Boys basketball: Phillips leads Beavercreek past Thurgood Marshall

Beavercreek needed this. After a tough league loss the night before, the sight of Gabe Phillips scoring at will in the first quarter at Thurgood Marshall and the lead growing and growing made the Beavers feel confident again.

“It’s definitely a step forward,” Phillips said of an 82-37 victory Saturday night over the Cougars.

On Friday, the Beavers (2-1) lost by six at Springboro in their Greater Western Ohio Conference opener.

“Last night we definitely didn’t play our best brand of basketball,” Phillips said. “This was a big bounce-back win.”

Beavercreek coach Steve Pittman credited Springboro with playing hard despite being short-handed. Two of the Beavers’ best scorers, Kyle Putnam and Daniel Jefferson, didn’t score.

“It’s a tale of what they did and what we didn’t do,” Pittman said of Friday’s loss. “After last night, this was a lot better. We played hard and we did a better job of executing and rebounding.”

Pittman was concerned Thurgood’s pressure defense would create problems for his team’s offense. But he also said he thought feeding the ball to the 6-foot-8 Phillips was a way to start fast.

Phillips scored 15 points in the first quarter to spark the Beavers to a 28-7 lead.

“We wanted to utilize our mismatch because they didn’t really have too many big guys down there that could guard me,” Phillips said. “So they just kept going back to me, and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball.”

Phillips, known more for his shot blocking and rebounding, finished with 24 points. He’s a three-year starter and has come a long way since his sophomore year when his two free throws late in a district final were almost enough to beat Lakota East.

“I feel like I play a lot more physical now and I really demand the ball a lot more,” he said. “And I feel like I’ve really become comfortable at the varsity level, getting downhill and creating shots for myself.”

Putnam added 11 points, all in the first half, point guard Gabe Aga scored eight of his 10 in the second half, and 6-7 Adam Duvall, the Beavers’ leading scorer, scored 15 of his 19 in the second half.

Thurgood coach Antheny Petty was playing without one starter and two others were limited. Because of that, he said, Pittman’s concern about the Cougars’ pressure didn’t materialize.

“We didn’t lock in on the defensive end, but it’s early in the year so that’s a good thing,” Petty said. “It’s game four so we get a chance to fix it. We’ve just got to lock in, fine tune some things and we’ll be OK.”

Ronald Smith led the Cougars with 10 points, well below his average. Petty is eager to get everyone healthy and expects his team to emerge from the adversity of an 0-4 start.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in those guys in the locker room,” Petty said. “And we’ve got a great leader in Ronald Smith.”

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