Phillipsburg basketball celebrates Fisher with ceremony and two lopsided wins
Tom Fisher was surprised.
The recently retired Phillipsburg High School athletic director got a call that his successor, Kyle Fleming, was in hot water.
Fisher, who has kept regular contact with Fleming, could hardly believe it, but he reflected upon the worst-case scenarios. Was it a player eligibility screw-up? Would the Stateliners successful football season be forfeited?
When Fisher arrived at the school, he was surprised again.
A large group greeted him during a personal unveiling of the new logos on the Stateliners basketball hardwood. It was the longtime Phillipsburg fixture’s first chance to see “Thomas Fisher Court.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Fisher said. “If there’s anything I ever wanted to be honored for, it’s basketball.”
Phillipsburg celebrated its former AD and winningest boys hoops coach with the official dedication of the court in conjunction with a girls/boys basketball doubleheader vs. Bridgewater-Raritan on Thursday night.
Both basketball teams did their part. The Phillipsburg girls won 51-20, and the boys triumphed 67-45.
Fisher addressed the crowd after a banner detailing his accomplishments was unveiled by his grandchildren between games.
“I’m obviously very humbled by this honor and very appreciative of all the people that were involved in this,” said Fisher, who led the Stateliners to 349 victories during his coaching career, including a 1983 state championship.
Fisher thanked his family in attendance, specifically his wife Linda and three daughters, Cortney, Tiffany and Brittany, for the sacrifices they made to allow him to pursue is passion. He acknowledged the school board and administrators that made Thursday night possible, too.
Fisher also mentioned the late Mike Koury, who drew him from Easton to the sideline at P’burg. He commended his former assistants, particularly his first assistant, Bruce Exley.
The former coach admitted he was demanding of his players, an approach he hoped would prepare them for life.
“I realized after a year on my own (after college), that world out there is pretty damn tough,” he said. “I made a promise to myself that I was going to teach them commitment and dedication and sacrifice.”
His message resonated, judging by the turnout Thursday. Players from years past lined up to shake their old mentor’s hand.
“It warms my heart,” Fisher said. “You don’t know you make an impact on kids until you have a ceremony like this and you realize … The whole night was great. I didn’t realize that many people would come.”
Fisher, who was a record-setting player at Easton before continuing his career at Saint Louis University, closed the ceremony with a brief story:
A couple avid Easton fans approached Fisher after his retirement and said they’d be excited to see the alum supporting the Red Rovers during the Thanksgiving Day football clash, now that his time at P’burg was over.
“You know what, buddy? The math doesn’t work out,” Fisher told the Easton enthusiasts.
“What do you mean?” they replied.
“I spent 12 years in the Easton school district, and I spent 48 in Phillipsburg,” Fisher said. “Go Stateliners.”
P’burg girls stay unbeaten
The girls basketball team moved to 3-0 this winter in convincing fashion. The Stateliners opened a 7-0 lead on Bridgewater and never looked back.
“We wanted to give ‘Fish’ that win, because he’s meant a lot to the program,” coach Nicole Fulmer said. “We wanted to start it off with a bang.”
P’burg opened the second quarter with a 11-point run. Junior Jaileen Soto capped the streak with a 3-pointer to put the hosts ahead 23-5 with 1:55 remaining in the first half.
Junior Amanda Rapel tallied 11 points to pace the Stateliners, who had nine different players scratch the scoring column.
“We’ve been stressing teamwork,” Fulmer said. “Distributing the scoring makes it harder for teams to stop you.”
Fulmer, who is in the first year of her second stint at P’burg, was happy to post a “W” during a significant evening for Stateliners hoops.
“It’s really special. (Fisher) means a lot, obviously, to Phillipsburg, the school district, the basketball program,” she said. “He means a lot to me, because he was the one who gave me my first go at coaching. He was always 100% behind me and supportive and a mentor along the way.”
P’burg boys roll to win
Stateliners boys coach Todd Sigafoos and assistant Ryan Ditze wanted to use the energy in the gym on Thursday to power aggressive defensive pressure. That plan was successful as Bridgewater was forced to take a timeout 26 seconds into the contest after a steal and layup by senior Jason Martinez made the score 4-0.
The ‘Liners continued to unsettle the Panthers throughout the night.
P’burg never trailed and took a 33-24 lead into intermission after a successful 1-and-1 trip by junior Andrew Martin.
The ‘Liners (2-1) put the game to bed with a 12-point streak in the third quarter. Senior Jaylen Miller pushed the advantage to 47-28 in the final minute of the period with a pair of free throws.
Martin led Phillipsburg with 20 points. Juniors Jayveon Jackson and Darius McNair added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“Everyone contributed tonight,” Sigafoos said. “That was my main message to those guys in the locker room afterwards, it was a total team effort.”
Phillipsburg's Andrew Martin (11) shoots a jumper against Bridgewater-Raritan.Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
Sigafoos, who played for Fisher in high school, said he’s still receiving lessons.
Fisher was going over sets with the current coach, even as the pair was entering a pregame reception in the school’s library.
“It’s just a great night ... He was a very big influence on my whole basketball career. I played for him for four years,” Sigafoos said. “When he gave me the opportunity to come back and coach, I was always peppering him (with questions). He’s always coaching me ... I have so much respect for the guy.”
Kyle Craig may be reached at email@example.com.