By CHAD SIMON
The Phillipsburg High School girls' basketball team believed in itself Friday night -- and it showed.
The Panthers, doing something no team has been able to do in the previous 14 tries, shocked Thomas More-Prep Marian, the No. 2 ranked in Class 4A Division II, with a 48-45 buzzer-beating win at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
Phillipsburg sophomore Tatum Bartels fouled out in the fourth quarter with a game high 15 points. That is when senior Mindy Gower stepped up and hit the game winning 3-point shot from approximately 30 feet as the buzzer sounded.
"I knew that I had to take the leadership role, go get the ball and shoot it," Gower said. "I kind of felt like it was going to go in, but you never know the way the ball is going to bounce."
The ball bounced in Phillipsburg's way early as well, as the Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead. TMP then ran off 10 straight points of its own before Phillipsburg ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run. The quarter of runs ended with Phillipsburg ahead 13-10.
TMP tied the game at 25 with five minutes left to play in the third quarter, but the Monarchs couldn't muster much offense the rest of the quarter, and trailed 35-29 going into the fourth.
"There was a streak in there where we didn't score much. We just didn't score for a while, but we battled back and got ahead," said TMP coach Rose McFarland.
TMP (14-2 overall, 7-1 MCL) wasn't going to allow their 14-game win streak end without a fight. The Monarchs scored nine of the first 10 points in the fourth quarter to lead 38-36. The rest of the way, the teams exchanged lead, neither by more than two points.
Bartels scored her last point on a free throw to tie the game at 45 before fouling out on a charging call. The foul allowed TMP to try and hold for the last shot. TMP passed the ball around the perimeter as time ran down. Then, the ball bounced Phillipsburg's way again as TMP threw the ball out of bounds.
The Panthers believed, and the ball went through the net one last time as Gower hit the game winner.
The win avenged an earlier season loss to TMP during the first round of the Mid-Continent League Tournament. Phillipsburg jumped out to an early lead before losing in the first meeting of the season, also in Hays.
"I think they (Phillipsburg) knew going in that we could hang in there with them," said Panther coach Rachel Miller. "I hope the girls see this as a confidence booster, and continue to work hard in practice and we just keep going from here."
Phillipsburg (9-8, 4-2) has been battle-tested heading into the final stretch of the regular season. Before beating TMP, Phillipsburg lost to one of the most dominant teams in the state when they lost to Hoxie, No. 1 in Class 1A Division I.
"We knew this was going to be the toughest Tuesday-Friday that anyone could possibly play in the state. You want to play these good teams because you can learn from them," Miller said about playing two highly ranked teams.
Phillipsburg will play host to Concordia before traveling to Lexington (Neb.) this week.
TMP will try to get back in the win column when the travel to Great Bend High School on Tuesday before hosting Stockton on Friday.
TMP boys 77
The Monarch boys (10-6, 6-1) ended their two-game losing streak with a seemingly easy 77-48 win over the Panthers (5-12, 1-6) to cap the night.
TMP junior Jared Vitztum scored early and often as he had 12 first-quarter points, and 18 in the first half.
He finished with a game-high 20 points.
TMP used its tenacious defense to score easy baskets on its way to a 27-11 first-quarter lead.
"We had a nice start to the game. The fact of the matter is that we are just a better offensive team when our offense is a direct result of defense," said TMP coach Joe Hertel.
"We basically made it a layup fest early in the game by making some defensive plays in the open floor."
Phillipsburg junior Kameron Tweedy scored five of his 14 points in the second quarter. Despite Phillipsburg's best efforts, TMP increased its lead to 44-25 by halftime.
Phillipsburg senior Sam Sage scored seven of his team-high 15 points during the third, but TMP led 63-40 heading into the final quarter.
TMP, ranked No. 9 in Class 4A Division II, will try to make it two wins in a row when they take on Class 5A Great Bend High School this Tuesday.
Phillipsburg will host Concordia on Tuesday before traveling to Lexington (Neb.) on Friday.