By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The holidays have passed on, but not the holiday tournaments.
The Alpha Natural Resources Holiday Tournament will be held tonight and Friday at Princeton Senior High School. It had been scheduled for two weeks ago, but snow postponed those games.
It will tip off tonight, with Mount View having replaced Webster County in the schedule, but the rest of the teams will remain the same, including Patrick Henry-Roanoke (9-0), who will play the Golden Knights (3-1) at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Tigers and James Monroe.
Hunter Walters was looking forward to playing two weeks ago, and there is little doubt the Princeton senior feels much the same tonight, even if the usual rivals — Bluefield and PikeView — chose not to participate this season.
“We haven’t really gotten many looks at (those teams) so I am sure it will be a good experience to play the new talent coming in,” Walters said . “We will still get to play PikeView and Bluefield in regular season, it won’t be the same rivalries, but it will definitely be fun.”
Princeton had fun last Friday, defeating the Beavers 68-61 at the Brushfork Armory to improve to 4-1 on the season, and that lone loss was by two points to one of the state’s best clubs in South Charleston.
Awaiting the Tigers next will be the Mavericks (3-3), who will face a Princeton squad with nine seniors who have been looking toward this season with anxious anticipation.
“Ever since I have been a kid, me, Ryan (Meadows), Derek (Jennelle), Lamont (Lee), Joseph (Mills) and Storm (McPherson, we have all been looking forward to coming and playing and with Kyle (Caron) coming, we felt like this could be our best year in a while,” Walters said.
They have played like it through five games, which includes three straight wins, with last Friday’s seven-point win against Bluefield coming from a dominating inside performance by 6-7 Aaron Ferguson and 6-5 Zen Clements, a duo that outscored the Beavers’ big men 33-5.
Princeton could easily be undefeated, according to Walters. That loss to South Charleston could have gone the Tigers’ way.
“It was a tough loss, but I feel like we could have beat them if we had just had the same intensity we had in the second half in the first half,” Walters said. “We made some careless passes and we missed a bunch of layups we could have made.
“I think it was a good learning experience and I don’t think it will happen again.”
Walters has been a part of the Princeton varsity for three years, but hadn’t been inserted into the starting lineup on a regular basis until this year. He was just waiting his turn on a veteran team.
“I got some minutes my sophomore year, but then my junior year I started getting more minutes,” Walters said. “We have all played together since we were little so that helps with the team chemistry a lot.
“I was wanting to start a lot longer ago, but I had to accept my role and help out the team the best I could and now that I have got it it feels good.”
The 6-3 senior can do a little bit of everything, either inside or outside, which is the way he likes it.
“I like do them both, but it just depends on how the team is doing ,” Walters said. “If I am shooting good I like to stay outside, but I can do pretty good driving in low and scoring and kicking it to my teammates.”
Walters had done both well this season, scoring a season-high 19 against Nitro, along with 15 in the loss to South Charleston, 14 (with three 3s) at Winfield and 10 in the season-opener at Shady Spring. He was held to just two points against Bluefield, but those were two key free throws in the final seconds to preserve the win.
His scoring wasn’t needed so he contributed elsewhere, as the rest of the Tigers combined for 65 points.
“As long as we play defense and get some rebounds we can definitely score the ball good,” Walters said.
They will look to do the same tonight when the weather-delayed holiday tournament tips off, with four teams all coming in having won their last games.
James Monroe hammered River View last week, while Mount View did the same to Man to finish third in a tournament at Chapmanville. Patrick Henry is a tradition-rich Group AAA schools in Roanoke that defeated William Fleming 55-43 last Saturday in the K-Guard Classic title game in Salem, Va.
The Mavericks will be able to exert their own size against the Tigers, led by 6-8 Josh Ganoe and 6-4 Garrett Mann. Mount View has been paced by Maurice Brown and Antoine Calloway. The deep Patriots will be led by many, including Marcus Banks and Christian Kirchman.
Walters would love to see the Tigers playing in a championship game on Friday, which will be played at 7:30. The consolation contest tips off at 5:30.
“I believe we won (the tournament) couple of years ago, but we haven’t won in the last few years for sure,” said Walters, who is hoping for a career at the college level. “Hopefully we can get some wins this year and get some crowds into the games.”
The tournament that Walters most wants to play in happens at the end of the season in Charleston. The Tigers haven’t played in the Class AAA state tourney since winning the second of two titles way back in 1981.
These Tigers have been close, falling one game short two years ago. Princeton lost in the sectionals last season.
Walters thinks these Tigers can go far, and knows what must be done to make it happen.
“We just have to play every game like it is our last and don’t take it for granted,” Walters said. “We can’t go out there and play 50 percent. We have to go 100 percent like it is our last game and I think the outcome will then come out for itself.”
— Contact Brian Woodson