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Phillipsburg edges Bangor in lone boys basketball game of Easton Rotary tourney

After losing four Skyland Conference games to start its season, the Phillipsburg High School boys basketball team traveled across the Delaware River to corral its first win in satisfying fashion Tuesday night.

Sophomore forward Andrew Martin scored 20 of his career-high 24 points in the second half, freshman guard Matt Scerbo Jr. drove to the basket for the go-ahead points with 33 seconds remaining, and the Stateliners held off Bangor 54-51 in the only boys game of the 25th annual Jack Bennett Easton Rotary Club tournament at Easton Area Middle School.

COVID-19 issues forced host Easton to drop out of the tournament along with its first-round opponent, West Philadelphia. Hence, Phillipsburg can consider itself the 2021 Rotary boys champion.

“It’s always good to play in the Rotary tournament, even if it’s just the one game,” second-year Phillipsburg coach Todd Sigafoos said. “With our schedule in the Skyland Conference, we’re used to the intensity, and I really think that helped us tonight.”

“It feels great to get that first win,” Martin said. “We didn’t blend together yet (in the losses), but we’re finding our chemistry.”

After scoring the first four points of the game, Phillipsburg didn’t lead again until reserve sophomore guard Darius McNair’s layup off a steal pushed the Stateliners ahead 42-41 with 5 minutes left.

Bangor rebounded from its slow start with a 10-0 run featuring a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard Josh Giaquinto. A pull-up jumper by Giaquinto boosted the Slaters’ edge to 23-11 early in the second quarter.

But those were Bangor’s final points of the half as Phillipsburg closed to 23-19 at intermission.

Martin started asserting himself in the third quarter with nine points while the Slaters continued to swish 3-pointers (two by Giaquinto, one by Brayden Strohe) to carry a 38-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

“Josh played very well tonight, and Strohe’s probably been our most consistent player this season,” Bangor coach Colin Kessler said.

Martin’s 3-point play upped Phillipsburg’s lead to 45-41 with 4:43 remaining. Strohe and Giaquinto responded with consecutive 3-pointers and freshman reserve forward Michael Miller’s layup in transition put the Slaters up 49-45 heading into the final 2 minutes.

An offensive rebound by Scerbo led to a Martin baseline jumper, which came 26 seconds prior to Martin converting a steal into another 3-point play.

“We’ve been emphasizing to Andrew that he’s so strong inside that there’s nobody around that can stop him,” Sigafoos said. “With him getting (varsity) experience last year as a freshman, it’s really helped him get used to the speed and pace of the game.”

“Seeing that it was a close game, I had to take a big leap offensively,” Martin said. “But it all came down to my teammates setting me up (to score).”

Giaquinto followed his own miss to complete his career-high, 25-point night and put the Slaters back in front 51-50.

The Stateliners cleared out for the talented Scerbo to take his defender to the basket for the go-ahead field goal. After Bangor missed a layup, Phillipsburg senior point guard Ben Capron contributed his only points with a pair of free throws with 16 seconds to go.

P’burg had fouls to give and used them wisely to prevent the Slaters from shooting a tying 3-pointer. Bangor then never got off a shot as time expired.

“We didn’t make the plays down the stretch and they did,” Kessler said. “We had the ball at the end of the first and second quarters and didn’t get off a shot. We got Josh open for a look at a 3 but didn’t get him the ball. There were little mental mistakes that cost us.”

“I thought we had to dig in and get stops on defense (in the second half),” said Sigafoos of his team’s halftime adjustments. “Defensively, I told the kids our magic number is 50. If we can hold teams to 50 points, I like our chances. Tonight, we gave up 51.”

And 51 was just good enough.

Bangor (1-5) plays host to non-league opponent Freedom on Monday. Phillipsburg returns to action next Tuesday at Ridge.


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