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Phillipsburg girls claim first MCL title

By AUSTIN COLBERT
acolbert@dailynews.net

Phillipsburg’s Mattison Dusin spent a lot of time at the free-throw line late in the girls’ MCL Tournament championship game against Ellis on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The shots had literally no impact on the game — Phillipsburg already had a comfortable double-digit lead — but this didn’t make them any less nerve-racking for the 5-foot-10 senior.

“I was like, ‘Come on, just let the clock keep going.’ … Even at the end I was more nervous than I was at the beginning,” Dusin said. “We’ve been wanting this for a long time and we finally got it.”

Phillipsburg eventually won 49-34 to claim the MCL Tournament title, a first for the Panther girls. Phillipsburg has been part of the Mid-Continent League since 1955 and has competed in every tournament since it began in 1976.

And until this season, Phillipsburg had been the only current MCL member to not win a girls' tournament title (Oakley also doesn’t have a title but competed in the MCL Tournament for the first time this season). The Panthers entered Saturday’s game 0-6 in MCL finals, the first loss coming in 1977 and the most recent in 2009.

“Those girls, that’s all they were thinking about as soon as we started this tournament,” Phillipsburg coach Rachel Miller said. “To see their faces with about two minutes left, as a coach you can’t ask for anything better. They’re just so excited. The joy is why I do what I do and that’s really cool for them.”

The Panthers defeated Stockton 50-21 in the seventh-place game last season.

The win is even more rewarding considering Ellis defeated Phillipsburg 57-47 in Ellis on Dec. 6 in both teams' season opener.

In that game, Ellis made a living on fast-break points. Railer sophomore Alexcia Deutscher scored 19 points in the opener, and it was a priority of Phillipsburg’s to slow her and the Railers’ transition offense in Saturday’s rematch.

“We know they like to run, so we would try to stop the ball soon, so that we would slow them down,” Dusin said, “and just try to get them out of sync any way that we could.”

This worked well for Phillipsburg, which took a 21-18 lead to the break and held Deutscher to only five points in the first half, three coming from the foul line.

The third quarter proved to be one of the best of the season for Phillipsburg, and possibly one of the worst for Ellis. The Panthers outscored the Railers 14-4 in the quarter, finishing it on a 12-0 run to lead by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter.

“We came out in the second half and it was just more of the same. We were sluggish; our shots weren’t falling. We were slow. It just wasn’t our best night tonight,” Ellis coach Perry Mick said. “It appeared as though we were tired. Sometimes in a tournament like this when you play two nights in a row, it shows.”

Ellis got as close as 35-26 after scoring the first four points of the fourth quarter. Less than four minutes later Phillipsburg had completely closed the door on any Ellis comeback dreams and led 47-30 with 2:55 to play.

Dusin led Phillipsburg with 16 points, 10 of which came from the foul line. Tatum Bartels also had 10 points for the Panthers.

“She has really stepped up as a senior on this team,” Miller said of Dusin. “She knows when the ball is given to her inside we really want her to look to score. Early on she was passing up some shots and I got on her a little bit. Wanted her to definitely try to score inside because she is one of our best options.”

Deutscher and Kaleigh Soneson each finished with 11 points to lead Ellis in scoring.

Phillipsburg 49, Ellis 34
Phillipsburg     10 11 14 14 — 49
Ellis     11 7 4 12 — 34
Phillipsburg — Mattison Dusin 16, Tatum Bartels 10, Swanson 8, Gower 7, Wilkison 6, Frantz 2
Ellis — Alexcia Deutscher 11, Kaleigh Soneson 11, Greenway 8, Mick 2, Towns 2