Wayne beats Princeton in regional semifinal

CINCINNATI — A shorthanded Princeton Vikings team gave Wayne all it could handle, but in the end, fell to the Warriors by a score of 56-49.

“Princeton just played tough,” Wayne Coach Nathan Martindale said. “They were working extremely hard. [Darweshi] Hunter and [Gabe] O’Neal are just beasts. I really give a lot of credit to Princeton. They hung in there. They really battled, but I give credit to my kids as well. I thought we showed a lot of resilience down the stretch, in the second half. Sometimes you just aren’t playing you’re a game and you just have to find a way. That’s something our kids have done a really good job of this year, with the schedule, we’ve had. We just have to keep finding a way.”

Wayne methodically worked the ball around all around and took what Princeton gave them and in the first quarter, the Warriors had to take jump shots. Wayne also tried to control the pace of the Viking offense by setting up in a full court press from the beginning. This may have been due to the fact that Princeton senior All-American guard/forward Darius Bazley was suspended, leaving the Vikings one ball handler short.

Princeton was able to get itself on the board consistently however because it was able to capitalize on a defensive matchup when 6-foot Quisenberry ended up guarding 6-foot, 7-inch Gabe O’Neal. O’Neal was able to put up a majority of Princeton’s first quarter points, but Wayne was able to counter every time. Wayne cruised to a 6 point lead and looked to be in control. However, in the second quarter things changed.

Wayne adjusted to O’Neal’s posting up down low by sliding a defender over to help when the ball was dumped to him, but that seemed to be what Princeton wanted. The extra attention given to O’Neal gave senior guard Darweshi Hunter room to operate. Hunter poured in 11 points in the second quarter, one of which was a three pointer with 2 seconds left in the half to give the Vikings a 28-25 lead going into the half. Princeton had stolen the momentum and the lead and seemed to be in total control.

Wayne increased its intensity coming out in the second half, but struggles at the free throw line and a red hot Hunter scoring in the paint kept Princeton from falling too far behind. Wayne was able to get back to a pace it was comfortable with by slowing Princeton’s progress up the court and playing with a little more intensity and quickness. Wayne struggled the whole game from behind the arc, hitting only 1 of 7. It also struggled through three quarters at the line, but was able to make up the difference with points off of turnovers. Wayne’s intensity allowed it to erase the three point deficit and pull ahead 39-38 going into the fourth quarter.

That’s when Wayne’s quickness on both sides of the ball made things difficult for Princeton. Wayne was relentless in its defensive set forcing turnovers and bad decisions by the Vikings. Wayne powered ahead down the stretch through pure determination. Though Princeton had a slight height advantage over Wayne, the Warriors score 36 of its 56 points in the paint to the Vikings’ 30. The difference in the game was Wayne’s 17 points off of 16 Princeton turnovers.

Wayne advances to play an extremely good Moeller team Friday at 7 p.m. at Cintas Center at Xavier University. Moeller made a very good Springfield look inadequate in their game which preceded the Wayne victory. They have a lot of size and athleticism. Wayne can’t let up for a second on these guys. Moeller ran up 10 points and put the game out of reach when Springfield let up on its execution for just a minute and a half.

Coach Martindale has seen enough film on them, that he already knows what is ahead for his team.

“Moeller is a great team,” Martindale said. “We know that. They are extremely well coached, Division 1 players. We’re going to have our hands full. We have to get back and figure out what we are going to do and go for it.”

Due to the proximity of Moeller to Xavier University, the Moeller crowd will be out in full effect. They will want to take advantage of the dimensions of Cintas Center to put a lot of pressure on Wayne. The seats in the arena are really close to the action, which can be intimidating at times. Wayne usually travels well, so I’m sure the Wayne faithful will return the favor to the Crusaders.

WAY 16 25 39 56 – 56

PRIN 10 28 38 49 – 49

Wayne: Deshon Parker 10, Darius Quisenberry 24, L’Christian Smith 8, Ronnie Hampton 12, Rashad McKee 2. Totals: 22-11-56.

Princeton: Aaron Ward 4, Gabe O’Neal 17, Khalil Davis 3, Isaiah Kennedy 2, Darweshi Hunter 23. Totals: 18-10-49.

Three-point goals: Wayne 1 (Smith); Princeton 3 (Hunter 2, Davis).

Records: Wayne 25-1, Princeton 23-4.