"Basketball is alive and well again in Portsmouth."
That's what Gene Collins said after his Portsmouth Trojans fell to Cleveland Central Catholic Saturday afternoon 58-47 in the boys basketball Division III state semifinals.
Collins is in his second year at the helm of the Trojans basketball program,and feels that reaching the state tournament's final four is a major accomplishment.
The Trojans finished the season 21-5 and ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll.
Portsmouth basketball is one of Ohio's most storied programs.
Yesterday's appearance at the Jerome Schottenstein Center was the school's 14th final four, which ties Middletown for the second most appearances ever in Ohio.
Portsmouth only trails legendary Canton McKinley, which has 28 trips to the final four.
The Trojans have won four state championships, which ties them with seven other schools for fourth place for the most championships won.
Only Middletown (7), Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (5) and Columbus East (5) have won more titles than the Trojans.
"The atmosphere has been phenomenal and it's been crazy back home," Collins said. "People are getting excited again about Trojan basketball."
The history is there as well.
Portsmouth first won the state title in 1931 by knocking off Toledo Waite, Akron West and Canton McKinley in the eight-team tournament.
Then in 1961, Portsmouth won the Class AA crown by downing Urbana.
In 1978, Portsmouth won it again, this time defeating Ottawa-Glandord and Cleveland Cathedral Latin.
A decade later, Portsmouth returned to glory and knocked off Mansfield Malabar and then Chesterland West Geauga to win the Division II title.
Portsmouth has been state runners-up in 1934, 1980 and 1990 and appeared in the state tournament in 1925, 1926, 1927, 1929, 1939 and 1941.
"I think we are going in the right direction," Collins said. "More young kids are coming out and our pee wee program is growing.
The Trojans have won 35 district titles — second only to Canton McKinley's 45 — and has 14 regional titles to its credit.
Before Collins took over, the Trojans struggled to post winning seasons over the last few years.
In Collins' two seasons, he took them within one win of playing for another state banner to hang in the rafters.
"Reaching the final four has been very helpful and exciting to the community," Collins said. "Basketball is alive and well again in Portsmouth."