Best on the Shoreline!
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Senior captain Zach Johnson and the Morgan boys’ basketball team picked up a pair of wins to jump out to a 2-0 start on the young season. Johnson scored 15 points in the Huskies’ home win over East Hampton on Feb. 10. (File photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Robbie Zirlis got the Huskies out to a strong start by attacking the paint against the Bellringers on Feb. 10. (File photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior Alex Fratamico and the Huskies doubled up Cromwell in a 48-24 road win on Feb. 12. (File photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Morgan boys’ basketball team got the 2021 season off on the right foot with a pair of wins in their first two games. The Huskies claimed a 52-43 home victory over East Hampton and a 48-24 road win against Cromwell to jump out to a 2-0 record in the early goings of the campaign. Head Coach Frank Rossi’s squad received an early test this year, and the Huskies certainly passed it.
Morgan played its home opener on Feb. 10 and secured a nine-point victory over the East Hampton. The Bellringers are a solid Shoreline Conference foe, and Coach Rossi was impressed by the Huskies’ ability to hold off a tough opponent.
“This was the first time we face any competition that wasn’t intersquad. We made a lot of mistakes, but we did a lot of great things, too. I’m happy with the outcome and with how we performed defensively,” said Rossi. “It gave us a lot to build off of. We didn’t shoot the ball real well, but it was a good measure of where we’re starting. East Hampton is one of the contenders come tournament time. They are definitely in the top half of the Shoreline.”
Rossi was impressed with how his players picked each other up. There was no break-out performance on the Huskies, but rather, several players like senior captain Robbie Zirlis, senior captain Zach Johnson, and junior Alex Fratamico, all contributed at different points throughout the game.
“What was cool about that game was the way we scored. The first quarter was all Robbie. He scored our first three possessions. That set the tone. We were the more physical team, and we attacked the rim,” Rossi said. “As the game shifted, and they adjusted, Zach started to hit some threes for us. He had nine points in the third quarter. Alex had six points in the fourth quarter. We think that’s going to be a hallmark of this team. We won’t be relying on any one guy all four quarters.”
Zirlis finished the game with 14 points, nine rebounds, and two steals, while Johnson tallied 15 points, four boards, two assists, and two steals. Fratamico scored eight points to go with eight rebounds and four steals. The Huskies also received four points and four boards from junior Connor Duffy, four points from senior Jason Cohen, and three points from junior Drew Nye.
The Huskies got out to a 14-10 lead against East Hampton in the first quarter and maintained a 23-21 lead at halftime. Morgan went up 36-30 by the end of the third and closed out the game with a 16-13 fourth quarter for the 52-43 final. While the Huskies led for most of the game, they were never comfortable.
“East Hampton is a really good shooting team, and they hit eight threes. It was the first game of the season, and we really have not had a full preseason as compared to past years. Forget COVID, even the weather has been disruptive. There’s definitely some rust,” Coach Rossi said. “They cut the lead to three late in the game, but we closed the game scoring the last six points. They didn’t allow us to pull away. There were some situations where it looked like we could open up a larger lead, but then they hit some threes.”
Two days later the Huskies headed to Cromwell to face off with the Panthers, and Morgan scored a blowout 48-24 win. Coach Rossi thought his squad’s offensive attack was similar to the East Hampton contest in that several players got in on the action.
“It was more of the same with Cromwell. We aren’t just one player that can put us on his back,” said Rossi. “We don’t have one great player, but we have several very good players that can carry us through the game.”
Johnson scored 11 points in the win, while Nye picked up 10 points. Zirlis scored nine, Duffy added six, and Gavin Krott notched four points.
Most of all, Coach Rossi thought it was the Huskies’ defense that won the day. The game started out looking like a slog, but Morgan found its groove, thank in no small part to Nye’s contributions on the defensive end.
“It was 0-0 through the first two minutes of that game. It looked like it would be a heavyweight slugfest. We would give them everything we had and come up empty, and they would do the same and not score,” said Rossi. “Going into that game, we talked about our learning opportunities from the East Hampton game. We focused on the defensive details that we didn’t do quite as well on as we could have. We know Cromwell is a very tough, physical team, and they execute well. If you can’t defend them you are going to be in a lot of trouble. Drew Nye deserves a lot of credit. He lifted us defensively. A lot of our offense was the result of his defense.”
The Huskies would take a 9-3 lead after the first quarter, and that advantage increased to 20-8 by halftime. Morgan outscored the Panthers 28-16 in the second half to reach the 48-24 final.
Given the challenges that all teams are facing this winter season, Coach Rossi feels great about where the Huskies are right now. Rossi hopes that Morgan can continue to get better as a unit as the year progresses.
“Comparing the two games, I think that the East Hampton game was a good start and a good barometer. Cromwell set the tone for the direction we’re going,” Rossi said. “We still have room to improve, but to play the way we did with that type of energy and effort at Cromwell, I think it really sets a tone for us moving forward.”