The Phillipsburg High School boys basketball team followed through on its new year’s resolution by getting into the win column.
After an 0-4 start to the season, the Stateliners kick off 2020 right with a 55-50 win over North Hunterdon at home on Thursday night in a Skyland Conference Raritan Division matchup.
“We were pretty hungry tonight. The first four games, we lost a few we should’ve won, so we really wanted to get this win,” Phillipsburg guard Jacob Takacs said. “We just played with tons of energy and, obviously, with the crowd in it we played really energetic and really well.”
Despite leading by eight points with 3 minutes to play, Phillipsburg found itself hanging on in the game’s final seconds. With 11 seconds left, Matt Lazar knocked down a shot from well beyond the arc to pull the Lions within three. Then, North Hunterdon forced Phillipsburg into a turnover on the ensuing inbound.
After working the ball around the perimeter, Wes Reinagel took a contested 3 that fell short and the Stateliners rebounded. Takacs was fouled with 3 seconds left and stepped to the line with a chance to give Phillipsburg its first win.
The Stateliners had missed 3 of their 4 foul shots in the fourth quarter, but the senior knocked down both attempts from the charity stripe.
“I was thinking, ‘We’re up three; I just need to make one of these.' When I made the first one it sealed the deal and gave us a very good win.” Takacs said.
Phillipsburg managed to win without the help of senior forward Brandon Yale, as the second leading scorer on the roster missed Thursday’s game with the flu.
“I told the guys I’m really proud of them for hanging in there,” Phillipsburg coach Jerry Lloyd said. “... A lot of teams after an 0-4 start, coming into the game without their leader, would have put their heads down. They rallied together and it was a great team win. I think we had four guys in double digits tonight.”
Sophomore guard Josh Borelli paced the Stateliners with 15 points while Takacs and junior Colin Domzalski added 12.
“I was hitting a few 3s and I got to the basket. (North Hunterdon) was overplaying (Takacs) on defense and he had some really nice passes,” Borelli said. “It was a good team win; we fought hard. Everyone was into it. The bench was in it; the fans were crazy. It felt really good to get that first win.”
Mark Woolhouse paced North with 16 points, but the Stateliners used several different looks on defense to hold Reinagel, the Lions’ leading scorer, to 12.
“Obviously (Reinagel) is a heck of player,” Lloyd said. “We thought we had to do a good job on him. I thought Julian (Couto), Jacob, Michael Gomez, all the kids who played him did a great job tonight … I thought our offense fed off of our defense.”
Phillipsburg also benefitted from North’s struggles at the line as the Lions went 9 of 17 on free throw attempts.
The Lions (2-3) will look to rebound when they head to Voorhees Friday night. The Stateliners host Penn Manor 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Hopefully we can build off of this,” Lloyd said. “We have a lot of guys that don’t have a lot of experience so to get that first win, hopefully we can learn from it. There were some things that still need to get cleaned up because it doesn’t get any easier.”
Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DesJBoyle. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.