Pictured: Alex Fratamico, who scored 16 points in the first quarter, drives to the rim for two against Portland on Tuesday night. (Photo by Lucille Silvestrini)

By Marc Silvestrini

CLINTON – Before Tuesday’s Shoreline Conference tournament semifinal game against Portland, Morgan senior forward Alex Fratamico had played in two straight championship games.

To no one’s surprise, he was determined to add a third consecutive title game appearance to his resume.

Fratamico made sure he and his teammates would experience a three-peat by scoring 16 points in the first quarter, including 11 straight Morgan points to close out the period, and 25 on the night, leading the defending Shoreline champion Huskies to a 65-38 win over the Highlanders.

“The fact that we’re going back to our third championship game in a row — that’s something special, I really love that,” Fratamico said. “I was pretty angry coming into this game because we didn’t play all that great against Valley in our last game (a three-point victory) and we played terribly the last time we faced this team (a one-point win in Portland in late January).

“I just wanted to make sure that nothing funny happened tonight to stop us from getting to that championship game again.”

The Huskies’ Cooper Galdenzi shoots over Portland’s Joe Rusczyk during Tuesday’s Shoreline tournament semifinal. (Photo by Lucille Silvestrini)

Aside from sending the No. 2 seed Huskies into Friday night’s Shoreline final against top-seeded Cromwell – a 63-43 winner over East Hampton in the tournament’s other semifinal – the victory was the 200th career win for Frank Rossi, now in his fourth year as Morgan’s head coach. Rossi coached at North Branford for four years and at Hand of Madison for nine years before taking charge of the Huskies’ program.

The win improves Morgan’s record to 15-7 on the year while Portland, which now heads into the CIAC Division V tournament, drops to 12-10.

Fratamico’s 16-point, first-quarter outburst, along with buckets from Cooper Galdenzi, Connor Duffy and Drew Nye enabled the Huskies to race off to a commanding 22-7 lead after eight minutes of play.

The Highlanders were never able to draw closer than nine points for the rest of the contest.

  • Shoreline championship game: No. 2 Morgan vs. No. 1 Cromwell, Friday, 7pm, Polson Middle School in Madison.

“We missed tons of layups, free throws and open shots,” Portland coach Dave Bradbury Jr. said. “I just don’t think we came out and played with the energy we needed to bring to a game like this.

“We’ve played pretty well in our last two games (an eight-point win over No. 3 seed Old Saybrook in the tournament’s opening round and an 11-point win over Old Lyme in the regular season finale), but tonight we just didn’t come here ready to play.”

To their credit, the Highlanders — paced by Harrison Collins, who scored four points in the second quarter and Jake Thompson, who added three — did come back to outscore Morgan 9-5 in the quarter to close to within 11, at 27-16, at halftime.

Portland then pulled to within nine points on two occasions early in the third quarter before a seven-point outburst by Fratamico triggered an 11-0 run that turned a 29-20 lead into a 40-20 cushion with three and a half minutes to play in the quarter.

Portland’s Eli Evison is surrounded in the lane by Morgan defenders Alex Fratamico (22), Drew Nye (24) and Cam Johnson (00). (Photo by Lucille Silvestrini)

The teams then traded baskets for the next three minutes before Galdenzi buried a three from the deep corner off a long, two-handed feed from Fratamico to extend Morgan’s lead to 49-26 after three quarters of play.

Three points by Galdenzi, buckets by Nye and Duffy and a pair of Fratamico free throws then led a 9-0 Morgan surge at the beginning of the fourth quarter that made it 58-26, ending all suspense.

Fratamico’s 25 points led all scorers while Galdenzi added 14, Duffy contributed 11 and Nye chipped in with 8. Eli Evison paced the Portland attack with an 11-point effort while Collins scored 10 and Joe Rusczyk had 7.

“This will be our third straight championship game and the nice thing is that we have three seniors – Fratamico, Nye and Duffy – who played a part in all three of our semifinal wins,” Rossi said.

“I thought we did a good job defending Evison and that pick and pop they like to run for him and I also thought our offense played with better motion, rhythm and continuity tonight and that wound up opening the floor for Fratamico – which is always a positive thing for us.”

About as positive as three straight appearances in the conference title game and 200 career wins.

PORTLAND (12-10)
Eli Evison 4 2-5 11, Joe Rusczyk 3 0-1 7, Jake Thompson 2 0-0 5, Harrison Collins 3 4-5 10, Tyler Wydo 1 0-0 2, Teddy Williams 1 0-0 3. Totals: 14 6-11 38.

MORGAN (15-7)
Connor Duffy 5 1-1 11, Alex Fratamico 10 3-3 25, Drew Nye 4 0-0 8, Cooper Galdenzi 5 3-4 14, Eddie Dwake 1 0-0 2, Matt Reed 1 0-0 2, Jack Nye 1 0-0 2, Brady Fritz 0 1-2 1. Totals: 27 8-10 65.

Score By Quarters
Portland….7  9 10 12–38
Morgan….22 5 22 16–65

3-pointers: Portland–Evison 1, Thompson 1, Rusczyk 1, Williams 1; Morgan–Fratamico 2, Galdenzi 1.

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