It wasn’t perfect for the Phillipsburg High School boys basketball team on Wednesday night, but it was effective.
The Stateliners, ranked fourth by lehighvalleylive, defeated No. 5 Nazareth 77-68 in the semifinals of the Easton Rotary Holiday Classic.
Phillipsburg (4-1) advances to meet Easton, which defeated Southern Lehigh 68-45, in the tournament’s championship 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The consolation final is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Phillipsburg's Jayshawn Grant drives to the basket. (Kyle Craig | For lehighvalleylive.com)
Seniors Jayshawn Grant and Chris Mann scored a combined 45 points for the Stateliners, who took a 40-32 advantage into halftime and led the rest of the way.
Junior Richie Manigault knocked down a 3-pointer to give Phillipsburg a 15-point lead, 53-38, with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
Nazareth (5-2) wouldn’t go away, however, and continued to knock down 3s to hang in the game.
Senior Jahan Dotson, who had five of the Blue Eagles 13 3-pointers, grabbed a steal and slammed in a contested dunk to cut the deficit to eight, 66-58, with 3:33 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Phillipsburg's Chris Mann tries to drive past Nazareth's Nick Viva. (Kyle Craig | For lehighvalleylive.com)
“I was happy with the way the kids hung in there. We gutted it out,” first-year Phillipsburg coach Jerry Lloyd said. “I just told them that there are a lot of things we need to improve on. We turned the ball over tonight; we didn’t really cover shooters the way we have in the past. But, credit to (Nazareth), they moved the ball really well and shared the ball well, so they’re tough to guard.”
Mann scored back-to-back buckets to push the Stateliners back ahead by 12 at 70-58 with 2:26 left on the clock, and P’burg closed things out from there.
“We just kept stressing to the guys to run our stuff,” Lloyd said. “If we run our stuff and set good screens, we can get the shots we want.”
Nazareth's Jahan Dotson passes the ball. (Kyle Craig | For lehighvalleylive.com)
The Stateliners only converted four 3s and missed 13 foul shots, but found success getting to the rim.
“I think attacking the basket was our strongest asset,” said Grant, who finished with 23 points. “… The 3-point shots weren’t really falling today, but we able to attack the basket and get to the free throw line.”
Mann was credited with 22 points and Manigault added 12 for the ’Liners.
Dotson registered 25 points and Noah Briggs, who also hit five 3s, had 19 for Nazareth.
Phillipsburg coach Jerry Lloyd. (Kyle Craig | For lehighvalleylive.com)
P’burg now has an opportunity to win its third consecutive rotary championship, after winning its first in 2015.
“Get the job done … That’s what me and all the other seniors want,” Grant said. “It’d be great for the community to get that done. We just have to play hard. We’ll clean up some stuff tomorrow morning before the game. No matter who we play, we just have to be ready. I think we’ll be in perfect position to take another one home.”
“For our seniors, it’s really important … It’d be great for them to go out with three straight rotary championships,” Lloyd said. “We talked about it beforehand and that’s what we’re shooting for tomorrow night.”