PRINCETON - The one that slipped away.
With a chance to win the Big Eight Conference title outright, the Class 3A No. 8 Princeton Community boys' basketball team was unable to hang with visiting Jasper in a 55-36 loss Tuesday night.
"We're an experienced team, we are a veteran team," Tigers coach Ryan Haywood said. "We had a chance for a Big Eight championship here on our home floor, and I almost feel like the sectional last year, with a similar feel. Kind of a deer in the headlights, oh no type of feeling."
With the win, Jasper raised its' season record to 11-8, and finishes Big Eight play with a perfect 6-0 mark. Princeton falls to 16-4, and finishes 5-1 in league play.
Both teams were quiet in the first quarter, but the Wildcats jumped out to a 9-6 lead. Leading 9-8 early in the second period, Jasper went on a 13-0 run to go up 22-8, and never let go of command the rest of the way.
Eric Nordhoff scored seven straight points, and the Wildcats made 6-of-13 from the field to take a 27-16 lead at the half.
After falling behind 34-18, Princeton went on a third quarter run behind a pair of Stephan Wilkerson buckets, but the Tigers still trailed 39-27. The junior led the Tigers with 14 points.
In the final period, Wilkerson scored with 5:02 left to cut it to 44-34, but the Wildcats responded with a 9-0 run, behind four straight points from Nordhoff. The senior led all scorers with 18. Jasper sealed the win with a 6-of-6 effort from the free throw line in the final four minutes.
Princeton's offense never quite clicked at any time throughout the game, while Jasper's hot 3-point shooting was just enough.
The Tigers only managed a 14-of-46 clip from the field, and just 3-of-20 from behind the arc, while the Wildcats knocked down 8-of-17 from deep.
Haywood understands having a poor shooting night, but feels like his squad still didn't put forth the best effort with a championship on the line.
"It just wasn't our night," he said. "And I told the guys in the locker room that I can handle that. But it's just the other stuff. For some reason we have guys checking out on us right now, and I don't understand why."
Justin Persohn added 10 for the Wildcats.
Jasper also won the junior varsity contest 39-22.
Princeton wraps up its' home schedule against Barr-Reeve on Saturday at 7 p.m.