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Despite defeat, Princeton coach says players 'need to walk out of here with their heads up'

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Posted at 10:47 PM, Mar 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 01:04:05-04

CINCINNATI -- Princeton boys' basketball coach Steve Wright addressed his players in an understandably difficult environment Wednesday night inside the locker room at Cintas Center.

Huber Heights Wayne defeated the Vikings 56-49 in the second Division I regional semifinal Wednesday night.

Princeton (23-4) had a goal of a state title all season but it wasn't to be. Still, losing a regional semifinal game doesn't define its season.

"It didn't end the way we wanted," Wright said. "But, from Day 1 when I took this job, those guys bought into what I asked them to do. ... They need to walk out of here with their heads up."

Princeton was led by senior guard Darweshi Hunter with 23 points and four rebounds. Senior center Gabe O'Neal had a career-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds.

Hunter, who scored over 1,000 career points at Princeton, leaves a significant legacy.

"He leaves a lot," Wright said. "His family went to Princeton. They left a legacy for him. Darweshi left a legacy. ... He did everything I asked him to do from a basketball and educational standpoint. I couldn't be more proud of him."

Wayne (25-1) trailed Princeton 28-25 at halftime Wednesday night, but the Warriors led at the end of the third quarter and made plays down the stretch.

Wayne, ranked No. 3 in the season's final Associated Press Division I state poll, was led by Darius Quisenberry with 24 points. Ronnie Hampton had 12 points and Deshon Parker added 10.

The team advances to play No. 2-ranked Moeller (24-3) in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cintas Center.

Princeton, which won a district title last weekend for the first time since 2010, played a second straight game without senior guard/forward and McDonald's All-American Darius Bazley (Syracuse signee) and senior guard Dominic Pierce. Bazley and Pierce had to sit out two games due to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules for leaving the bench during the sectional final March 2.

Wright admitted the Vikings were undermanned Wednesday night but said his team did its best under the circumstances the past two games. He said Princeton had the best scout team all week with Bazley and Pierce helping the Vikings prepare.

"Definitely tough," Wright said. "Those are two competitive kids that want to win."

Besides the district title, Princeton went undefeated in the Greater Miami Conference (16-0) and was among the elite teams in Southwest Ohio all season. 

"I couldn't ask for a better group," Wright said.