Phillipsburg High School needed a win over Easton, badly.
The boys basketball team delivered on Saturday night.
The Stateliners, ranked sixth by lehighvalleylive, clawed their way to a 49-42 victory over the No. 5 Red Rovers at Easton Area Middle School.
It’s the program’s first victory over Easton in more than a decade, and it’s the first varsity win of any kind for the Stateliners against their archrival this school year.
“This rivalry game is unbelievable,” first-year Phillipsburg coach Jerry Lloyd said. “You never know what you’re going to get in this game. I’m just so happy for our kids, for our seniors. It’s been a long time since P’burg has beaten Easton basketball — it’s 12 or 13 years.”
“That’s what motivated us to get this win,” senior guard Jermaine Knight said of the drought. “That was a big part of it.”
Easton freshman Chris Hewey and sophomore Ryan Boylan each scored a layup to tie the score at 42-42 with 2:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Senior Jayshawn Grant got Phillipsburg (7-3) back ahead by putting in his own miss with 1:43 on the clock.
Easton (8-5) threw the ball away on its next possession and the Stateliners went back to work on offense, where Knight found a cutting Richie Manigault for an easy bucket to make the score 46-42 with 39 seconds remaining.
“We practiced this stuff — how to hold the ball at the end of the game,” Lloyd said. “We got what we practiced: we got Richie on a backdoor for a layup.”
“We were spreading it out, taking time off the clock, and I just saw someone wide-open underneath the basket,” said Knight, who had a game-high 12 points.
The Red Rovers failed to score on their next possession. Grant pulled down the defensive rebound and then made both parts of a 1-and-1 with 25.2 seconds remaining.
“We knew the situation,” said Grant, who finished with 11 points. “We knew that if we wanted to win, we needed to take good shots and get layups. We couldn’t throw the ball around. We composed ourselves, took good shots, and hit some free throws down the stretch to win the game.”
Easton's Chris Hewey goes up for a shot in front of Phillipsburg's Jermaine Knight. (Kyle Craig | For lehighvalleylive.com)
Easton was held scoreless for the final 2:38.
“Playing against P’burg, I never thought we’d come out like that. But, we came out not ready to play and, as a head coach, I take responsibility,” Red Rovers coach Ben Childs said. “For one reason or another, we just didn’t have any energy or our usual spunk and grit. I kept thinking: we’re hanging around, we’re hanging around; we’re going to turn it on. We just never did. That switch never flipped.”
Hewey paced Easton with 11 points. The Red Rovers top two scorers, Boylan and senior Jake Herres, were held to eight and four points, respectively.
“We played really well defensively,” Lloyd said. “Boylan and Herres are excellent players. We knew we had to concentrate on them. I think our guys really executed defensively, got on those guys and didn’t give them anything easy.”
“We knew where their two good offensive players were,” Knight said. “We just held them in check and the game was over after that.”
The Red Rovers have now dropped two straight after winning six in a row.
“With a young team, you’re going to have your ups and downs,” Childs said. “ … Here we are, playing two games against two good teams, didn’t play our best, and came out on the short end of both of them. I just told the guys we’re going to learn from these two games … We’re going to stay positive, keep working and keep getting better every day.”
Phillipsburg’s seniors – Grant, Knight, Chris Mann, Zaire Mitchell and Tyreece Martin – can breathe a sigh of relief now that they finally have a win over the Rovers to celebrate.
“It would be hard for me to go four years without beating Easton,” Grant said.
“I told them: everything in the past doesn’t matter, just concentrate on tonight; this is the game you’ll always remember,” Lloyd said. “I’m just so happy for this group of seniors.”