PLAINVILLE, Kan. - The foundation for Phillipsburg girls’ sizable overall improvement and Friday’s 51-45 overtime victory in the Mid-Continent League tournament semifinals against Hoxie comes from four key areas.
Point guard Taryn Sides has emerged as one of Kansas’ top freshmen after she developed her game from older brothers Trey and Ty. Trey is playing for Division I Jacksonville, and Ty is the Panthers’ junior point guard.
“I just wanted to be like them, because I have always looked up to my brothers, always played with them,” Sides said.
As well, the Panthers have stressed late game situations in practice, work that has paid off with a 4-0 record in single-figure contests. Last year, Phillipsburg went 12-10, 5-4 in single margin games.
Third, Phillipsburg has three seniors with guard Kylie Solida, Kristen Wells and post Emily Schneider, who has gained confidence after injury-plagued winters earlier in her career. Fourth, Phillipsburg’s season turned early with a 57-37 loss to Central Plains on Dec. 12.
It’s the closest game for CP in 2019-20, which currently rides the state’s all-time longest winning streak. Last winter, Phillipsburg lost twice to the Oilers by a combined margin of 137-38.
“That Central Plains game might have been a pivotal part of our season to really show them what they are capable of, and they knew it,” Phillipsburg coach Rachel Miller said. “Losing by 20, that’s a W – a half a W, whatever. They were very proud of their effort. I was very proud of their effort, and I think it showed them, ‘Hey, we have got some good stuff going on, and we can be one of those top-notch teams.”
Since CP, the 10-1 Panthers have reeled off eight straight victories and moved to ninth in Class 3A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. Hoxie, ranked ninth in 2A, is 8-2. Paced by a game- and career-high 28 points from Sides, second-seeded Phillipsburg moved into Saturday’s league tournament title game at Plainville High School.
“Really exhilarating,” Schneider said. “The intensity was really high. I myself felt the crowd and wanted it. It was just a big game, and a big win for us.”
The Panthers will face No. 1 seed WaKeeney-Trego Community, undefeated and ranked fourth in 2A. WaKeeney has never won an MCL tournament championship. Phillipsburg has one all-time crown in 2014.
“We have got our work cut out for us (Saturday) night,” Miller said. “They are tough, they are physical. They have got weapons, all over the place, too.”
In practice, Phillipsburg will put time on the clock and focus on situations. Miller credited the Panthers’ scout team for providing daily competition.
“I enjoy the challenge, and I like those situational things,” Miller said. “We work on them a lot in practice, and so it’s nice for the girls to see, you need to take them pretty seriously in practice just because they pay off in the end.”
On Friday, Phillipsburg trailed 8-6 after the first quarter, 23-16 at halftime and 34-29 after three quarters. The Panthers were down 36-29 with 6:33 left before a 9-2 run tied the game. Schneider, who finished with eight points and six rebounds, started the comeback with a basket off an assist from junior Meredith Jacobs.
“She has just come on,” Miller said. “There is no better person to show what it’s like to work hard, and to really get after it everyday in practice, and that’s her. She has worked hard to get where she is, and I love that she is able to reap the rewards, and I hope she continues to do great things.”
Then, Sides delivered poise reminiscent of her brothers. She sank two free throws to close the margin to 36-33. Sides had 21 second-half points.
“Be a team player, just the next play mindset,” Sides said. “They never really get frustrated.”
With 3:45 left, she sunk a trey, and then Schneider tied the score with a basket inside.
“It was really cool to be one of those people who could hit some of those shots,” Schneider said. “Because usually I don’t really like to take them. I like to pass it off to my teammates, because I believe that people do certain things on the team, and that’s what they stick to, and I don’t feel like I am that person on the team. … But for me to do that, it was really big in my eyes.”
After Hoxie tallied a basket, Sides had a screen on the right wing, quickly dribbled behind her back, gained an opening and swished a trey for a 41-40 advantage.
“I saw an open shot, so I was going to shoot it,” Sides said. “The game was close, so I needed to be there for my team.”
“She has practiced that a few times for sure,” Miller added.
Two more Sides’ free throws pushed the lead to 43-40. Hoxie four-year starting senior point guard Addi Campbell tied the game in the final seconds with a NBA range 3-pointer.
“She probably made the difference,” Hoxie coach Jared Dowell said of Sides. “We got a little bit lazy. We got in some foul trouble, and we were trying to go man. I’d liked what we were getting out of man. We had to get into zone a couple of times and some mismatches, and she just made some really big shots.”
Campbell, whom Dowell labels the “Tasmanian Devil,” averages around 16 points and more than five steals a game. She finished with a team-high 18 points and five steals and consistently delivered energy with multiple floor dives.
“She is just one of those players that doesn’t ever give up, and does not quit,” Dowell said. “She bangs on the floor whether it be volleyball or basketball, all over. It’s not just in games, and she hits hard, and she gets up every single time, and she pushes other players. She makes the other girls on the team better.”
Phillipsburg, though, won the overtime tip, ran 35 seconds off. Sides drew a foul and sank both free throws.
“That was tough,” Miller said. “We didn’t guard at the end. We let her have that shot, and so it was kind of a gut blow. Not going to lie, the girls kind of looked at me, and it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve just got extra basketball. Who doesn’t enjoy that? And I told them it’s going to be who responds here to start the game, and we got the tip and that’s important.”
Campbell fouled out with 3 minutes and 2 seconds left in overtime, and Phillipsburg outscored Hoxie, 8-2, in the extra period.
“We just kept believing in ourselves, and we knew the game was kind of just like a restart,” Sides said.
Overall, Phillipsburg was plus-8 when Campbell wasn’t on the court. Schneider delivered a free throw and a rebound, and Sides also had a late steal and basket to secure the win.
“It’s kind of stressful, but we found a way to win,” Sides said. “We just executed our plays and played better defense.”