Pounding the glass is always vital in any game — let alone a conference affair where the defending of your own home turf is necessary in a conference as tough as the OVC is in the basketball realm.
On Friday evening, Daniel Jordan, who has displayed a relentless motor on countless occasions during the 2017-18 season, did just that once again for Eugene Collins and the Portsmouth Trojans’ basketball program by putting up 21 points in the first half and 28 for the contest — mainly on stickbacks — as the senior forward, with help from Isaac Kelly’s 15 points, Matthew Fraulini’s 10 tallies, and six huge points down the stretch from Reese Johnson, helped Portsmouth to seal the deal against a young, but scrappy Chesapeake squad, 69-63, in a hard-fought battle that was played in Portsmouth.
For Collins, the victory against the solid and deep Panthers’ unit is one that the Trojans will certainly take — especially considering that Portsmouth improved to 7-2 overall and 2-1 in OVC action.
“Anytime you can get a win in the league, we’re certainly going to take it,” Collins said. “We’re not going to come out and hold our heads down because we beat a Chesapeake team by six. I thought that Chesapeake played well. We did have some opportunities to open up the lead, and we had some turnovers. That happens in league play. I’m excited that we got another league win.”
From the outset, both teams certainly showed off scrappy play throughout as Portsmouth and Chesapeake tied or traded the advantage six times in the opening quarter alone, with the Trojans attempting to fend off the impressive efforts from sophomore Tylan Hutchinson and freshman Eli Archer — who combined for 14 of the Panthers’ 20 points in the opening quarter — as Chesapeake took leads of 5-0 and 7-3 early on.
“Chesapeake’s going to be up-and-coming,” Collins said. “They’re a young group that is well-coached. They came in here tonight with a gameplan and stayed close. They tried to snooker us at the end and just about got it.”
Jordan, however, fought back with impressive energy that translated to both ends of the floor not only the first quarter, but the opening half, as well.
Fueled by an and-one that the senior finished on a stickback, the forward ultimately scored all of Portsmouth’s eight points during an 8-3 run that came about due to Jordan’s activity on both ends of the floor. The 6-2 combo forward ultimately obtained 11 points and a block, for good measure, as Portsmouth finished the first quarter in front by a 21-20 tally.
“Daniel was active on the glass all night,” Collins said. “He was tough in the post. Hat’s off to him. He had a big night tonight.”
True to Collins’ statement, Jordan continued his active work in the second quarter, with the senior sparking a 9-0 run by scoring on two additional low-post attempts down on each low block to give Portsmouth a 30-22 advantage after Chesapeake initially took a 22-21 lead to start the quarter on a Hutchinson layup in transition.
When the Panthers cut that lead down to a 30-25 gap, Jordan kicked his game into high gear again by scoring six of the next 10 Portsmouth points to start a 10-4 Trojan run, which was capped off when DJ Eley wisely held the ball to bleed time off of the clock, started moving toward the rim with four seconds left, hesitated, stopped at the left elbow, and drained a mid-range shot from the spot to give Portsmouth a 40-29 advantage at the halftime break.
With Chesapeake coming out of the break showing an increased effort toward stopping Jordan’s gargantuan output, Kelly stepped up when the Trojans needed the senior to do damage.
The 6-3 wing finished a tough and-one through hard contact on the arm and added another duo of strong finishes at the basket to aid Portsmouth to a second 20-point-plus quarter output as he and Matthew Fraulini finished with seven points apiece in the third quarter of action to lead the Trojans on yet another 9-0 spurt that allowed Portsmouth to take a 58-43 late in the third quarter and a 60-45 advantage at the end of the period.
“Isaac’s big, strong, and can create mismatches for guys,” Collins said. “We had some shots rattle out, but he was able to get some stickbacks and get some timely buckets for us.”
Despite the 15-point deficit, however, Chesapeake came back to put a scare into Portsmouth — a pretty big scare, as a matter of fact.
Fueled by a quarter-opening and-one from a difficult angle by Austin Jackson, along with the relentless motor that Archer — who finished with a team-high 23 points behind the relentless energy that the freshman displayed all evening long — the Panthers went on a furious 10-2 spurt to cut the Portsmouth lead to 62-56 with 4:04 to play in the contest. That margin only got tighter when Chesapeake, again, called the number of Jackson and Cole Mills — the latter of whom drained a three from the right wing while being fouled and connected on the ensuing free throw — to trim the once sure Portsmouth lead down to 65-63.
“When we get those leads, we have to take care of the ball and we have to expand the lead,” Collins said. “We had some tough rolls tonight. I thought Matthew Fraulini had some great looks that were in and out. A few of those go down, and the game is possibly different than what it ended up being.”
But on its last pair of offensive possessions, the Trojans showed the offensive poise that got them the lead in the first place — by getting the ball to Reese Johnson in the middle of the lane. The senior forward hit a floater right at the free throw line preceding Mills’ four-point play with 1:26 to go, then, following the four-point play, got to the baseline and scored again after the Trojans did a nice job of swinging the ball around to all five hands on the floor.
On Chesapeake’s final offensive possession, Mills attempted to draw contact by attempting to lean into Kelly as the senior let go of a three-pointer, but Kelly remained disciplined, kept strong defensive posture, and kept from fouling the crafty shooter, forcing Mills’ shot to fall well short of its target. Johnson then iced the game with a pair of free throws to officially garner the win for the Trojans.
With the victory, Portsmouth will test its 7-2 overall mark with a bout against Fairland, who is undefeated against its Ohio brethren so far during the 2017-18 campaign. The Dragons, who are 8-3 and 4-0 in OVC action, dropped their lone three affairs at the esteemed Beach Ball Classic down in Myrtle Beach, S.C. over the Christmas Holiday.
“I told our guys, ‘We’re underdogs going into that game, so we’ve got to embrace the underdog role there,’” Collins said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll see if we can knock them off.”
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