Nine years in the making, senior gets his one shining moment

Basketball team manager plays and scores for first time

For nine years, the Redhawks were his high school favorite, watching as his two siblings suited up in the red and black.

First it was his older sister Sarah. 

Then it was his older brother Joshua.

Then, finally, in middle school, it was his turn, as he took on the role of team manager.

For the next six years he watched from the bench, wanting, hoping to play.

On Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, it was his turn.

It began the day before when the team was preparing for Senior Night and Matthew was given a jersey.

Instantly, he was engulfed by the entire boys’ basketball program.

Then, a little more than 24 hours later, his lifelong dream was realized. With the game against Lebanon Trail in hand, and the Redhawks up big, #40, Matthew Philips took the floor.

But he wasn’t going to be an empty threat, he was looking to put points on the board.

“When I first got into the game I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Matthew said. “Everybody out there was wanting me to score.”  

And he did. Not just once, but twice. Sending the crowd and his team into a frenzy, he was swarmed, and happily taken to the ground.  

“It’s better than any win, any record, any play off, moments like this is what lasts forever,” head coach Stephen Friar said. “Moments like this is what you remember 20, 30, 40 years from now, so him scoring four points for the varsity game on Senior Night, couldn’t imagine anything better than that. We’re really proud of him.”

The pride seeped throughout the entire Philips family. 

“It’s been great, I mean Matthew has been a Redhawk fan since older brother and older sister both played basketball, so he’s just been following the team for years,” Saju said. “He knows all these guys [and] just that opportunity for him to go out there, I was really proud. And also the other team for allowing that to happen.”

Matthew’s one shining moment wasn’t his alone.

“Seeing my little brother Matthew play on senior night for Liberty was one of the happiest moments of my entire life,” older brother Joshua said. “He has loved basketball from the moment he picked up a ball and he has given his all for this Liberty program. Thanks to the effort of the amazing coaches in the basketball program my brother was able to live his dreams out on the court. We will never forget this night.”

Matthew’s passion for the sport is a family affair according to older sister Sarah.

“My family’s absolute favorite thing to do is play basketball,” she said. “My brothers and I have played countless basketball games. My dad played basketball in high school and coached a lot of our teams. Matthew watched both me and Joshua play for Liberty and was front row at every single game. He has always been our fiercest supporter, for years. I’m unbelievably sad that I wasn’t able to make it to the game, but seeing all of the support Matthew has from the community, the team, the coaches, and the teachers at Liberty has been wonderful to see. I’m so happy he finally got his chance on the court.”

In the eyes of Matthew’s mom Ancy, none of it would have happened were it not for head coach Stephen Friar and assistant coach Ben Manning.

“This night was his dream come true,” Ancy said. “Matthew loves this team, Liberty, and this sport. Playing on the Liberty varsity basketball team and scoring will be an event he and his family will never, ever forget. We are so thankful to the coaches and the players for giving him this chance. Coach Friar and [assistant] coach [Ben] Manning are exceptional leaders and true role models. I will be forever grateful to them.”

Manning saw the game and Philips’s time as the team manager as proof that Redhawk basketball is more than just a sport. 

This night was his dream come true. Matthew loves this team, Liberty, and this sport. Playing on the Liberty varsity basketball team and scoring will be an event he and his family will never, ever forget.

— Ancy Philips

“This was probably the most fun coaching I’ve ever had at a game,” Manning said. “With Matthew not only getting in but scoring and the reaction of the crowd and our players, it was just really special and something I’ll never forget.” 

Neither will Matthew.

Trading in his traditional game day outfit for a uniform wasn’t something he was used to, but it left an imprint that will likely last forever. 

“I feel like it was different because I had to get really used to being on the court because I have never played in a game,” Matthew said. “I was just amazed and I honestly just had a lot of fun.”