PRINCETON — After leading 19-17 three minutes into the second quarter, the lights went out Thursday night for Princeton Community basketball boys.
Visiting Castle stepped up, scoring the next 11 points and going on a 21-4 run in route to a 66-48 win in Tiger Area.
Thus, the class 4A Knights, after losing three of their first four games, will take a four-game winning streak and 5-3 record into Saturday night's 7:45 p.m. Toyota/Gibson County Teamwork Classic championship game in Tiger Area.
They’ll seek a third straight classic title.
The Tigers will take a 5-2 record into the second game of Friday’s two-gender double header at Wood Memorial, where they’ll try to repeat a 68-53 Nov. 21 season-opening win. Friday’s winner will play in Saturday’s 4:15 p.m. third place game, Friday’s loser in the 12:45 p.m. 5th place game.
“We take great pride in our conditioning, and I really think our guys saw the Princeton kids getting a little bit tired. So we went right at them,” Castle coach Brian Gibson said. “Credit Princeton for running its offense better than we did in the first quarter. We rose to the occasion, and wanted to put pressure on the ball so that they would worry about dribbling and could not look inside. Offensively, we wanted to spread them out.”
Triston Wilkinson, 6-foot-2 senior son of former Wood Memorial and Oakland City University standout Greg Wilkinson, erased Princeton’s 19-17 lead by hitting a 3-point basket four minutes and 50 seconds before half time.
Wilkinson hit another 3 in that 11-0 run, giving him 12 points in the 34-23 first half. He finished with 14, not the team high because 6-4 junior and division I recruit Alex Hemenway scored 18. 6-1 junior Jace Stieler hit a trio of 3s and scored 13 points, 10 in the second half.
“They started hitting a lot of shots. Sometimes your offense starts your defense and it did that tonight for Castle,” Princeton coach Ryan Haywood said. “We were not executing well. And defensively, we were losing people. You cannot do those things against a very good team.”
Six-two junior Stephan Wilkerson led the Tigers with 13 points, seven in the fourth quarter, 6-1 senior Nick Albin scored 10. Rylin Stough, another 6-1 senior, scored all seven of his points in the first. The Knights held Princeton’s Dove twins, 6-5 Zach and 6-9 Matt, to a combined seven points.
Of Friday’s rematch at Wood Memorial, Haywood said: “They have Paxon Bartley back and it’ll be a tough game for us. We must play much better than we did tonight.”