BY MICHAEL HELD
PRINCETON—Rivalry games don’t always live up to the hype, but last Friday night’s clash between the North Johnston and Princeton boys basketball teams sure did.
With a packed house and both schools having plenty of enthusiastic supporters cheering them on, the Bulldogs pulled away down the stretch to win the first meeting of the season, 73-65.
“They played hard, our kids played hard and it was a great rivalry game,” said Princeton coach David Cobb.
Holding a three-point lead at the break, Princeton’s Ryan Woodard tallied nine of his game-high 24 points in the high-scoring third quarter and the Panthers’ Trey Whitley matched with nine points as well.
The Bulldogs’ Colby Sullivan had nine points in the final quarter to help put a little distance between the Bulldogs and the Panthers but North Johnston fought back.
Kam Williams came up with a steal and a basket to pull the Panthers to within 63-61 with 3:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.
However, an offensive put back from Woodard sparked a quick 8-0 Princeton run to seal the game.
For North Johnston coach Chris Batten, foul trouble was a factor as Kam Williams was saddled with fouls all night but in the end, the game came down to defense.
“I think that even with Kam on the bench, we played well enough offensively to win the ballgame but if you can’t stop them on defense, none of it matters,” Batten said. “We just have a bad a habit of stepping out of the way of people penetrating and trying to block from behind.”
North Johnston was led by Whitley’s 21 points, Savon Foye had 18 points and six rebounds and Rakim Stancil supplied the Panthers with 14 points.
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