Princeton rolled to a 55-38 victory over Melissa on Friday, Jan. 12, in the District 11-4A-opener for both teams at Melissa High’s Bird Cage. Haven Ousley led the Panthers (18-3, 1-0) with 16 points while teammates Jalen Ogletree and Latez Barerra added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

For the Cards (9-12, 0-1), senior forward Josh Wood tallied a team-high 12 points and junior guard Matt Holloway followed with eight. Wood also collected seven rebounds, tops for Melissa, while guard Brendon Lewis, guard Chase Mapps and forward Cole McCraw each posted five. The Cards battled the taller Panthers to a 36-36 draw on the boards, with Princeton holding a 28-8 edge in defensive rebounds.

Melissa shot 22-percent from the field, including 1-of-16 from 3-point range, while the Panthers hit on 42-percent of their attempts. Brendon Lewis’ three steals led the team.

Princeton was on top, 28-12, at halftime and the two squads scrapped to a near-draw in the second half.

“We were fortunate to get away with, I think, a couple of blocked shots,” Panthers head coach Eric Lockman said. “The referees kind of let us play physical inside. We were able to crash the boards a little bit, take advantage of our size. But I’ve got a lot of respect for Melissa. They were the team to beat in district. I just feel fortunate that we’re getting out of here with a win.”

Melissa head coach Eric Benton said while Princeton’s size and length gave his team some problems, he was pleased with how well they defended. “The only reason we were within single digits in the second half is because of how well we defended — because we just couldn’t throw it in the ocean. We got a lot of shots from guys in a lot of places that we want them to shoot it from, but the ball didn’t go in. I think we defended at a level that allowed us to still have a chance to cut into the lead here and there. … They defended us really well too. It’s not like they were leaving us open and we were missing shots. They’re a big reason why we missed some of the shots we did.

“Coach Lockman does a great job,” Benton added. “They run great stuff. They’re always in the right spots. We knew we were going to have to play really, really well on both ends to get it done against those guys.”

Melissa scorers: Josh Wood 12, Matt Holloway 8, Brendon Lewis 5, Cole McCraw 4, Ricky Morning 4, Mark Fisher 2, Junior Castleberry 2, Chase Mapps 1.

Princeton scorers: Haven Ousley 16, Jalen Ogletree 13, Latez Barerra 12, E. Gerber 8, A. Morton 3, A. Chouaibi 3.