Phillipsburg boys basketball scores 1st 15 points in lopsided win over Warren Hills
In its last game out, the Phillipsburg boys basketball team trailed Voorhees 21-4 at the end of the first quarter and watched its chances at a Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex title slip away as a result.
In their Skyland Conference crossover matchup against Warren Hills on Thursday night, the Stateliners flipped the script.
Phillipsburg (11-9) scored 15 unanswered points to start the game and never let the Blue Streaks get within single digits after that in a 54-34 home victory.
“Coming from the Voorhees game, where they got the fast start on us, we emphasized today to really get off to that start and to amp up the pressure,” Phillipsburg coach Todd Sigafoos said. “We always say we’re at our best when our defense gets us to our offense. That’s one of the things we challenged them to do in the locker room and they did it for us tonight.”
Freshman guard Matthew Scerbo Jr. scored the game’s opening points on back-to-back buckets in the paint.
Warren Hills turned the ball over on each of its next two possessions and the Stateliners capitalized with a layup from senior Ben Capron before Scerbo Jr. knocked down two foul shots that put Phillipsburg up 8-0 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
After sophomore forward Andrew Martin connected on a pull-up jumper, Scerbo Jr. finished off another breakaway for the Stateliners with the game’s only dunk.
“Just energy going into the game. We knew that if we put pressure on the ball right away against this team, we’d be fine. Get a couple of fastbreak buckets, add a dunk, we just had a lot of energy today,” Scerbo Jr. said.
“He’s special,” Sigafoos said of Scerbo Jr. “To be a freshman and be able to do the things he’s able to do, especially in transition, he’s got all the tools that you’re looking for. To see him doing what he’s doing at such a young age, it’s very impressive to watch.”
Martin capped off Phillipsburg’s 15-0 run with a 3-pointer from the wing with 3:30 left in the opening quarter. Senior guard Josh Borelli added two 3s and junior Jason Martinez scored the final points of the first on a transition layup to help Stateliners take a 23-4 lead into the second quarter.
“We always go over transition offense at practice. That’s what we specialize in. We’re pretty good at that,” Scerbo Jr. said.
Trailing 30-11 at halftime, Warren Hills (9-14) started the third quarter on an 11-4 run, getting six points from junior guard Tommy Flaherty during that stretch. Senior Lucas Fritton converted an and-1 to cut Phillipsburg’s lead to 34-22 with 2:11 left in the third, prompting Sigafoos to call a timeout and deliver an impassioned team talk.
“That was like a wakeup call. We had to jump back and cut them off from scoring,” said Harkin, a senior.
After the timeout, Harkin grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a putback. After another 3 from Borelli, Flaherty cut Phillipsburg’s lead to 39-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Blue Streaks scored four times from the field in the final 8 minutes.
“When we start amping up the pressure and put our half-court trap in, our traps have been very good. It forces them to make some awkward passes, which allows our weak-side guys to come up and get the steals,” Sigafoos said.
Harkin scored five of his nine points in the fourth and finished the game with seven rebounds. Martin tallied 11 points and eight rebounds.
“A lot of it is defense and everybody has to do their job on the floor. All five people have to rebound. If one person doesn’t rebound, we all fail,” Harkin said.
Scerbo Jr. paced Phillipsburg with 12 points. The Stateliners will wrap up the regular season when they host North Hunterdon on Wednesday and will then prepare for the first round of the NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 tournament. Fourteenth-seeded P’burg is slated to travel to third-seeded Linden on Feb. 28.
“I think we have some good energy going into the playoffs,” Scerbo Jr. said.
Flaherty led all scorers with 17 points. Warren Hills, which has now dropped six straight, will host Hopewell Valley Central on Tuesday. The 13th-seeded Blue Streaks will start the North 2 Group 3 tournament with a trip to Voorhees on March 1.
Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com.