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Phillipsburg Boys Secure Win Over Easton, Clinches Easton Rotary Holiday Basketball Tournament Title

By Tom Mugavero

PHILLIPSBURG, NJ - Nobody should use the game film of Thursday’s Phillipsburg-Easton boys basketball game to teach younger players how to play offensive basketball.

Yes, it was that ugly. But at the end of the evening, the Stateliners won the game and that’s all that matters. Like a famous football figure said, ‘Just win baby’. And P’burg did just that for the fourth straight time this season to improve to 4-1 on the year.

Matt Scerbo Jr. scored eight of the ‘Liners final 11 points in the final 3:13 of the contest and finished with 15 points and tournament MVP Andrew Martin scored a game-high 19 points as P’burg came back from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to prevail, 47-43, for its second straight Easton Rotary Holiday basketball tournament title.


Boy’s game

“It doesn’t matter how we won at all,” Phillipsburg coach Todd Sigafoos said. “I think this builds even more character for our team. Things were not going our way tonight. We were out of synch offensively. Being down five in the fourth quarter it showed what type of team we have. We just hung in there and we were adamant about defending our title. We had to dig in and we did when it mattered most.”

If nothing else, the game was close throughout with an exciting ending as there were seven lead changes and seven ties throughout.

Defense dominated the first quarter as P’burg had trouble with the Red Rovers man-to-man and Easton couldn’t solve the ‘Liners matchup zone defense. Martin scored all eight of P’burg’s first quarter points, four on free throws, and the Stateliners led 8-4 after eight minutes.

Scerbo Jr. made a floater in the lane and added a 3-pointer and transition basket to give Phillipsburg its biggest lead of the game, 18-10, before Easton scored eight straight to tie the score. The Rovers converted an and-one with 4.2 second left in the half for a 21-20 lead at intermission.

P’burg senior guard Allan Palos hit a 3-pointer to open up the second half scoring for Phillipsburg and made a steal that turned into a basket for Palos from Scerbo Jr. Ameer Herran scored his first basket of the game with 1:25 left in the third quarter to tie the score at 29 before Easton took a 31-30 lead after three.

Easton opened up the final quarter with back-to-back baskets to take its biggest lead of the game at 35-30. Martin’s half-hook from the lane and a put-back bucket closed P’burg’s deficit to one. Easton led 40-36 with 3:30 left before Scerbo scored his first points of the second half with 3:13 left in the game on two free throws.

Herran’s defensive rebound led to a transition basket for Scerbo Jr, who was fouled, and he finished off the three-point play to give Phillipsburg a 41-40 lead with 2:52 to go.  The Rovers took their final lead at 42-41 before Martin tied the score for the last time with a free throw.

Martin drove and finished with a jump stop layup to give P’burg a 44-42 lead with 1:30 remaining and two Scerbo Jr. free throws with 16.7 seconds left made it 46-43. Easton missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer, Scerbo Jr. rebounded, and his free throw with 1.7 seconds left closed out the scoring.

“This was definitely one of our ugly ones,” Martin said as he bears down on 1,000-career points. “We didn’t play our best basketball today but at the end of the day all that matters is we came out with a victory. That’s all we’re ever really worried about. I tried to bring as much energy as I could early and hoped my teammates could feed off of that. Things finally went our way at the end. None of our guys put their heads down. We knew what was needed. And we got the win together.”

Phillipsburg scored 21 points from the foul line, going 21-for-26. Martin who continually drove hard to the basket in traffic and drew fouls, went 9-for-13 from the charity stripe, while Scerbo Jr. made six of seven. Meanwhile, Easton, which made six more field goals than the Stateliners, made just eight trips to the foul line and made five.

“When Martin is going downhill and attacking the basket he’s one of the best players in the area and hard to stop,” Sigafoos said. “He’s very strong underneath and can also step outside and make shots. He kept us going when we had trouble making shots, got to the foul line, and got our offense going a little bit.”    

Scerbo Jr., who was named MVP in last year’s title game, joined Martin on the All-Tournament team.

“What more can I say about junior,” Sigafoos said. “He’s one of the best players in the area and he came through at the end. We have a great one-two punch on offense. And big-time players close out games for you. He wanted the ball and there’s no one else I’d rather have the ball in his hands than him.”



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