Pictured: Senior Zach Johnson, left, and coach Frank Rossi after Morgan won the Shoreline championship on Saturday.
By Paul Augeri
Morgan’s Zach Johnson was the leading scorer on an undefeated team, a team that won its first Shoreline Conference championship in 16 years.
As consistent a performer as Johnson was in the Huskies’ offense, the senior’s all-around game might have been the greatest factor in him being recognized Sunday as the Shoreline Player of the Year.
“I think beyond the stats, one of the reasons he was Player of the Year was the fact he was consistently one of our top defenders,” coach Frank Rossi said, “and mostly the fact that he has risen to the occasion several times with the shot, the pass, or the stop (or) steal at big moments.”
Johnson averaged 16 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals during a pandemic-shortened 15-game season, which wrapped up Saturday with Morgan’s 62-54 home victory over Valley Regional. He shot a superb 53 percent from the field and 74 percent from the free-throw line.
In the Shoreline final, Johnson’s 14-point performance included a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, which ignited a run that shot Morgan past the third-seeded Warriors for good.
“That late three that gave us the lead Saturday really summed up his career,” said Rossi, who was voted on by his peers as the Shoreline Coach of the Year. “Zach has been in that spot several times throughout his career and came through every single time.”
Johnson was among six players voted First Team All Shoreline by the conference’s 12 coaches. The other five, along with Second Team and Honorable Mention selections:
ROB ZIRLIS, Morgan, Senior
The 6-foot-6 center dominated in the middle with his size and strength. He averaged 13 points (62 percent shooting), 10.5 rebounds and 1 block. A right-handed pitcher, Zirlis will play baseball at Mitchell College.
JEREMY ARNUM, Valley Regional, Sophomore
Arnum averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 steals in just seven games because of a broken wrist. He can take over a game with his skill set – scoring, creating, passing, defending and rebounding – yet still operates within the framework of the team. He was healthy for the Shoreline tournament, averaging 17 points in three games.
MASON GORHAM, Haddam-Killingworth, Sophomore
Very good perimeter player who also slashes his way to points. Gorham averaged 16.4 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is one in a group of talented sophomores who should make the Cougars contenders in the Shoreline the next two seasons.
JAMES GRODZICKI, Cromwell, Senior
Along with Zirlis, he played with his back to the basket and dominated on the blocks. Averaged 14 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots, the Panthers’ leader in each category.
LOUDON CHUPAS, Junior, Hale-Ray
Chupas could light it up on any given night. He averaged 19.5 points on 54 percent shooting from the floor and 39 percent from 3. Also averaged 6.3 rebounds and nearly 2 assists. It’s the second straight year a Noises player is on the First Team (Zak Cunningham).
JACK NACCARATO, Senior, Westbrook
Naccarato, a First Team performer a year ago, crossed the 1,000-point mark early this season.
AJ DeFILIO, Senior, Coginchaug
The Blue Devils’ leading scorer, had a 33-point game toward the end of the season.
GRANT ARCIDIACONO, Senior, East Hampton
Among the Shoreline’s top 3-point shooters at 36 percent. Averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
CODY DAGGETT, Senior, Portland
Was a big reason why the Highlanders had their first winning season in five years and qualified for their first Shoreline tournament in a long while. Shot well from outside and attacked the basket. Averaged 14 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
MICHAEL MORGAN, Senior, Cromwell
Morgan averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for the Panthers.
JAMES MARSDEN, Junior, Valley Regional (12.7 pts, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals per game)
JIMMY McGOEY, Senior, Haddam-Killingworth (13.5 points, 5 rebounds per game)
ALEX FRATAMICO, Junior, Morgan (11 points on 54% shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals per game)
JACOB RITCHIE, Junior, Old Lyme (12 points and 3.9 steals per game)
CAM LATRONICA, Senior, Portland (12.9 points, 8. 2 rebounds per game)
COLBE ANDREWS, Senior, Old Lyme (12.7 points, 7.8 rebounds per game)
RYAN STRATTON, Sophomore, Old Saybrook (11.3 points, 5.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds per game)