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Principia boys basketball team wins, tourney, ready for Metro League play

Principiaboys_tourney champsIt will be the battle of undefeated Metro League teams when the Principia Panthers play at Priory to open league play Friday (Dec. 12).

The tip-off will be after the junior varsity game, which begins at 6 p.m.

The Panthers are 3-0 after winning the Valley Park Invitational with a 42-39 victory over Brentwood. Principia last won the Valley Park tournament in 1983.

Coach Duane Thomas said his fourth-seeded Panthers played well.

“It is a very well run tournament and a great way to start the season each year,” Thomas said. “We were seeded fourth and that seemed fair. There were a lot of close games throughout the tournament.”

The Panthers opened with a 50-48 victory in overtime against Kennedy. The victory over the Celts showed Thomas something about his team.

“We had to come from behind, and senior Kaylin Hernandez-Beiner (who was MVP of the tournament) had fouled out in regulation,” Thomas said. “Senior Cooper Randolph hit a 3-point shot with 20 seconds left in overtime to put us up by two and give us the win.”

Battling hard like that to force overtime and then win the game was valuable to the Panthers.

“Winning the close first game and especially coming from behind in it provided a lot of confidence in staying within our system and in trusting each other,” Thomas said.

Principia followed that with a semifinal game against the Valmeyer (Ill.) Pirates. The Panthers scored a 45-38 victory.

“Valmeyer was a good game for us,” Thomas said. “They are an experienced team and have two very good scorers on the wings. We did a very nice job on defense of limiting the looks these players had. It was more of a defensive win than anything. We had very good team defense in the game.”

Then came the championship contest. Again, Principia had to show its mettle and come from behind.

The Panthers were down 17-9 at the end of the first quarter.

It was time to make adjustments, Thomas said.

“Brentwood’s Torre Robinson hit three quick 3’s and got to the foul line several times, so we had to change defenses,” Thomas said. “We went to a box-and-1 to quiet him down. We adjusted well and this changed the game.”

The move worked. Principia outscored Brentwood 17-4 in the second quarter.

“We remained in the (box-and-1) defense the rest of the game,” Thomas said.

Capturing their first tournament championship in a long time was for good for his club, Thomas said.

“The boys were excited to win,” Thomas said. “It had been a long time for us. But I think the most satisfying thing about the win is that they all participated in getting us the victories. These games were all close and many different players stepped up in each of the games.”

Hernandez-Beiner was named the tournament MVP. He led the Panthers in scoring and in rebounding.

Marion Bania also made the all tournament team. Bania was second in scoring and rebounding while leading the team in assists in the tournament.

Other Panthers also played well, Thomas said.

“Cam Sellers was third in scoring and provided some excellent ball handing in the championship game,” Thomas said. “Evan Eisenauer guarded the other team’s best scorer each game, was one of our top rebounders and made a number of key baskets late in the second and third games. Tyler Wingert came off the bench to provide a great spark including blocking the game-tying 3-point shot by Brentwood at the buzzer.”

The Panthers have turned their attention to getting ready for Priory and the will have MICDS in for a home game Tuesday (Dec. 16).

“We get to enjoy this (tournament title) for the weekend and now we have some very tough league games coming up within the week,” Thomas said. “So it is back to work.”


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