Phillipsburg boys basketball rolls to another win at rival Easton
Phillipsburg High School’s boys basketball team once again surged past rival Easton at the start.
The Stateliners posted an impressive first quarter and defeated the Red Rovers 59-42 at Easton Area Middle School on Wednesday night.
It’s the second road win this season for Phillipsburg (12-7) over its rival. The Stateliners topped the Rovers 59-34 in the final of the Easton Rotary tournament in December.
“It’s my last year, senior year,” guard Jason Martinez said. “I just wanted to make sure I had that. Last year, we only (beat Easton) one time on our home court. The year before that, we didn’t get to play them. I was happy we came out 2-0 against them this season.”
Phillipsburg, which led Easton 12-2 after one quarter in the first meeting, made its first five shots to pull ahead 13-2 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Matt Scerbo Jr. after fewer than 3 minutes of action.
Scerbo dished a no-look pass to junior Jayveon Jackson, who scored, and sophomore Ethan White-Philpot drained a 3 to put the visitors ahead 23-7 after the opening quarter. The Stateliners went 9 of 12 from the field in the first 8 minutes.
“We talked about being under control and handling their pressure. We saw some things when they were in their zone that I thought we could attack by driving the ball down the lane and getting our bigs involved,” Phillipsburg coach Todd Sigafoos said.
Phillipsburg led by double digits for the remainder of the contest.
Easton junior guard James Viglianti hit a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to 43-29 with 6:58 to play in the fourth quarter. Sigafoos called a timeout to refocus his squad.
“We’ve been trying to talk about complacency. There have been times where we’ve built big leads throughout the year and we get a little complacent and allow teams to come back,” he said. “I tried to call a timeout to get them back under control a little bit. We had to dig in defensively and that’d allow us to get out and run. That’s when we’re at our best, when we’re able to run and let our athletes finish at the rim.”
The ‘Liners did just that, sealing the result with a nine-point streak that featured a dunk from Scerbo and an alley-oop from Martinez to junior Ameer Herran.
“We just wanted to finish it with a bang,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s lob to Herran was his fifth assist of the night (unofficially).
“It’s a day-in-day-out thing for Jason. He’s averaging probably about 5 assists per game,” Sigafoos said. “He knows his role. He’s the heart and soul. He comes out and gives the energy. He sees spots where he’s able to attack, and he’s under control. His court vision is very good.”
Martinez, one of just two seniors on the roster, prefers to spread the wealth.
“I just like to share the ball with my teammates,” he said. “I don’t like to get too many points because I want to share the ball; I want to get assists; I want to be unselfish with the ball. I’m happy to be known for that.”
Senior guard Aziz Muhammad, the reigning lehighvalleylive.com Player of the Week, had 10 points for the Rovers, as did junior CJ Hunt.
Easton fell to 2-18 this season. It’ll conclude its campaign with divisional matchups against Nazareth and Liberty.
Junior Andrew Martin paced the ‘Liners with 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Scerbo added eight points.
“Scerbo did a great job distributing tonight,” Sigafoos said. “He might not have gotten his points, but he facilitated unbelievably tonight, getting our bigs – Andrew, Jayveon and Ameer – on the low block for easy buckets.”
P’burg, ranked No. 8 in the latest Top 10, will set sights on its Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex tournament opener. The top-seeded ‘Liners, who received a double bye, meet North Hunterdon in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“There’s always room for improvement,” said Martinez, who had five points and six rebounds. “In the beginning of the season, we were just getting started and getting the team chemistry going ... There’s still more progress to be done.”
Kyle Craig may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.