Scerbo Jr., Phillipsburg basketball slam Easton in Rotary tournament final
Matt Scerbo Jr. helps Phillipsburg High School’s boys basketball team in a number of ways.
But there was one aspect of his game that was lacking a little this winter.
Scerbo hadn’t successfully dunked in a contest and had a pair of miscues while attempting to throw it down last week in a victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.
“I was going to take a break from trying to dunk,” the sophomore said. “I was 0-for-3 on the season. But, the energy was high today.”
Scerbo had a pair of slams, scored 17 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player as Phillipsburg defeated Easton 59-34 in the final of the Jack Bennett Easton Rotary Holiday Classic on Wednesday night.
“It feels great to bring it home for our hometown,” Scerbo said. “It’s been quite some time since we’ve got it done. I love this team. I’m happy we got it done.”
It’s the fourth time Phillipsburg has won the Easton Rotary tourney. It last captured the trophy in 2018.
The Stateliners (4-1) scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed. Easton (1-8) tallied two points in the first quarter while surrendering nine turnovers.
“It was a great way to set the tone, and we just never looked back after that,” Scerbo said. “Our defense was great today.”
Easton closed the second quarter on a 10-2 run. Senior Jaiden Folk’s free throw cut the Red Rovers’ deficit to 19-15 at the break.
The Stateliners, however, opened the second half with a seven-point streak. Junior Andrew Martin followed a layup with a pair of foul shots to put the visitors ahead 26-15 with 5:59 left in the third quarter.
“It feels good,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of confidence coming out of a big tournament win, especially against our archrival Easton. We’re just looking to build off this.”
A nine-point spurt put the game away for the Stateliners. A putback by junior Jayveon Jackson pushed P’burg ahead 37-20 with 1:58 remaining in the third.
“I thought in the beginning of the game, we were transitioning well, we just weren’t finishing. That’s always our focus: get our offense off of our defense,” P’burg coach Todd Sigafoos said. “The kids really responded after (halftime). We told them, ‘Hey, just take your time. Make sure you’re focusing and finishing on the layups. Good things are going to happen.’”
Easton shot 7-for-24 (29.2%) in the second half while being outscored 40-19.
“Our problem is scoring. It’s no secret that we don’t have a lot of scorers on offense,” Red Rovers coach Eric Jacobs said. “We tried to do some different things strategically. We felt like we were in some pretty good positions. Guys have to be a little bit stronger with the basketball and finish in traffic. Right now, our guys are struggling with that.”
Junior Jordan Alston paced Easton with nine points and five rebounds. Folk, who scored 16 in a 47-39 semifinal victory vs. Bangor, was named to the all-tournament team.
“We’re trying to find the right combinations,” Jacobs said of his team’s rotation. “They come to practice every day and work hard. I was really happy for them to get a win (against Bangor). It kind of took the monkey off our back a little bit.”
Scerbo, who faced a box-and-1 defense early in the game, was 6 of 9 from the field and 4 of 4 from the charity stripe while tallying 17 points.
“We told him to just stick with the plan ... He didn’t get frustrated whatsoever tonight,” Sigafoos said of the young guard. “... In the second half, he really went off ... He’s a vital part of our defense at the front. He gets a lot of deflections and steals, which allows him to get going offensively.”
Martin, another all-tournament team member, had a team-high 20 points and was also 6-for-9 from the field (7 of 8 from the line). The junior added 11 rebounds.
“The kid was team-first tonight. He let the game come to him,” Sigafoos said of Martin. “I always tell him he’s at his best when he calms down and allows the game to come to him. He took very, very good, productive shots tonight. He shared the ball well with his teammates.”
P’burg will enter the new year on a three-game winning streak. It’s only defeat came in a 52-49 setback vs. Hillsborough, during which the ‘Liners had a late lead slip through their fingers.
“I think we’re in a good spot. I think the team is really starting to jell,” Sigafoos said. “... We’re mixing in a lot of younger guys that haven’t played much together. You can see that they are really buying into what we’re trying to preach to them. They’re sharing the ball very well. Defensively, they’re really locked in; they’re communicating fantastically.”
Hatboro-Horsham defeated Bangor 66-57 in overtime during Wednesday’s consolation game. Bangor senior Josh Giaquinto and Hatboro-Horsham senior Noah Schlosser made the all-tourney team.
Kyle Craig may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.