Pictured: Rivals wish each other well as Portland’s TJ Reddington, left, and East Hampton’s Chris Progano meet up after the final buzzer of Tuesday’s Shoreline Conference quarterfinal game in East Hampton.

By Paul Augeri

EAST HAMPTON — East Hampton’s full-time varsity starters hadn’t experienced a tournament victory of any kind heading into their Shoreline Conference boys basketball quarterfinal game against Route 66 rival Portland.

Ditto for the Highlanders, who reestablished themselves this winter with their first winning season in five years.

The Bellringers were the ones who got to enjoy the taste of a postseason victory Tuesday night. They broke out to a 16-4 lead, led by 10 at halftime, overcame a fourth-quarter lapse when Portland cut a 14-point deficit to three with 1:16 left, and held on for a 54-50 victory.

“The win meant a lot for us,” said East Hampton senior Grant Arcidiacono, one of four Bellringers who scored in double figures in the third meeting of the year between these rivals. “We felt like it all just came together for us tonight. “Even when they came back, we still held together and finished out strong.”

The fourth-seeded Bellringers (8-5) earned a trip to Clinton on Thursday for a 5 p.m. semifinal against unbeaten and top seed Morgan. The Huskies (13-0), seeking their first Shoreline championship since 2005, devoured No. 9 Hale-Ray 75-40 in the quarters.

The other semifinal pits No. 3 Valley Regional, a 65-56 winner over 2020 Shoreline champion Old Lyme, at No. 2 Cromwell. The Panthers knocked out No. 7 Haddam-Killingworth 55-46 in their quarterfinal.

Nate Ireland led East Hampton with 11 points, with Arcidiacono, Ted Zhao and Max Karrenberg kicking in 10 apiece.

The Bellringers lost to the Highlanders by seven last Thursday and it was on the Bellringers’ minds in the practices since.

“We were working as a team all week,” Arcidiacono said. “We worked on moving the ball, running the sets and just having patience on offense. (The 47-40 defeat) last week really motivated me personally to go make sure we got this win.”

Senior Cody Daggett led Portland with 13 points. The Highlanders missed senior Cam Latronica in the middle. Latronica received two technical fouls in Portland’s first-round win over North Branford and had to sit out Tuesday’s game.

In a tournament environment, Portland first-year coach David Bradbury Jr. was disappointed in his team’s energy level and mental toughness not being up to snuff.

“Continually making the same mental mistakes game in and game out, coming in (and) not being prepared with energy or communicating on defense … it’s tough to win basketball games like that,” he said. “Why not do exactly what you did for three straight quarters for the entire game? We dominated that team for three quarters, but because we had mental lapses and we didn’t shoot the ball with confidence and we didn’t come ready to play in that first quarter, we lost the game.”

Portland chipped away at a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, cutting it to 27-23 before another East Hampton run made it a 36-27 game entering the fourth quarter.

East Hampton built its lead to as many as 14, at 44-30, and still led by 11 at 48-37 with 3:28 remaining when Portland began to put it together at both ends. The Highlanders got a bucket from Daggett, two from Piersall and two free throws from Eli Evison to make it a 48-45 game with 1:16 to go.

But DiStefano cherry-picked at the other end off the inbounds pass, and made both ends of a one-and-one with 33.9 seconds remaining to push the lead back to seven, 52-45.

A three-point play by Reddington put Portland within four with 23.8 seconds left, but the Bellringers were able to get the ball inbounds and not turn it over in preventing the Highlanders from posing a threat to the lead.

“They scored 23 in the fourth, which is a ton, but we were able to hold on,, which is nice,” East Hampton coach Parker Strong said. “It was nice for the kids to win something like this. We were able to grind it out.

“But we need to be more consistent Thursday. Morgan’s obviously an incredibly talented team. We just gotta be more consistent.”

Cody Daggett 5 2 13, TJ Reddington 3 1 9, Mason Piersall 3 2 8, Noah Charpentier 2 4 8, Eli Evison 3 2 8, Chris Vargas 0 0 0, Harrison Collins 2 0 4, Luke Francesco 0 0 0. Totals: 18 11 50.

Ted Zhao 2 6 10, Dan Cascio 0 3 3, Grant Arcidiacono 4 2 10, Jack Blakey 0 0 0, Nate Ireland 4 3 11, Drew DiStefano 2 4 9, Max Karrenberg 4 0 10, Chris Progano 0 1 1, Ethan Palma 0 0 0. Totals: 16 19 54.

Score By Quarters
P 4 11 12 23–50
EH 16 9 11 18–54

3-Pointers: P–Reddington 2, Daggett 1; EH–Karrenberg 2, DiStefano 1.

No. 1 Morgan 70, No. 9 Hale-Ray 45

HALE-RAY (7-7)
Loudon Chupas 4 2-6 10, Matt Conroy 1 0-0 3, Ross Kuluga 3 0-0 6, Mamush Ciccarello 5 6-6 17, Miles Gagne 1 0-0 2, Braden Lankrage 0 1-2 1, Nathan Matetich 2 0-0 6. Totals: 16 9-14 45.

MORGAN (13-0)
Zach Johnson 2 1-2 5, Drew Nye 3 0-2 7, Jason Cohen 5 0-0 14, Alex Fratamico 6 0-0 13, Rob Zirlis 8 1-5 17, Connor Duffy 2 1-2 5, Mason Smith 1 0-0 2, Cooper Galdenzi 2 0-0 5. Totals: 29 5-13 70.

Score By Quarters
HR 13 5 18 9–45
M 20 17 20 13–70

3-Pointers: HR–Matetich 2, Ciccarello 1, Conroy 1; M–Cohen 4, Fratamico 1, Nye 1, Galdenzi 1.

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