PHILLIPSBURG — Even with his team mired in an offensive funk, Thomas More Prep-Marian boys basketball coach Bill Meagher never sensed his team was in panic mode.
Phillipsburg looked poised for a blowout win, opening up a 20-point lead on TMP midway through the third quarter.
But once they found a spark, the Monarchs put on a show.
TMP outscored Phillipsburg 33-8 over the last 11:20 of the game, notching a rousing 65-60 road win on Friday.
"Our guys are pretty good about keeping themselves up," Meagher said. "…I was really proud of our (senior) leadership in a tough environment and a tough gym that we’ve had some back luck in. They fought their way back out."
The teams went back and forth in the first 12 minutes before Phillipsburg started to gain separation while TMP was fighting the offensive slump. After leading by 11 at halftime, the Panthers opened a 52-32 advantage with 3:34 left in the third quarter before the Monarchs caught fire.
Sharpshooting from Ryan Stoecklein and Jackson Schulte helped fuel the rally, with the guards combining for six threes during the last 10 minutes of the game. But Meagher said the turnaround started in earnest on the defensive end.
"Part of it was we’re trying to figure out that you’ve got to play the game the right way, which means you’ve got to go to the boards, you’ve got to be in a stance, you’ve got to get your hands up," Meagher said. "Sometimes we like to think you can just hit shots and don’t have to do the nitty gritty.
"I thought the second half we finally bought in a little bit and did some of that blue-collar stuff, and I think that’s what helped us."
After the Phillipsburg lead grew to 20, TMP’s Mason Robbins hit a 3 to ignite an 11-0 run to close the third quarter. Stoecklein hit back-to-back treys during the spurt to bring the Monarchs within nine.
After Phillipsburg scored the first basket of the fourth, the Monarchs again hit the Panthers with 11 straight points, starting again with a Stoecklein 3. Schulte knocked down back-to-back 3s to tie it at 54 with 5:09 left, capping off a 22-2 run.
It was locked at 58 with under three minutes left when TMP’s Brady Kreutzer poked the ball away from Ty Sides, leading to a Stoecklein layup to put TMP up two. Stoecklein then hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to give the Monarchs a five-point lead with under two minutes left.
Down three, Phillipsburg turned it over with 16.5 seconds left and Schulte hit two free throws with 12.3 seconds remaining to seal it.
Schulte and Stoecklein each scored 18 for the Monarchs, hitting four 3-pointers apiece. They combined for 20 of TMP’s 22 fourth quarter points.
Robbins chipped in 14 and was instrumental in helping spark the Monarchs.
"I think this was Mason’s best game," Meagher said. "Mason had two great practices before this game, so it shouldn’t surprise us that it was good. He’s coming along for us."
TMP, which saw a 12-game winning streak snapped last Friday against Norton, moved to 13-2 and 6-1 in the MCL.
Ty Sides led Phillipsburg (11-9) with 17 while Austin Miller finished with 15.
PHILLIPSBURG GIRLS 55, TMP 46
The TMP girls put together an upset bid against Phillipsburg, taking a six-point lead into the fourth quarter. But the Panthers opened the final frame on an 11-0 run and stayed in control to move to 16-3.
Emily Schneider scored the first four points of the fourth before a bucket from Taryn Sides tied it up at 36 for Phillipsburg. Schneider then completed a 3-point play to put the Panthers in front.
With the win, Phillipsburg (16-3 overall) clinched the Mid-Continent League regular-season championship with an 8-1 mark in league play.
TMP (5-11) was paced by Emilee Lane’s 16 points, while Kyleigh Allen and Sophia Balthazor added 14 and 12, respectively.
"I think we’re getting better, and that’s very important for this team; we’re young," TMP coach Rose McFarland said. "We played with them the whole time. It’s kind of been the story where we have one little spell where we don’t play up to the par.
"Defensively, I thought we played really well."
TMP lost leading scorer Adell Riedel to a knee injury last month and Sasha Wasinger was out Friday with an ankle injury.
McFarland said TMP’s underclassmen have shown improvement while taking on bigger roles.
"Girls are stepping up," McFarland said. "We’re not scared of anybody, we just got to go out every day and play hard."
Sides scored a game-high 22, while Schneider finished with 15 and Kay Pakkebier added 11 for Phillipsburg.
The Monarchs were set to turn around and play Sacred Heart on Saturday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse. Check hdnews.net and Tuesday’s print edition for recaps.