By Cody Leist
With a chance to put a stranglehold on the SEOAL standings, Portsmouth needed a win Friday night over visiting Warren for a regular season sweep of the second place Warriors.
Instead, Warren capitalized on the Trojans’ sluggish first quarter and never trailed to leave with not only a 68-57 win, but also a half-game lead in the race for the league title.
“We definitely started out offensively flat,” Portsmouth coach Gene Collins said. “I can’t explain the turnovers. I guess playing in a big game like this, some of our youth showed up tonight and their veteran leadership showed up tonight.”
Despite the Trojans opening the game with their focus on Warriors guard Evan French in the form of a diamond-and-one, it was their offense that dug their opening hole. Portsmouth made only one of its first six shots in the first quarter and were guilty of six turnovers, which resulted in an 11-2 deficit entering the second.
Things got worse for the Trojans leading up to the half as the hill for them to climb remained at nine points but Ky’re Allison was whistled for two player control fouls in the period. Collins tipped his hat off to Austin Henthorn, who drew the assignment of shadowing the sophomore guard and forced Allison into three offensive fouls for the contest.
“For parts in the game, (Allison) was more focused on this guy is bumping and this guy is talking instead of just concentrating on the game,” Collins said. “That hurt us in the first half because we (weren’t) getting any scoring, we were trying to get him in tune to be back mentally, stay in the game and not get caught up in Henthorn’s antics.”
French had eight of his 16 points in the second quarter but he went into intermission with three fouls. Joining the workload was classmate Andrew Drayer, who collected seven of his 11 points in the first half.
Warren’s lead grew to a dozen in the third thanks to a Michael Hall putback but the Trojans finally found a way to hold their ground and used a 17-12 run to close out the quarter to a 47-40 mark. The only hurdle facing the home team from grabbing the lead was Reece Patton, who had 13 of his game-high 27 points in the quarter.
“Patton definitely put their team on his back and got it done,” Collins said.
Portsmouth carried the momentum in the fourth and Sky Oliver’s layup off a Warrior turnover shrunk the margin to 47-45, the closest it had been all night. On the next offensive trip, the Trojans looked to equalize the game for the first time since the opening tip but Allison’s floater in the lane clanked off the rim and deflated what energy they had gathered. Blake Kidder drew a foul on Warren’s next possession and used his two free throws to start a 6-0 run that was too much for Portsmouth overcome.
Collins said the game had similar characteristics from the Dec. 10 meeting in Vincent when his troops left with a 66-60 win. The only difference was finding that one final push to get over the hump.
“Certainly the momentum was in our favor and I thought we had a couple of opportunities where we got the game going the way we wanted to go (with) a basket here and a basket there could’ve made a difference,” Collins said. “Every time that we got close on the other end, they capitalized. They either got a 3-point play or a stick back.”
Oliver led the Trojans with 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting while Allison finished with 15. Portsmouth is scheduled to play Lancaster Fairfield Christian in Saturday’s Wellston Golden Rockets Classic but the status of the game could be up in the air with the pending snow storm that is supposed to hit the state.
If the weather forces a change in the opponent, Collins said his team is ready for the challenge. Last momth, the Trojans swept their three games to win the KSA Events Tournament.
“I think sometimes knowing your opponent and all of that is overrated,” Collins said. “I think you just got to tee it up and you’ve got to do what you do best. If you do what you do best better than what you opponent does what they do best, you’re going to be okay.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Warren 11 17 19 21 — 68
Portsmouth 2 17 21 17 — 57
Warren — Henthorn 0-2-2, M. Hall 4-1-9, French 8-0-16, Drayer 5-1-11, Kidder 1-1-3, Patton 8-8-27, Totals 26-13-68.
Portsmouth — Oliver 10-1-24, Lisath 2-0-6, Allison 7-1-15, Reynolds 3-0-7, Gibson 0-1-1, Delotell 0-2-2, Grashel 1-0-2, Totals 23-5-57.
3-Point Goals — Warren 3 (Patton 3); Portsmouth 6 (Oliver 3, Lisath 2, Reynolds).
Records — Warren 12-3 (5-1); Portsmouth 10-3 (4-1).