Boys regional basketball
PRINCETON — The Putnam County Panthers played spoiler in the opening night of the Princeton 2A Regional, defeating the host Tigers 58-56 on Feb. 18 at Prouty Gym.
You couldn’t blame the Panthers for wanting to keep the high going. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t last long, the Panthers falling to rival Hall 62-33 in the regional semifinals. Putnam County ended its season with a 12-20 record.
Putnam County 58, Princeton 56
The Tigers had the advantage for most of the first half, but the Panthers caught up, grabbed the lead, and kept ahead just enough to earn the right to move on.
Each team made big 3-point shots (9 each), but the Panthers had a better night at the free throw line (9-15, compared to Princeton’s 3-11) and at the glass.
First-year Princeton High School coach Kevin Howard was surprised to see Putnam County get nearly half of their points from behind the arc.
“I thought our half-court zone pressure would be fine, and it was, but then they hit some open threes,” he said. “I didn’t plan on them shooting like that, I didn’t think they were that good of a shooting team overall.
“Every guy, it seemed, was hitting threes. We scouted them but I did not see it that way. They shot the ball very well.”
The Panthers had four players in double-figure scoring, led by Jakob Pyszka with 14 points, followed by Daniel Sabotta with 13, Kaleb Wright with 11, and Luke Carlson with 10.
“Their zone was giving us problems, so we took Carlson and put him at the high post, running the baseline,” PC coach Harold Fay said. “We made them get into a man-to-man where I thought we had a real good advantage, and it obviously helps to hit big shots from the outside, and it cleans everything up.
“I’d say that was key to the game, the three or four shots that put us up five or six and made them switch defenses, because if they stayed in that zone, we would’ve had trouble if we didn’t shoot well.”
Princeton had the upper hand at the start, jumping out to an 8-0 lead, ending the first period ahead 13-8.
Beck Robbins (15) and Branden Haring (14) led the charge early on for PHS, with Koel Hjerstedt (11) and Jamie Reinhardt (8) also helping the Tigers get up to a 21-11 lead early in the second period.
“We knew Princeton was gonna be tough tonight,” Wright said. “They had that early run in the beginning, but we didn’t hang our heads.
“Coach talked to us in our first timeout, we lit a fire under ourselves and just played hard.”
The Panthers rallied to get within one point, with Wright sinking a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to put PC ahead 27-26 at the half.
“That fadeaway, in all honesty, I just caught it, turned around and shot because I knew we didn’t have much time,” Wright said. “The fact that it went in helped us tremendously.”
The second half started with PC maintaining the advantage but Princeton staying within reach, with the Panthers ahead 41-38 at the end of the third period.
The pressure was really on Tigers in the game’s last eight minutes, behind as far as 52-44 but battling back to get within one point, 57-56 at :34 left in the game.
A miscue on a inbounds pass from Robbins to Caleb Haring necessitated a quick foul on Carlson, who made one out of his two free throws to make it a two-point lead, 58-56.
Princeton (11-16) got a couple of more chances in the final seconds, but a layup by Hjerstedt rolled around and off the rim and a last-second shot by Reinhardt bounced off the goal just before the buzzer.
“I’m glad that shot didn’t go in, I know that,” Fay said.
Hall 62, Putnam County 33
Right from the opening tip, though Putnam County took the early lead, neither team played like their fans were used to seeing, with the Panthers ahead 9-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Fay said, “We kept them on the perimeter and had a little more energy.”
Things livened up for Hall in the second, with Devin Soldati tying the score at 15-15 with his only basket of the game. Chance Resetich (12 points) drained the third of his four first-half treys to give the Red Devils an 18-17 lead, and Cole Wozniak (7) nailed a 3-pointer to extend Hall’s advantage to 23-19 at halftime.
“I was waiting for this game,” Resetich said. “Usually I have a couple games where I don’t miss a shot. This happened to be one of ‘em. First half I was in the scoring, second half I facilitated more and that helped us.”
For PC, however, save for an early trey by Jacob Williams, their 3-point shot was a no-show, while Hall sunk eight.
Only the Panthers’ big man Wright scored in double figures with 11 points, with Sabotta tallying seven and Williams with five.
“The coaches had a hell of a game plan for the first half, and it looked like we’ve never played basketball,” Hall coach Mike Filippini said. “I mean, most of these kids just won a state baseball championship, we come out here against Putnam County and we looked like we were terrified.
“Once we just relaxed and played, we were fine. Chance and Cole kinda carried us in the first half. Coaches can draw up anything, but it’s the kids who make plays.”
Once the third quarter began, Hall senior Jimmy DeAngelo was “the kid who made plays,” scoring the majority of his 22 game points in the second half, and going 6-10 at the free throw line.
“We played good defense, but on offense we had a slow start in the first half, like we were nervous,” DeAngelo said. “Then Fil(ippini) told the three seniors ‘start acting like senior captains,’ and I feel all three of us did.”
DeAngelo led the Red Devils to a 39-25 lead at the end of the third period, and kept the shots falling until he and his fellow starters made way for their reserve teammates at 3:41 left in the game.
“We came out in the second half and were just standing,” Fay said. “You could just see, and coach (Jim) Vipond looked at me and said, ‘they’re gassed,’ and that was it.
“Then they (Hall) do what they do good: penetrate, kick and score. We couldn’t match it.”