For the Princeton High girls’ basketball program, the time is now.
Coming off a 14-14 season that included a first-round victory in the Central Jersey Group 4 state sectional tournament, the Little Tigers have high hopes for this season. Through the first three games, those hopes certainly seem realistic.
Princeton improved to 3-0 on the season with a 46-39 decision over West Windsor-Plainsboro North on Tuesday. The victory came on the heels of triumphs over Hopewell Valley and South River to open the season.
“We were looking at the first couple of games before the new year and we were feeling like the games would give us a good test,” Princeton second-year head coach Dave Kosa said. “The Hopewell game gave us an added boost of confidence. Playing (Monday against South River) helped us. Now let’s just keep trying to get to 6-0 by the new year and we’re halfway there right now.”
Princeton fought off a tough test from WW-P North to get to 3-0. The Little Tigers trailed, 21-15, before closing the first half with a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead at halftime. They fought off some foul trouble and got great play off the bench to hold on for the victory.
“I think it was really important for us to end the first half well because we weren’t playing that well and then we had that spurt and we ended up being up by one,” Kosa said. “That was a big confidence builder for us. That really helped us going into the locker room that we weren’t playing well but we were still up. Then we just relied upon our poise. I think we did a really good job when they were trying to press and trap us to really look for the open man and keep that lead.”
Catherine Dyevich led the Little Tigers with 12 points, while Shayla Marciano scored 10 and Erin Devine contributed eight in the victory.
“It’s great,” Devine said of the 3-0 start. “We returned four of our starters from last year and we have our sixth and seventh man back, so it was a good feeling. We really feel like we can do something this year. The seniors this year, especially, are really tight as a group and we really want it this year.”
Princeton won six games two years ago when Devine, Dyevich, Anna Intartaglia, Olivia Intartaglia and Ella Kotsen were sophomores. The victory total jumped to 14 last year and hopes are high that total can go even high this year.
“We were young our sophomore year and our junior year,” said Devine, who added six rebounds and a blocked shot in the win over the Knights. “This year we’re experienced and we feel like we’ve seen and played such good competition in the fall, summer and spring that we are really ready for this year.
“We have a lot of trust in each other and we know that we every girl can come out and score and we trust everyone to make the right decision. I think we really move the ball well this year and look for each other. Eva (Petrone) comes in and creates chaos. Catherine will hit the three. Shayla can take it off the dribble. Everyone is really versatile this year and that makes us a lot better.”
With Princeton in foul trouble, Kotsen (four points) and Petrone (six points) came off the bench and gave the Little Tigers a lift. The depth is what the team needs to reach its lofty goals.
“Ella Kotsen stepped in today,” Kosa said. “In the scrimmages we were getting into foul trouble and I told them we need to watch our foul trouble. We haven’t had to really worry about that until today a little bit. Ella stepped in. Eva (Petrone) stepped in. Without one of the big girls, Catherine or Erin, in there we go pretty small, which is okay because then we go to a more guard oriented lineup and try to move the ball. We’re hanging in there.”
Princeton has a game at East Brunswick on Saturday and will play in a holiday tournament at Monroe next week before getting into the bulk of its Colonial Valley Conference schedule in January.
“Part of our motto this year is taking it one game at a time,” Devine said. “This year we really feel like we can win and we want to go as far as we can in states and counties. We want to put our best foot forward and really try to compete with the best competition. It’s been a great start to the season.
“Last year we were 2-0 and had these feelings and we went into Hightstown and it all kind of crashed and burned. We lost to Hightstown and were 2-1. So to kind of get over that hump and be 3-0 is a great feeling.”
It’s just three games into the season, but Princeton looked primed to build on last year and be even more successful.
“We have been playing with each other for so long,” Devine said. “At this point that we know where each other is on the court without even looking.”