Pictured: Cromwell’s Gianluca Albert, the Shoreline Player of the Year, meets a wall of Morgan defenders’ during the teams’ last matchup on Feb. 18 in Clinton. (Photo by Erica Augeri)
By Paul Augeri
Except a full, raucous house at Polson Middle School in Madison tonight (7pm) when No. 1 seed Cromwell and No. 2 Morgan meet for the Shoreline Conference boys basketball championship.
This is Morgan’s title to defend. The Huskies beat Valley Regional last March following a COVID-shortened regular season.
For Cromwell, the Panthers have won five championships since 2009, the last in 2019. Coach John Pinone’s team was the best over the long haul this season, winning its first 17 games before Morgan beat Cromwell in Clinton on Feb. 18. This will be their meeting in 18 days.
Some Shoreline coaches were polled for their thoughts on the outcome of the title game and the majority favors the Panthers.
Let’s get to the tale of the tape.
Records to date: Cromwell 21-1; Morgan 15-7.
Head to head: Cromwell wins 60-50 in Cromwell on Feb. 14; Morgan wins 38-35 at home on Feb. 18.
Players to watch: Cromwell — Sr. G/F Gianluca Albert, Shoreline Player of the Year; Soph. G/F Victor Payne; Sr. G/F JJ Feehan; Morgan — Sr. F Alex Fratamico; Sr. G Drew Nye; Jr. G Cooper Galdenzi; Sr. C/F Connor Duffy.
Who wins? Coaches weigh in
Coach A: “Toss-up either way you look at it. They split the two games during the regular season. I think it comes down to which team can enforce their strengths better. Morgan has size and strength, where Cromwell has had better and more consistent guard play/shooting all season long. It will be interesting to see which team can utilize their strengths better.”
Coach B: “Close game. Morgan has more talent but Cromwell plays more collectively as a team. If you are making me pick I say Cromwell.”
Coach C: “Cromwell wins. Their defensive pressure will give Morgan trouble.”
Coach D: “Tough question. I think I would have to give Cromwell the nod on the neutral court. I think they will want to make amends for their only loss. Both teams are very talented.”
Coach E: “Morgan wins. Will be decided in the final minute. Two teams that match up very closely. Alex Fratamico makes a big shot late to win or seal it.”
Coach F: “Cromwell, 52-44. Their defense, physicality, ability to make teams feel uncomfortable in all areas of the game with pressure support why they take the W. Cromwell will be down at half, but John will be John and get them to refocus and I believe it starts with their D. Both teams are very well-coached.”
Coach G: “This one is going to be great, but I believe Cromwell will win in a close game. They will both likely play man-to-man defense the whole way, so it will come down to which team does it better. Cromwell is big enough to rebound with Morgan’s bigs and athletic enough to stay with Morgan’s excellent guards. And in my opinion, Cromwell executes offensively better than any SLC team while playing as hard as they can for all 32 minutes. It will be a fun game to watch!”
Me: I agree with Coach A — this is a pick ’em. Cromwell is an excellent free-throw shooting team and I expect that to be a factor along the way. Will the officials call a tight game? Can Payne of Cromwell and Duffy of Morgan stay out of foul trouble? I’m leaning Cromwell, but never underestimate a defending champion.