By Mark Robinson
The Spartans hosted Princeton Friday night, and Elkins Saturday night, and won both games convincingly.
Princeton lost, 76-62. Elkins lost their game, 64-47. Princeton had defeated East earlier in the season, 59-54, on some very hot shooting.
This time around, the defense was tougher, and Seth Brown led the way in scoring, with timely help from Nethaniel Patton and Evan Canterbury, who hit baskets at key moments. Seth Brown scored 26 points, Patton 16, Canterbury 14. Cade Fix scored 22 for Princeton, and Drew Hopkins had 16.
Princeton’s ball handling was good, and they moved the ball well, but shots weren’t dropping, and they had some matchup difficulties on defense. Princeton, a AAA school, came into the game 6-11. Coach Ernie Gilliard said before the game, “We want to play fast, we want to play pressure, but there are some things that have to happen for us to be able to do that.”
Coach Jim Justice said before the game, “They shot the blooming eyes out of it down there in Princeton. In all honesty, we jumped out to an early lead, all of a sudden they got back in the game and they got the momentum going their way. Crowd behind them. They had their marching band there, of all things, in the gym. They were running on enthusiasm, and I’m sure they’re fired up here tonight. This game will determine where the first sectional game will be played, whether we play in Princeton or we play here.”
Brown hit 16 of 16 foul shots, one of the best performances at the line ever at Greenbrier East. Interviewing Brown after the game, Jeff Campbell, radio announcer at the Spartan gym, listed several record performances from the foul line, and noted that Brown was right up there with the best, dating back to the 1970s.
Brown said afterward, “We knew they were going to come out and play us in a man, and we needed to share the ball and keep the turnovers to a minimum, and try and go to the basket and get to the free throw line, which I thought we did well.”
After the game, Justice said, “Princeton is strong, and they battled. Heck of a game out of Seth tonight. We used a lot of defenses. We changed non-stop. We changed from a man, to a 1-3-1, to a diamond press, to a 2-3. All the time.”
On Saturday the 7-12 Elkins Tigers came to Fairlea. The game looked like it might be a good one early in the contest, as the teams were tied 10-10. But at that point East began to pull away, leading 21-12 at the end of the first quarter, and 43-22 at the half. At the end of the third quarter it was 57-28. Elkins had no one who was able to penetrate into the lane, so they were often confined to outside shots.
Coach Brandon Simmons for Elkins said at halftime, “We gave up 20 points in the paint, that’s too many. We have to protect the paint better, get out on shooters. They’re hitting the threes. We have to bring up the intensity level to match theirs.”
Justice said afterward, “We were hitting 58 percent of our threes at halftime tonight. That’s good.” Jasiah Rawls sat this game because of a twisted ankle.
Patton commented after the game that switching defenses helped a lot. The second quarter was key, getting steals on the transition game, and stretching out a lead after a tighter first quarter.
East’s record after the Elkins game was 13-5.