TMP boys lose big lead, fall to Phillipsburg
By KLINT SPILLER
The Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball team had Phillipsburg on the ropes in the third quarter, at one point leading by 11.
Then the Panthers installed their press, and Phillipsburg's physicality and constant pressure eventually caused TMP (1-3) to crumble.
The Monarchs fell 59-48 on Tuesday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse after Phillipsburg outscored TMP 31-9 in the final 10 minutes.
"That's just what explosive players can do to you when you're fatigued," said TMP head coach Joe Hertel.
After taking a 15-9 lead after the first quarter, Phillipsburg (5-0) struggled for much of the second and third. Meanwhile, TMP played solid defense and outrebounded the Panthers, as the Monarchs crept back into the game and led for nearly 15 minutes until Phillipsburg jumped ahead in the fourth quarter.
"I don't particularly care for losing, but the effort was impressive," Hertel said. "Think about it, for 22 minutes, we shut down a really solid undefeated team and held a great athlete (Sean Newlan) to six points in the first half."
Newlan, a senior, finished with a team-high 16 points, despite getting TMP's attention all night.
"They played really physical defense," Newlan said. "They were pretty good at closing out and swarming, so I didn't really get an opportunity to do much."
Newlan, who historically has struggled from the foul line, did so again Tuesday, making 2 of 9.
Newlan is averaging a team-high 18 points per game this season despite shooting 13 of 42 from the free throw line.
"If he made free throws the whole year, he'd be averaging 25," said Phillipsburg head coach Keith Sides.
It wasn't Newlan who provided the largest spark for Phillipsburg, though. That was junior guard Tristan Ratzlaff.
Ratzlaff, who scored just 15 points in his first four games, posted 13 against TMP, and all of them came in the last 11 minutes.
"I was pretty amazed," Ratzlaff said. "I didn't think I had it in me, right now anyway."
Ratzlaff started Phillipsburg's rally late in the third.
Ratzlaff made a couple free throws with 2:46 left, and then he scored 5 of Phillipsburg's 10 points in the final minute of the third after the Panthers' press caused four TMP turnovers in less than a minute.
Because of that lightning-fast run, Phillipsburg cut TMP's 11-point lead to one by the start of the fourth.
From then on, Phillipsburg just got out and ran the floor.
Phillipsburg is a physical team. Many of its players were on the school's 7-2 football team.
Due to their physical play, the Panthers already were in the double bonus by the start of the fourth, and as a result, they shot 19 free throws in the final quarter to help seal it, causing two of TMP's best players to foul out -- senior point guard Shane Zimmerman and senior forward Kade Megaffin.
"We put a lot of hard work into our practices and really, really worked on game speed and finishing practices as hard as we can," Newlan said.
"So when we get an opportunity to close in a tight game like this, it just seems like second nature to us."
Megaffin led TMP in scoring with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
After missing the first three games with a shoulder injury, senior forward Anthony Walters made his return and scored 8 points, and senior forward Cameron Fouts added 7, shooting 7 of 8 from the free throw line.
The Monarchs barely out rebounded Phillipsburg 46 to 45, but just to do that was impressive, Hertel said.
"(TMP) rebounded hard," Hertel said.
"In most cases, (Phillipsburg players) have more inches than we do, and they certainly have more athleticism."