Tigers look for share of conference title

Photo by Travis David/Daily Clarion

Princeton's Matt Dove calls for the ball in the post during the Tigers win against South Spencer Friday night. Dove and the Tigers travel to Jasper Tuesday night with a chance to tie for the Big Eight Conference title.

Back on Jan. 18 the Princeton Community boys basketball team allowed a season-high 72 points in a loss to Big Eight Conference foe Washington.

In four games since -- all victories -- the Tigers have tightened things up on the defensive end and have allowed just under 48 points a game.

Princeton (16-3) will look to keep the same defensive pressure in Tuesday’s conference showdown with Jasper.

A win would give the Tigers a share of the Big Eight Conference title with the Wildcats and also possibly Washington.

Jasper (12-7) enters the game with a perfect 5-0 league mark, while the Tigers are 4-1.

Washington is also 4-1 with one game left against Mount Carmel.

“It’s a big game for us,” Princeton coach Ryan Haywood admitted. “It’s obviously for our piece of the Big 8 title. It’s also important to our seniors so I am sure they are going to give it all they have. It will also be a big measuring stick heading into the sectional.”

With newfound success on the defensive end, Haywood is pleased with the way his team is playing heading into the big game.

“I believe we are playing our best ball of the season right now,” the coach said. “Especially on the defensive side of the ball. The guys are really buying into that end of the floor, things we have worked on for a long time now are starting to click. It’s fun to see.”

Much like in losses to Evansville Bosse and Harrison, Haywood stated the Washington loss made the team learn they need to play with a little more edge throughout the game.

“We have to be tougher,” the Tigers coach said. “Both mentally and physically. Things are not always going to go our way, other teams are just too good...sometimes you have to be able to grind out possessions on both ends of the floor.

“Jasper will be the most physical team we have played all season.”

The Wildcats have a pair of players averaging double digits in scoring -- Jackson Kabrick (14.1) and Jared Englert (11.8).

As a team, Jasper averages just over 53 points a game, while allowing 50 points per contest.

Princeton has a balanced scoring attack with a tri of double-digit scorers and two more who average over eight points a game.

Stephan Wilkerson can create offense from anywhere on the court and leads the Tigers with 15.7 points a game.

Zach Dove adds 15.5 points a game from the post in addition to 7.7 rebounds a game, while Matt Dove averages 12.3 points and a team-best 8.3 boards a game.

Hunter Carey and Jurrien Ballard average 9.4 and 8.8 points a game, respectively.

Bullard leads the team with 4.3 assists a game.

Haywood mentioned winning the battle on the boards and being patient on offense will be two keys to earning a share of the conference title Tuesday night.

“We have to win the rebounding battle and we will have to do a good job on their high-low offense,” Haywood said. “Offensively, we are going to have to go through our different options. They are very good defensively, so option one may not always be there so we are going to have to show patience and look for option two and three.”

Tipoff is 7:00 p.m. (CST).

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