The Princeton High girls’ basketball team relished the opportunity to get another shot at Trenton High.
Princeton had lost to the Tornadoes, 53-35, when the teams met for a regular-season matchup in the middle of January.
But the Little Tigers had an opportunity for a rematch in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional tournament quarterfinals and made the most of their second chance.
Princeton, the No. 4 seed, overcame a three-point halftime deficit with a crucial showing in the second half to pull away for a 66-51 victory on their home court on Wednesday night. Catherine Dyevich scored 25 points and Erin Devine, who missed the first game against Trenton, delivered 18 points in the victory.
“We were so excited to get to play Trenton again,” senior guard Olivia Intartaglia said after the victory. “We thought that we could come back from the loss we had last time. So we were really ready. After we beat Long Branch (49-34 in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state opener) we knew we had to prepare for Trenton and we did. We didn’t have Erin last time. We still put up a good fight but we weren’t putting up as many shots as we usually do. This time we came in thinking we had nothing to lose.”
Princeton used a 23-10 advantage in the third quarter to break the game open. The Little Tigers advanced to face top-seeded Middletown South on Friday in the state sectional semifinals.
“After we got the first (state) win we knew that Trenton had beaten us before and they probably thought they would get another win,” said Intartaglia, who scored six points in the win over Trenton. “So we just had to go out and play as hard as we could.
“We have a lot of confidence right now. All the shooters, Catherine, Erin, Anna (Intartaglia), even Shayla (Marciano), everyone is starting to shoot the ball so much more confidently and when we are playing as a team the ball starts going in the basket more.”
Even though the Little Tigers trailed at halftime, they were confident their season was not going to end with a loss on their home court.
“At the end of the first half we let up a little bit and kind of let them get back in the game,” Intartaglia said. “At halftime Coach (Dave) Kosa told us there were 16 minutes left and our season could be over if we don’t give it our all and that’s what we did. Eva (Petrone) and Ella (Kotsen) coming off the bench really helped us.”
The energy in the second half helped Princeton reverse the outcome against a talented Trenton team.
“We learned from the first game and I told them we’re going to have to earn it,” Kosa said. “We didn’t have Erin but last time they didn’t have (Maliajah) Robinson. We knew it was going to be tough. We just stuck to the game plan. I was looking forward to the matchup. I knew they beat us by 18 but it wasn’t really an 18-point game.”
Princeton, if it defeats Middletown South in the semifinals, would then play for its first state sectional title. Since the season began, the goal has been to add a championship to an empty banner in the gym
“It’s great,” Kosa said. “It was great to have this atmosphere here tonight and have the girls enjoy it. We’re not done. I told them we will have after the season is over to look back at this and enjoy it. The objective when I got here was to put something on the banner. We have nothing there and this would be the first team to do that. We have two more games and every game is going to get tougher.”
The 14th-seeded Princeton boys lost in the opening round of Central Jersey, Group 4, dropping a 60-50 decision at third-seeded Freehold Township. Brendan Rougas scored 15 points and Gefen Bar-Cohen sank 10 for the Little Tigers, who finished the season with a 12-13 record.