By Mark Robinson
The Greenbrier East Spartans hit free throws and made defensive stops to win their first sectional game against Princeton Wednesday night. It didn’t hurt that Princeton’s Logan Watkins, #11, after scorching the Spartans for 17 points in the first half, mostly on threes, went stone cold in the second half, held scoreless, though he had some good looks at the basket, and took a number of shots.
“We went to a triangle and two at halftime,” said East’s coach Jim Justice, after the game. “And we stopped number eleven and number one. Eleven had 17 at halftime, I think one had eight points. We went to a triangle and two. I don’t remember eleven scoring anymore.”
The Tigers took an early lead and held onto it for a long time. After going ahead 8-0, the Tigers maintained that margin, leading by scores like 16-8, 23-13, 35-26, and 39-33 early in the third quarter. Soon it was 39-38, and then East took the lead, 43-41. At the beginning of the fourth quarter the score was 51-43, East. It took Princeton six and a half minutes to catch up, tying the score at 55 all. East hit a shot with twenty seconds left to tie it up at 58. In four minutes of overtime, with frantic action and plenty of free throws, East pulled ahead and won by four points. Karim Ezzedine and Seth Brown hit free throws in clutch situations.
For East, Caleb Ward led with 17 points Brown had 16. Ezzedine had 10 rebounds, and Ward had six assists. For Princeton, Logan Watkins was the leading scorer with those 17 first-half points. Bryson Murphy had 14 rebounds, and three players had three assists.
Brown said, “They had a good game plan for us. We had to adjust. They were all over Karim. Sometimes we like to get the ball to Karim in the high post and it opens everything up for everybody else. We couldn’t do that, so we had to adjust. They played well. “
Jasiah Rawls stated, “In the first half they shot real well. In the second half we had to go to a triangle and two and keep the shooter from shooting. We played real aggressive in the second half.”
Evan Canterbury said, “Not really any changes on offense in the second half. We had to take better shots and more shots. They’re an aggressive team, and it’s always tough to go in the middle against an aggressive team.”
Ezzedine said, “I think we played well. We just had to control the tempo, and not play at their tempo, but at ours. Control the game. We went slower than usual because we worked a lot with coach Justice on our fast break. That was our weakness. You can see the result in the game.”
“The defense is what won the game,” said Justice.
Greenbrier East plays Woodrow Wilson in Beckley Friday evening at 7.