It was a combined 145 years between State Tournament appearances for Princeton and Mahtomedi prior to today’s game at ‘The Barn’.
On Wednesday afternoon, the No. 4 Tigers squared off against the No. 5 Zephyrs at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Not only is the long drought over for the Princeton Tigers boys basketball team in their bid to make the State Tournament, but they have also took care of business today against the Mahtomedi Zephyrs, winning 68-63 in their Class AAA pairing.
Collectively, Princeton and Mahtomedi counted for two of the four highest-scoring teams in Class AAA coming into the game, but neither team approached their season average.
Controlling the tipoff, the Zephyrs edged out to a 6-0 lead over the Tigers to start the game. Princeton was able to answer with a 7-0 run of their own to grab the lead. Both teams were ice cold from three point range in the first half, as the Tigers went 2 for 13 from beyond the arc and the Zephyrs went 2 for 14 from the same distance.
The teams swapped the lead back and forth throughout the first half of the game, with the Tigers maintaining a 29-28 lead before the teams went back to the locker rooms.
Mahtomedi’s highly-touted J’Vonne Hadley dropped 17 points by the half.
Princeton started with the ball in the second half but Mahtomedi once again got off to a quicker start, going on a 5-0 run before the Tigers roared back with a 10-0 run to go up by a game-high nine points at that juncture in the game.
After swapping a few more buckets, the Tigers’ Adam Williams knocked down a pair of threes on consecutive possessions to push the Princeton lead back up to a 59-50 advantage.
With around three minutes remaining, Williams hit another three, but the Zephyrs still hung around.
Employing a full-court press while the Tigers tried to burn up the clock.
With 1:04 left, the Zephyrs’ Luke Ricker nailed a three to pump life into his squad, as the cut into the lead and trailed the Tigers 63-59.
On the impending inbound, Princeton’s Reilly O’Neill received a pass and was intentionally fouled immediately. He hit both free throws to grow the Tiger lead to 65-59.
Mahtomedi answered back with a quick bucket.
The Tigers’ Jon Stimmler was the beneficiary of another intentional foul but missed his first shot in the bonus.
Mahtomedi raced down the court and was fouled on a floater in the lane. The shooter, Zac Centers missed both shots in a desperate situation that could have made it a one-possession game. Princeton continued to lead 65-61.
With 19.2 seconds remaining, Princeton inbounded the ball again to Reilly O’Neill. It put the Tigers in the double bonus and O’Neill hit one of two shots to extend the lead to 66-61.
In a last-ditch effort with 3.5 seconds remaining, the Zephyrs’ Hadley hit a two to make it a one-possession game, 66-63.
Off the ensuing Princeton inbound, the Zephyrs were whistled for an off-ball foul, which sent Adam Williams to the line for two. He sealed the game as he hit both shots, and scored the game’s final two points, putting an exclamation point on a 68-63 win.
The No. 4 Princeton Tigers have a date with No. 1 seed and 23-time state champion DeLaSalle Islanders tomorrow at noon at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Channel 45 will broadcast the game live.