Pictured: Alex Fratamico squeezes off a shot under heavy traffic with Valley’s James Marsden at left and Simon Partyka (3) at right. Morgan’s Eddie Dwake (23) seems to like Fratamico’s shot selection. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
CLINTON – When push came to shove Friday night – which it always does when Morgan and Valley Regional get together on the basketball court — Morgan looked for their quarterback.
The Huskies, who led 36-23 after three quarters of play, saw their lead wilt to five in the wake of a furious eight-point Valley run at the onset of the final period, turning their comfortable lead into a shaky 36-31 advantage with 5:38 to play.
At that point, Morgan’s Drew Nye — who really is a quarterback; in fact, an All-State quarterback for the Morgan football team – proved he is just as effective a leader on the hardwood as he is on the gridiron.
Nye took over the next four minutes of the game, feeding Connor Duffy with a pretty pass for a layup to end the Warriors’ run at the 4:55 mark; stealing the ball and driving three-quarters of the length of the court to stretch Morgan’s lead to nine, at 40-31, with 2:25 to play; and scoring another bucket on an aggressive drive down the lane to make it 42-31 with 1:03 to play.
Morgan’s 46-33 victory was its 10th in its last 11 Shoreline Conference games.
“He’s an all-state quarterback on the football field and he’s the point guard on our basketball team – the quarterback and leader,” said Morgan coach Frank Rossi. “The guys on this team really look up to him.”
“He makes great decisions,” Rossi added. “He’s just a natural leader who makes the guys around him better.”
Rossi also praised his opponent, noting that the Warriors’ sturdy and aggressive defense “sped us up and made us play faster than we wanted to.”
The Morgan win avenges a 59-46 loss to Valley on Jan. 4 and improves the team’s record to 11-5. The Huskies, who lost three of their first four games to open the season, enter Monday’s game at unbeaten Cromwell on a high note.
Valley, which played Friday’s game without two starters – Saagar Patel, who might be out for the season with a broken finger, and Sam Hutchinson, who missed the game because of a family commitment – fell to 9-8.
The Huskies, who never trailed in the game, scored seven straight over a three-minute span of the opening quarter behind four points from Duffy, a bucket by Cooper Galdenzi and a Nye free throw to turn a 3-2 lead into a 10-2 cushion with 2:05 to play in the quarter.
But a steal and layup by Simon Partyka and a deep 3-pointer by James Marsden helped the Warriors score seven of the quarter’s final eight points to close the gap to 11-7 after one quarter.
Five points apiece by Marsden and Partyka enabled the Warriors to outscore their hosts 10-8 in the second quarter to pull to within a bucket, 19-17, at halftime.
Morgan outscored the Warriors 14-2 behind a six-point contribution from Alex Fratamico and four from Galdenzi to take a 33-19 lead with 2:12 to play in the third quarter en route to a 36-23 lead entering the fourth.
But the tough, gutsy Warriors were hardly through.
A jumper by Andrew Yermenson, three straight points from Di’Angelo Jean-Pierre and another deep three from Marsden helped the Warriors score the first eight points of the final quarter to close the gap to 36-31 with just over five minutes to play.
And that’s when Nye settled the issue.
“Valley’s a tough, physical team that plays good defense, and they really forced us to play a little faster on offense then we really wanted to, especially at the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Nye said, echoing his coach’s assessment. “But we were able to make some plays on offense down the stretch and finish strong.
“It’s a real tough battle every time we play this team. Every single play is important. It’s actually a lot of fun.”
Duffy paced the Morgan attack with 13 points on the night while Galdenzi added 12 and Fratamico chipped in with 11. Duffy and Fratamico were also big contributors in the rebounding department.
Nye had 7 points on the night, but as his coach noted, “Drew doesn’t have to score to help this team.”
Marsden scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds and 4 steals for the short-handed Warriors, while Partyka added 7 points.
“I think we proved tonight that this is a tough team that doesn’t back down,” Valley coach Kevin Woods said. “We play hard enough on defense to always give us a fighting chance,” he added. “But we missed a couple of layups tonight that might have made things interesting had they gone in.”
“I’m very proud of this team,” he added. “These guys keep proving they can play through adversity. We came out here tonight to play no matter who was missing, no matter who we had out there on the court.”
Noting that the Shoreline Conference tournament will start in about two weeks, Woods — whose team faced off against the champion Huskies in the tournament final last year — smiled and said, “I have a feeling we’ll be seeing these guys again this year.”
VALLEY REGIONAL (9-8)
Di’Angelo Jean-Pierre 1 3 5, Simon Partyka 3 0 7, Andrew Yermenson 1 2 4, Kevin King 2 0 4, James Marsden 5 0 13, Brayden Shea 0 0 0. Totals: 12 5 33.
Drew Nye 3 1 7, Cooper Galdenzi 6 0 12, Tim McComiskey 0 0 0, Alex Fratamico 5 0 11, Connor Duffy 5 3 13, Cameron Johnson 0 0 0, Eddie Dwake 1 0 3, Ben McDonald 0 0 0. Totals: 20 4 46.
Score By Quarters
Valley……7 10 6 10–33
Morgan..11 8 17 10–46
3-pointers: Valley–Marsden 3, Partyka 1; Morgan–Fratamico 1, Dwake 1.
Up next: Morgan at Cromwell, Monday, 7; Valley vs. Cromwell, Tuesday, 7.