SMITHFIELD — Jockeying for position in the Carolina 1A Conference, the Princeton boys’ basketball team was searching for that signature win, the one that could spring the momentum in their favor down the home stretch of the regular season.
The Bulldogs got that win Monday night.
In a game moved up 24 hours due to the snow, Princeton went on the road to conference-leading Neuse Charter and erased a 16-point lead to force overtime before stunning the Cougars, 75-65.
The Bulldogs trailed 32-16 late in the second quarter and still trailed by 11 points midway through the third quarter. But Princeton finished regulation on a 26-15 run and then scored the first 10 points of overtime.
“I’m really proud of what we did,” said Princeton coach Jeff Davis. “It was just a huge win on the road.”
The win pushed the Bulldogs’ overall record to 11-7 and more importantly, improved their third-place mark to 6-3 in conference play. The first-place Cougars slipped to 7-2 (17-5 overall), while James Kenan sits in second place at 6-2.
Princeton took its first lead of the game when Colby Norris scored in the post to make it 51-49 with six minutes remaining in the game. The Bulldogs held onto that lead until Neuse Charter’s Jarrod Sealey drew a foul on the baseline with 33 seconds left and sank both free throws to tie the game at 60.
Princeton made one final push but a drive to the basket missed its mark and a putback attempt by Norris circled the rim at the buzzer before falling out.
The overtime period was all Princeton as Michael Wooten scored on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions and Neuse Charter needed almost three minutes to score.
“We just didn’t take advantage in the first half when we needed to. We allowed them to hang around and credit to them, they made shots when they had to,” Neuse Charter coach Jimmie Sanders Jr. said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board. The good news is we’re still holding onto first.”
Princeton neutralized freshman sensation Jimmie Sanders III, holding the point guard to just three points on the night. Sanders III leads the Cougars in scoring at 15.4 points per outing.
The Bulldogs also asserted themselves in the paint with 19 of their 23 buckets coming from under the basket. The 6-foot-5 Tanner Woodard led the charge with 21 points, while the 6-3 Norris added 20 and 6-3 Wooten scored 18.
Up until the halfway point of the third quarter, the Cougars had nailed eight 3-pointers and led 45-34. Neuse Charter did not hit another trey until the closing seconds of the overtime period.
“They were hitting a lot of 3s,” Davis said. “We just basically said ‘Put a foot on the 3-line and make them shoot it deep or throw it inside.’”
Tre’Shon Charles had a big night for Neuse Charter, more than doubling his season average with a 21-point outburst. He was joined in double figures by Sealey with 15 and Devante Stevens with 10.