Portland Beats Cromwell In OT, Surpasses 2020 Win Total

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Pictured: Portland coach David Bradbury Jr. (far left) reacts as the Highlanders finish off a 65-62 overtime victory over Cromwell on Thursday.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

PORTLAND — Cromwell’s Gianluca Albert launched a 3-pointer from the far corner that fell through the hoop with no time left in regulation, sending the Panthers into overtime against Portland on Thursday.

In years past, or even just a few nights ago, Portland might not have withstood the blow of Albert’s dagger three.

This night was different from past experience. The Highlanders kept their wits and embraced five more minutes of this intense Shoreline Conference rivalry, and did enough things well in the end to be rewarded was a 65-62 victory. It was Portland’s sixth win in eight games, surpassing last year’s win total over a 20-game regular season.

Cromwell tied the score at 62 on one of two free throws by Zykarie Wilborn with 2:13 remaining, but the Panthers would not score again.

Mason Piersall made two free throws 19 seconds later. After the Panthers came up empty near the rim on their next two possessions, Piersall added another foul shot with 23.3 seconds left for a three-point lead.

Cromwell worked the ball on its final possession, but Malcolm Mention’s 3-point attempt from the left wing spun in and out with 4 seconds left. Daggett was fouled on the rebound, and even though he missed both free throw attempts, he recovered the miss and Cromwell never got the ball back.

“This game was hugely important,” said Piersall, who scored 16 points. “We were able to show the Shoreline that we can compete with anybody in this conference. It was huge for setting the tone in the Shoreline and showing how competitive we can be.”

Daggett led all scorers with 20 points and fellow senior Cam Latronica chipped in with 12.

Justin Valentin (13 points), Michael Morgan (12) and Wilborn (11) were in double figures for the Panthers (5-3).

On Monday, Portland let a 13-point lead slip away in both the first and second halves against Valley Regional. Daggett called the loss “unacceptable.”

After bouncing back with a win over Coginchaug on Tuesday, the Highlanders persevered against a Cromwell team that had won four straight games but did not play close to its best basketball.

“This finish just speaks volumes to our maturity and our growth mentally,” Portland coach David Bradbury Jr. said. “We were not shell-shocked in the final five minutes.”

Daggett and Piersall had major roles in the final 11.8 seconds of regulation.

Daggett made the first of two free throws, leaving Portland with a 58-54 lead. Cromwell got the rebound and sped down the floor — which it did a lot of in the first half in building a 12-point lead — with Piersall fouling Valentin on his 3-point attempt with 5.5 ticks left.

Bradbury couldn’t believe it.

Valentin missed the first, made the second and missed the third free throw. But somehow, Wilborn came up with the rebound in traffic and from floor level shoveled a pass to Albert in the corner.

Overtime.

“Mental mistakes cost us at the end of the Valley game, and our initial reaction when Cromwell hit that three was very similar — shoulders down, and their reaction was like, ‘what the heck?'” Bradbury said. “But what I looked for was our adjustments and learning from our mistakes, and ‘Let’s continue to execute down the stretch and toughen up on on both ends of the floor.’

“Not that we didn’t make mistakes in this game tonight, but you could see the remarkable growth from a maturity standpoint going down the stretch. We close out the game, made most of our free throws, didn’t turn the ball over and really executed at both ends of the floor.”

The Panthers came out strong on the defensive end and in their transition game, building a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and leading by as many as 13 at 34-21. But the Highlanders got it down to nine by halftime.

“The problem was we were up (13) and we broke down mentally again, right before the half,” Cromwell coach John Pinone said. “It’s been that scenario all season. We’re not a good free throw-shooting team (58 percent for the game), we miss a ton of layups and we have breakdowns defensively. We were getting better and better (during the win streak) and tonight we went backward.”

Cromwell unraveled in the third quarter. Portland began to penetrate Cromwell’s defense with success at the same time the Panthers went stretches without converting on the other end (only three field goals in the quarter). It all added up to an 18-6 swing over the eight minutes, catapulting the Highlanders into the lead at 43-40 heading to the fourth.

“We come out, we miss a layup, we miss a jump shot and we throw it away three times,” said Pinone. “We don’t even give ourselves a chance half the time. To me missing a layup is the same as a turnover, and God knows how many of those we missed. We can’t do what we did today and expect to win. It’s too much. And we got physically beat up.”

Cromwell is off until Monday, when it plays at Old Saybrook, before finishing the regular season with three home games. Portland visits East Hampton on Monday.

