Morgan Withstands Challenge From Gritty East Hampton

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Pictured: Morgan center Rob Zirlis bodies up East Hampton’s Jye Lynch during Wednesday’s season opener between the two teams in Clinton.

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

CLINTON — The Morgan Huskies, a very deep and talented basketball team that most observers feel is a top contender for the Shoreline Conference title this year, had to utilize all of its skills and talents Wednesday night to outlast a game and gritty East Hampton team.

Morgan prevailed 52-43 in a game that was much closer than the final score suggests.

A clutch pair of back-to-back 3-pointers by Max Karrenberg and Grant Arcidiacono midway through the final quarter trimmed the Huskies’ lead from nine to three with three minutes to play, but a layup by Morgan’s Alex Fratamico sandwiched between two free throws apiece from Rob Zirlis and Zach Johnson enabled the Huskies to score the final six points of the game to seal the win.

Prior to stretching its lead to nine at the 4:16 mark of the final quarter, neither team could build more than a six-point advantage.

Like almost all Connecticut high school basketball games this season, Wednesday’s game was played without fans, with players, coaches and referees all wearing masks.

Zirlis, who got the Huskies off to a good start by scoring the first six points of game, said his team has become somewhat accustomed to the COVID-19 safety protocols since the team’s preseason practices began two weeks ago. All players must wear masks in practices and games.

“It’s different, it’s definitely not what we’re used to, but then again both teams have to wear them, so I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he said of the new policy.

After falling behind 6-0 in the wake of Zirlis’ three early buckets, East Hampton scored eight of the next 10 points on two 3-pointers from opposite corners by Arcidiacono and a layup off an Arcidiacono assist by Jye Lynch to tie the score at 8 five minutes into the game.

But two free throws apiece by Zirlis and Johnson followed by a Connor Duffy layup enabled the Huskies to take a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Yet another deep three by Arcidiacono enabled the Bellringers to knot things at 21-21 with less than two minutes to play in the half, but a Johnson layup with 35 seconds to play enabled Morgan to leave the floor at the half with a 23-21 lead.

The teams then traded buckets over the first four minutes of the third quarter, before Morgan closed the period with a 9-5 spurt that stretched its lead to six, at 36-30, entering the final quarter.

Arcidiacono finished with five 3-pointers on the night for a team-high 15 points while Karrenberg finished with six on a pair of 3-point bombs.

“I’m pleased with the way we played tonight,” East Hampton coach Parker Strong said. “We played very hard and we never backed down from a very good, very physical Morgan team.

“We kept getting close but we could never quite get over that last hump.”

Johnson paced the Huskies’ attack with a 15-point night while Zirlis added 14 and Fratamico chipped in with eight, including six in the final six minutes.

Zirlis and Fratamico both helped the Huskies finish with a big edge on the boards, while every Husky contributed to Morgan’s aggressive and effective man-to-man defense.

Morgan coach Frank Rossi said he was happy with Morgan’s effort on the defensive end of the floor.

“Defense was the focus of our first two weeks of practice,” he said. “We worked hard on our defense. It’s definitely what we stressed the most.”

That defense will be tested again on Friday night when the Huskies hit the road and visit Cromwell.

East Hampton will play its second consecutive road game Friday night when the Bellringers visit Valley Regional.

Box Score

EAST HAMPTON (0-1)
Grant Arcidiacono 5 0 15, Jye Lynch 1 0 2, Ted Zhao 0 0 0, Dan Cascio 2 0 4, Jack Blakely 2 1 5, Drew DiStefano 2 0 5, Maxwell Karrenberg 2 0 6, Chris Progano 2 0 4, Nathan Ireland 1 0 2. Totals: 17 1 43.

MORGAN (1-0)
Zach Johnson 4 5 15, Drew Nye 0 3 3, Jason Cohen 1 1 4, Alex Fratamico 3 2 8, Rob Zirlis 4 6 14, Connor Duffy 2 0 4, Cam Carlson 0 0 0, Cooper Galdenzi 1 2 4. Totals: 15 19 52.

Score By Quarters
EH–10 11 9 13–43
M–14 9 13 16–52

3-Pointers: EH—Arcidiacono 5, Karrenberg 2, DiStefano 1; M—Johnson 2, Cohen 1.

Elsewhere in the Shoreline on Wednesday:

Valley Regional 70, North Branford 29

NORTH BRANFORD (0-1)
Trevor Holzer 1 2-4 4, Brandon Fratta 3 3-4 9, Zac Abbaganaro 0 1-4 1, Blake Pearson 3 0-0 7, Ben Stegina 0 2-2 2, Jack Meehan 1 1-2 3, Ryan Mondle 0 1-2 1. Totals 9 10-18 29.

VALLEY REGIONAL (1-0)
Jeremy Arnum 8 4-5 22, Simon Partyka 2 0-0 4, Brayden Shea 2 0-0 4, DiAngelo Jean-Pierre 3 0-0 6, Kyle Metz 1 0-0 2, Cameron Ruel 2 0-0 4, James Marsden 3 1-1 7, Saagar Patel 2 0-0 4, Marcus SantaMaria 3 0-0 7, Kyle Montecalvo 4 0-0 10. Totals 30 5-6 70.

Score By Quarters
NB  6 7 11 5—29
VR  20 21 19 10—70

3-Pointers: NB—Pearson 1; VR—Montecalvo 2, Arnum 2, SantaMaria 1

Of note: Arnum (7 rebounds, 4 steals), Partyka (6 assists, 5 steals), Marsden (8 rebounds) and SantaMaria (5 rebounds) had very good all-around games.

Cromwell 62, Haddam-Killingworth 39

H-K (0-1)
Alec Erskine 1 2-4 4, Chase O’Linn 3 1-1 9, Tate Callender 3 1-2 8, Mason Gorham 2 0-0 4, Tony Giambanis 2 0-0 6, Callen Powers 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 6-10 39.

CROMWELL (1-0)
James Grodzicki 2 2-3 6, Connor Daly 3 2-2 10, Malcolm Mention 4 2-2 10, Justin Valentin 2 1-3 7, Matt Pepe 4 1-1 9, Gianluca Albert 2 0-1 4, JJ Fehan 6 0 15, Louis Friend 0 1-2 1. Totals: 23 9-14 62.

Score By Quarters
HK 2 10 14 13—39
C  13 14 18 17—62

3-Pointers: HK-O’Linn 2, Giambanis 2, Callender 1; C—Fehan 3, Daly 2, Valentin 2.

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