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Princeton shows championship mettle in win over Magnificat at Classic in the Country

The Vikings relied on their defense in the second half to pull out the win

BERLIN, Ohio - Winning a state title last year didn't make Princeton complacent. If anything, it made the Vikings want even more.

And while the Reese Center might be 160 miles away from the University of Dayton Arena, Princeton and Magnificat played a game at Classic in the Country that could be seen again in the middle of March in the state tournament.

Princeton, the defending Division I state champions and the third-ranked team in the latest SBLive Ohio girls basketball Power 25, used two big runs in the second half to pull off a 53-42 win.

The Vikings first held Magnificat scoreless in the third quarter while going on a 14-0 run to take the lead after trailing by nine at the half.

"Our third quarter is when we all mentally lock in again after halftime and just play together," junior Kali Fortson said. 

And then after Magnificat, ranked No. 4 in the latest SBLive Ohio girls basketball Power 25, went on an 8-2 run to start the fourth quarter to take a 1-point lead, Princeton head coach Dee Davis called a timeout.

"(Her message) was defense, honestly," said senior Mackenzie Givens, who scored 12 points.

After the talk from the head coach, the Vikings scored the next 10 points and finished the game on a 16-4 run. Fortson scored six of those points and finished with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. But like her coach, she was more concerned with the other end of the floor.

"We wanted to win and defense wins games," Fortson said.

After scoring a team-best five points in the third quarter run, Gerton iced the game by knocking down all six free throw attempts in the final minutes and finished with a game-high 21 points.

"I let the game come to me and didn't force anything," Gerton said. "And I practice free throws because free throws wins games."

The game was a little reminiscent of the state tournament for Princeton last season, as they held both opponents in Dayton to just 12 points in the fourth quarter en route to winning the title. It also was similar in how the games were played.

"It was a fast-paced back-and-forth basketball game," Gerton said. "Basketball is just a game of runs and that's how it was in the state games."

A win over a highly-ranked team at Classic in the Country is great, but the Vikings have bigger goals and they aren't shying away from them.

"We want to go back-to-back," Fortson said.

(Feature photo of Princeton guard Mari Gerton at the 2023 state championship by Michael Noyes, SBNLive Sports)