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Backcourt leads P-Burg boys past Russell

Phillipsburg's Ty Sides
Phillipsburg's Ty Sides(Everett J Royer | (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com))
Published: Jan. 9, 2021 at 5:05 PM CST
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RUSSELL, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Last winter, Phillipsburg finished 12-10 with a roster that included 6-foot-5 Austin Miller, along with 6-1 Parker Dibble and 5-10 Tyler Martin. The trio stood among the Panthers’ top-five scorers and combined for 21 points per contest.

Phillipsburg played in a high volume of close games, including four one-point victories. Overall, the Panthers won their contests by a combined 84 points.

This season, Phillipsburg is extremely guard heavy. No player on the roster is above 6-2. Senior point guard Ty Sides, a key player all four years and returning first team all-conference pick, headlines. He has posted another strong year after a challenging COVID-19 bout in late fall.

The lineup has yielded multiple big results at both ends, including a 55-41 road victory versus Russell on Friday in Mid-Continent League play. Phillipsburg sunk six treys, including five in the first half. The Panthers led 25-10 midway second quarter and by 20 after three.

“We are a solid team,” coach Keith Sides said. “We are nothing great. But as long as we shoot the ball from the perimeter, and our guards play well, we can be pretty tough. It’s just kind of like the NCAA tournament. … You get teams that are hot, the guards get hot, and it’s pretty hard to beat a guard-oriented team.”

Last winter, Phillipsburg scored .83 points per possession and allowed .86. The Panthers averaged 58.6 possessions a contest and had a steal on 15 percent of possessions. This winter, Phillipsburg is at 61 possessions before Russell. The Panthers collected .92 points per possession and allowed .71. Phillipsburg has significantly upped its steal rate to 27 percent.

“Up and down the court pretty well and that really is a big advantage for us,” coach Sides said.

Phillipsburg improved to 5-2. The Panthers’ five wins have come by a total of 121 points. Friday marked Phillipsburg’s closest win this season. The Panthers’ first four wins came by 14, 39, 30 and 24 points.

However, when the 3s don’t fall, the Panthers have struggled. Phillipsburg lost, 58-50, to Ulysses on Dec. 8, a .500 team. On Dec. 15, Ellis beat Phillipsburg, 66-43. The Panthers shot 26 percent overall, and 2 of 28 from long range.

On Friday, Sides believed Phillipsburg could have shot even better. In the first half, senior Kagan Keeten delivered 10 points with a pair of treys. Ty Sides had all nine of his points from 3s. For the game, junior Joel Ford led with 15. Sides tallied 13, and Keeten 12. Phillipsburg’s lone second half 3 came from senior Ethan Leidig.

“We got a ton of open looks there in the first half and made enough of them to get a lead to start out with,” coach Sides said. “But I felt like we should have had 40 points at halftime. We didn’t shoot it as well as I thought.”

Russell dropped to 3-4, already a one-win improvement from last winter. Six-foot-8 sophomore Jordayn Buhrle paced Russell with 10 points.

“The thing that is hard for us is their quickness they have,” Russell coach Blaine Maier said. “We didn’t get good looks out of our guards early in the ball game, and then we got it into our big guy, which I felt should have been able to dominate inside. And he just couldn’t hit a basket. All in all, (Phillipsburg) has got good team quickness.”

Ty Sides, the coach’s son, served as Phillipsburg’s starting quarterback. A few days before a playoff game against Beloit, Ty and several teammates contracted COVID-19.

Phillipsburg became one of the rare teams to cancel a playoff contest, which forced the end of the Panthers’ season. Ty battled the virus for several weeks. In practice, Phillipsburg has worn masks daily. Coach Sides said he wasn’t unsure exactly how hard to push his son. Before Russell, the officials told Sides they all previously had COVID.

“Just tried not to overdo it with him,” coach Sides said. “Just kind of go easy but do a lot of up and down with scrimmage. We like to get up and down the floor, so we’ve got to be in shape.”

Sides recently earned a Shrine Bowl nomination after he accounted for 24 touchdowns. In basketball, Sides has averaged at least 13 points and five assists a game the last two seasons.

“Most of our returners are guards, so that’s our strength,” coach Sides said.

Ford did not score in double figures last winter and delivered 3.5 points with 27 steals. He’s up to 12 points and four steals a game as a senior.

“It gives us a taller guard that can do a lot of different things, and we need him to do a lot of different things from scoring inside to guarding bigger players,” coach Sides said. “And doing a lot of little things, too, so yeah, he has really improved his game from last year, and we expect him to finish strong, too.”

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