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Senior captain Robert Zirlis and the Morgan boys’ basketball team improved their record to 10-0 after defeating Coginchaug and Westbrook last week. Zirlis posted 10 points and 15 rebounds in a 68-50 home win versus Coginchaug on March 8. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Zach Johnson lit it up against Coginchaug with 21 points in a 68-50 home win over the Blue Devils on March 8. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Morgan boys’ basketball team turned in another stellar week and remained undefeated after a pair of victories. The Huskies played contests against Coginchaug and Westbrook, and after wins in both games, their record moved to a still unblemished 10-0. Heading into the final week of the season, Head Coach Frank Rossi’s team has already clinched the first seed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament and is looking to finish out the year strong.
Coming into the season, Coach Rossi expected that Morgan would be improved, but a No. 1 seed and an undefeated record with a week left to play is a bit surprising. Coach Rossi feels proud of his team for the work that the players have put in.
“We are a little surprised. We thought we’d be better this year, but it’s been an interesting league. There are a lot of teams at 6-4 and a bunch at 5-5. We thought we could be the best team in the league this year knowing who we had coming back,” said Rossi. “I’m thrilled with how we are playing. We’re playing with a ton of confidence. We’re happy with where we are and where we’ve put ourselves.”
The Huskies have put themselves in the catbird seat when it comes to Shorelines. Morgan has home court advantage through the playoffs. The Huskies have been working hard to gain that advantage.
“We wanted to lock up that top seed. I didn’t care the record, as long as we got that. We wanted that bye,” Rossi said. “Now our sights are more focused on the tourney. As far as the record, we’re not as focused on that number as the end result. We want to get through the next two weeks safely and come out on top at the end of the season.”
Morgan clinched that top spot in the conference tourney with a 68-50 home win over Coginchaug on March 8. Going into that game it was important to get the win, because it secured at least a tie for the No. 1 seed, but a Portland’s loss versus East Hampton that day sealed the deal.
“The Coginchaug game clinched a tie at least, but that win along with a loss by Portland solidified the No. 1 seed for us. It’s important not to overlook that it was 2005 the last time Morgan won a Shoreline Championship,” said Rossi. “We have players who weren’t born the last time we were in this position. They’ve earned the regular season championship, and that’s big accomplishment. We want to close the season and tie it all up with the tournament title.”
Morgan got out to a hot start outpacing Coginchaug 21-12 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Huskies increased their lead to 37-21. In the third quarter, both teams played even at 16-16 to enter the final frame 53-37 in favor of Morgan. The Huskies built on their lead in the fourth to make it to the 68-50 final.
Senior captain Zach Johnson poured in 21 points versus the Blue Devils, and junior Alex Fratamico added 12 points. Senior captain Robbie Zirlis also picked up 10 points and 15 rebounds in the victory. Sophomore Cooper Galdenzi (7), senior Mason Smith (6), senior Jason Cohen (6), junior Connor Duffy (4), and senior Cam Carlson (2), all provided points in the win for Morgan.
Coach Rossi has been impressed with the play of his senior captains Johnson and Zirlis, and they have been a huge part of the Huskies’ success. The win over Coginchaug was another example of their steadfast effort. Lately, though, the Huskies have been getting support from all over the roster.
“Robbie and Zach have been doing it all season, and they’ve been really consistent on both sides of the floor. They are performing the way you expect all-league players would play,” said Rossi. “We’re starting to see as the season has gone on and guys understand their roles everyone really stepping up. Guys like Fratamico and Jason Cohen have been big. Cohen has really shot well, but he’s really defending as well as he ever has. Alex is really turning into that stretch forward, and he started coming on late in the season last year too. We’re hoping he continues that this year. Galdenzi is really growing in confidence and learning the system. It’s great to see the improvement top to bottom, all 12 guys.”
Three days later, the Huskies picked up their 10th win of the season against Westbrook. The Huskies claimed a 69-47 road win against the Knights. The Huskies took the early lead with a 17-13 first quarter advantage over Westbrook, and Morgan built on that to take a 32-20 edge into the half. The Huskies held a 47-33 lead after three quarters, and added to that tally with a 22-14 fourth quarter taking the 69-47 victory.
Johnson and Zirlis both had great showings with 17 points apiece, and Zirlis added nine boards. Cohen supplied 14 points, while Fratamico netted 10 points. Duffy (6), junior Drew Nye (3), and Galdenzi (2) also recorded points in the score book.
The Huskies were bolstered by the return of Nye to the lineup, which will make a big difference for the remainder of the season according to Coach Rossi.
“Thursday night we got Drew back, that was huge. He’s not a statistical guy. He doesn’t show up big in the box score, but he’s an emotional leader, and he’s an energy guy,” said Rossi. “He brings something special on defense that the other guys play off of. He got good minutes against Westbrook.”
Now the Huskies are focused on finishing the season strong against Portland on March 15 and Haddam-Killingworth on Thursday, March 18 and soar into the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
“You’re seeing the confidence, which is breeding improvement. That H-K game will be huge for us. The league created these rivalry matchups, so it’s an important game regardless of whether we are 10-1 or 11-0 going into that game,” said Rossi. “It will help us build momentum particularly with a first round bye. The game doesn’t count toward seeding, but it’s still ultra important. Since we’ve clinched, we’ve tried to approach every game as the playoffs and means something. This season has been a sprint. We’re just trying to keep the kids focused and keep it simple. We can’t look past Portland. We can’t look past H-K. They may not impact the tourney, but they can impact the mindset.”