CROMWELL (5-3)
James Grodzicki 2 2-2 6, Justin Valentin 4 1-3 13, Michael Morgan 5 2-2 12, Zykarie Wilborn 5 1-4 11, Connor Daly 1 1-1 3, Malcolm Mention 2 0-0 4, Gianluca Albert 2 0-0 6, JJ Fehan 3 0-0 6. Totals: 24 7-12 62.

PORTLAND (6-2)
Cody Daggett 7 6-9 20, TJ Reddington 3 0-0 8, Mason Piersall 6 4-9 16, Noah Charpentier 1 0-0 2, Cam Latronica 6 0-1 12, Luke Francesco 0 1-2 1, Eli Evison 1 4-6 8. Totals: 24 15-27 65.

Score By Quarters
C 20 14 6 18 4–62
P 9 16 18 15 7–65

3-Pointers: C– Valentin 4, Albert 2; P–Reddington 2.

In other boys basketball games around the area Thursday:

Xavier 79, Hamden 72 (OT)

XAVIER (7-1)
Justin Menard 9 15-17 35; John Carrozzella 0 2-2 2; Parker Hunter 4 9-13 17; Sathvik Vakati 2 1-2 5; Nick Beaulieu1 0-0 2; Aidan Driscoll 3 0-0 7; Malcolm Wilson-Toliver 5 1-2 11. Totals:

HAMDEN (2-6)
Emanuel Boles 1 0-0 2; Deandre Coardes 6 4-6 17; Elijah Holder 7 2-3 16; Caleb Harris 6 0-0 17; Joe Williams 1 2-2 4; Jair Mathis 2 0-1 5; Myles Anderson 0 0-2 0; Jack Wagner 4 1-2 9; Robert Rice 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 9-16 72.

Score By Quarters
X 11 24 15 15 14–79
H 12 10 24 19 7–72

3-Pointers: X–Menard 2, Driscoll 1; H–Harris 5, Coardes 1, Mathis 1.

Morgan 70, Hale-Ray 49

HALE-RAY (4-4)
Matt Conroy 2 0-0 5, Loudon Chupas 7 5-8 21, Mamush Ciccarello 6 0-0 15, Ross Kuluga 1 0-0 2, Nate Matetich 3 0-0 6. Totals: 19 5-8 49.

MORGAN (8-0)
Zach Johnson 6 0-0 16, Jason Cohen 3 0-0 9, Alex Fratamico 5 2-3 12, Rob Zirlis 7 3-4 17, Connor Duffy 2 1-2 5, Cam Carlson 1 0-0 2, Mason Smith 1 1-2 3, Cooper Galdenzi 3 0-0 6. Totals: 28 7-11 70.

Score By Quarters
HR 8 10 13 18–49
M 22 16 14 18–70

3-Pointers: HR–Ciccarello 3, Chupas 2, Conroy 1; M–Johnson 4, Cohen 3.

Old Saybrook 49, Valley Regional 46

OLD SAYBROOK (5-3)
Ben Yost 3 3-4 9, Riley Lawson 1 3-9 5, Ryan Stratton 5 0-0 12, Peter Waida 0 1-2 1, Auggie Albert 0 1-2 1, Aaron Tolve 9 1-1 21. Totals 18 9-18 49.

VALLEY REGIONAL (5-3)
DiAngelo Jean-Pierre 1 2-4 4, Cameron Ruel 1 0-0 2, James Marsden 7 0-0 17, Saagar Patel 4 3-4 11, Marcus SantaMaria 5 0-2 12. Totals 18 5-10 46.

Score By Quarters
OS 6 12 10 21–49
VR 19 5 13 9–46

3-Pointers: OS–Stratton 2, Tolve 2; VR–Marsden 3, SantaMaria 2.
Of note: Marsden had 6 rebounds and 5 steals and Patel grabbed 6 boards for Valley.

Old Lyme 58, North Branford 51

NORTH BRANFORD (0-8)
Zach Abbagharo 2 0 5, Ben Stegina 4 0 8, Jack Meehan 6 0 12, Blake Pearson 2 0 6, John Onofrio 5 2 16, Ryan Monde 1 0 2, Jake Saldutti 1 0 2. Totals: 21 2 51.

OLD LYME (4-3)
Sam Koenigs 1 0 3, Nick Cox 4 2 10, Jacob Ritchie 6 2 15, Frank Sablone 3 1 7, Colbe Andrews 3 2 8, Caden Monte 3 0 6, Maverick Swaney 3 1 7, Casey Hurtgen 1 0 2. Totals: 24 8 58.

Score By Quarters
NB 6 5 17 12–51
OL19 2 18 19–58

3-Pointers: NB–Onofrio 4, Pearson 2, Abbagharo 1; OL–Ritchie 1, Koenigs 1.

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