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Princeton’s Kaitlyn Sautter puts up a shot against Monticello during the Tigers’ 71-62 win over the Magic. 

The morning of the Jan. 7, girls basketball game between Princeton and Monticello, the Tigers got word their Head Coach, Pedro Valdivieso, would be sidelined due to health and safety protocols.

Losing the signal caller for Princeton, the Tigers would have to quickly overcome the blow to possibly walk away with the win over the Mississippi 8 foe.

Princeton found a way to do just that, as varsity assistant Jesse James stepped into the void left by Valdivieso, while the players put together a full team effort on the court to defeat the Magic, 71-62 on the Tigers’ home court.

Being tossed into the fray as the acting head coach for the team, James was not surprised by the performance on the court by the girls. “As far as getting the win out of it, it wasn’t unexpected. I knew the girls would be ready to play and they came out with a great energy and that flowed over to the bench and the fans,” said James, adding that the energy was great all night in the Princeton gym.

Coming out with that great energy, the Tigers were able to jump all over the Magic as after senior Kaitlyn Sautter’s fast break layup, Princeton held a 13-3 lead with 10:50 left in the opening half.

Continuing to keep the gas on the pedal, the Tigers expanded their lead to 25-12 before the Magic would respond.

For the remainder of the half, Monticello slowly grinded away at the Princeton lead, going on a 14-7 run to bring the game to single digits at 32-26 for halftime.

That run would carry over into the second half for the Magic as Monticello slowly was able to turn the deficit into a lead for the visiting team as the Tigers trailed, 53-44 with 8:53 left in the game.

Now trailing, Princeton responded with a run of their own, battling back to tie the game at 59-59 with 3:49 left in the tight contest.

With the game very much up in the air, junior guard Myranda Griesert drove towards the rim, and banked a layup home for the 61-59 advantage, a lead the Tigers would not relinquish, holding on to beat the Magic.

Down the stretch, Princeton was able to take care of the ball, limiting turnovers which resulted in the victory said Madison James. “We took care of the ball well which has been a hard thing for us in the past,” she said.

Also paired with taking care of the ball was a trio of performances on the offensive end as Griesert, James and Madisyn Grudem combined for 53 points on the night to propel the offense.

James also added 16 rebounds to give the senior a double-double on the night.

Princeton now sits at 3-10 on the season while Monticello dropped to 5-7.

Struggling a bit out of the gates, the win over the Magic has reestablished confidence going forward for the Tigers. “The win over Monticello gives us a huge confidence boost. We were getting frustrated with our season so far but hopefully this will bring us the confidence boost we need for the upcoming games. Knowing we all can do well on offense and play hard, we should be able to put that into every game now on,” said Madison James, adding that if the team can bring the energy they brought against the Magic, they will be fine going forward.

Now entering a stretch of winnable games, the Tigers will look to capitalize on the schedule to keep the winning ways alive.

Being guided by Jesse James for the time being, Princeton opened with a trip to St. Francis on Jan. 11 before coming home to host North Branch two days later.

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