautiful pass from Smith and then knocked down a 3-ball from the corner to put her team ahead 24-23.
East never trailed again.
Princeton was able to tie it up at 25, but Tincher again took control, sparking an 11-0 run with a 3-ball from the top of the key and a pair of transition layups.
“We went to two bigs, and that just stopped (Princeton’s offense),” said Justice. “We made a gigantic run after that and did a nice job.”
Down 41-28 with a little more than 3 minutes to play, the Tigerettes had to take some chances, and East capitalized by finding some easy looks for Piper Nunley inside down the stretch.
A Barker 3 from the corner pulled Princeton within six points, 45-29 with 1:47 to play, but Smith responded by drawing the defense on her way to the basket and pitched to Nunley for another score that put the game on ice.
“We’ve had effort all year,” said Princeton head coach Charles “Moose” Angell. “They got that little run in the third quarter that kind of hurt us. We had a lot of foul trouble and had some girls get hurt. It’s just tough in this situation.”
East, which usually thrives on the 3-point shot, went just 4 of 22 from long range, but the Lady Spartans found offense in other ways, getting 26 points in the paint and 10 second-chance points to erase the upset threat.
“The kids get nervous sometimes,” said Justice. “Katie (Wilmer) is a fantastic shooter, but she had a rough night. That’s alright. She’ll have a good night the next time.
“We made some really beautiful passes down low to Piper and got some nice points there.”
Tincher finished with 24 points and five rebounds to lead the East attack, while Nunley recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards.
Smith, back at full speed after an injury suffered in a loss to Morgantown at the Big Atlantic Classic, posted eights across the board with eight points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“Kiara’s a competitor,” said Justice. “She’s tough. All these kids are. I was really pleased.”
Princeton, which will travel to No. 3 South Charleston for its regional co-final Tuesday, was led by Hall and Mitchem, who scored 11 points each.
Hall and Mitchem both grabbed eight rebounds. Barker, who cleared 10 boards, and Vest finished the game with eight points each.
“We never back down from anybody, and we’ll go do what we think we can do with them and get after them,” said Angell of Tuesday’s big challenge. “We always play really good defense. We haven’t shot the ball well all year, but we usually hold people around 40 points.
“Our girls play their guts out.”
— Email: chuffman@

At Greenbrier East
Danielle Hall 4 1-2 11, Adrianna Mitchem 4 3-3 11, Jamie Vest 3 1-4 8, Kaleigh Barker 3 0-0 8, Dae Dae Eaves 0 0-0 0, Brittany Long 1 0-0 2, Autumn Bradley 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 5-9 42.
Katie Wilmer 1 0-0 2, Piper Nunley 6 3-6 15, Kiara Smith 3 1-6 8, Kat Walton 0 1-3 1, Lexi Tincher 7 7-10 24. Totals: 17 12-25 50.
Princeton................12 4 9 17 — 42
Greenbrier East.......8 11 15 16 — 50
3-point goals: P: 5 (Hall 2, Vest, Barker 2); GE: 4 (Smith, Tincher 3). Fouled out: None.
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Princeton 12 4 9 17 0 42
Greenbrier East 8 11 15 16 0 50
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