CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With a pesky Princeton squad making it tough on George Washington to create separation through the first 12 minutes of Tuesday’s Class AAA Region III co-final, the Patriots needed a spark.
To no surprise, they got one from junior guard Mason Pinkett.
Pinkett scored eight of his team’s 14 unanswered points to close the first half, including consecutive three-pointers that sent GW into the break with a 19-point lead en route to its 71-52 victory over the Tigers.
“There are great players and there are players that make everybody else better, and he’s one of those rare ones that makes everybody else better,” veteran GW head coach Rick Greene said. “When he’s on like that, then we’re really hard to beat, because he can score so many ways.”
GW (19-5) is the No. 3 seed in the state tournament and will take on No. 6 Wheeling Park next Thursday night.
Pinkett had 12 second-quarter points to help the Patriots turn a tight game into a comfortable lead. GW outscored the Tigers 24-6 in the second period after Princeton (16-9) faced a 12-11 deficit through one quarter.
“Princeton did a great job of keeping it choppy and I mean that as a compliment,” Greene said. “It was real physical and hard to get into the lane. Credit to them for controlling the tempo.”
Although the Tigers increased their offensive production in a major way after halftime, they were unable to seriously threaten GW, which earned its 11th straight win.
A William Gabbert triple halfway through the third quarter upped the Patriots’ lead to 44-22, while Gabbert and Gus Eddy hit back-to-back threes later in the quarter to make it 52-27.
Princeton then put together its best stretch of the night, outscoring the Patriots 15-4 on the strength of 10 points from Peyton Brown to cut its deficit to 56-42 with 5:59 to play.
GW’s Evan Hughes then responded with seven points during a 10-0 surge to put to rest any thought of a comeback.
“Our kids did a really nice job of getting control of the game and then making enough plays to hang on,” Greene said.
Pinkett scored 20 points, Hughes finished with 14 and Alex Yoakum added 10 to give the Patriots a third double figure scorer.
After somewhat struggling offensively in the opening period, the Patriots made 22-of-39 shots over the final three quarters. GW also finished 17-of-21 on free throws.
Brown had a team-high 20 points, while Delathan Wilborn scored 12 in defeat.