Charlie Doll made a short jumper. A.J. Johnson hit a 3 from the top of the key. Bryan Taylor made a layup. Things were going good for Portsmouth.
And then, like crashing into a brick wall, it stopped.
Taylor's bucket would be the last field goal, no, point, the Trojans would see in a while, as Portsmouth went on a drought lasting almost eight minutes long as Belpre defeated a reeling Trojan squad 63-47 on Saturday.
After the basket that put Portsmouth up 44-42 with a little more than a minute to go in the third quarter, the Golden Eagles went on a 21-0 run between the third and fourth quarters. It started innocently enough with the tying free throws at the end of the period, but quickly escalated as Portsmouth kept turning the ball over and missing open shots, both from the perimeter and in close. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Trojans had three chances directly underneath the basket to stop the bleeding, but were turned away each time.
“I have no idea what happened,” said Portsmouth coach Rick Hopkins. “I've coached 501 basketball games at the varsity level. I've never seen a collapse like that. We didn't play any defense, turned the ball over six or seven straight possessions without getting a shot. They'ed get a shot, get a rebound, we'd foul. Just a total collapse.”
With the game out of reach, the only solace the Trojans could muster from the game was that they didn't get shut out in the period. Taylor made a free throw with 36 seconds left to end the drought and Johnson got a steal and a layup for the team's only field goal to end the game. Portsmouth shot only 1 of 12 in the backbreaking frame.
Considering the week the Golden Eagles had, with their head coach Chris Stout going to the hospital for a potential aneurysm, coupled with the long trip, acting head coach Ben Ewing was pleased at the defensive push the team made to shut down the Trojans.
“I think we started off slow,” Ewing said. “In the second half, they got awake. All the adversity they've had to deal with, they played their hearts out. I'm really proud of them.”
Not only was the fourth quarter an unbelievable stretch for the Trojans (3-9), it marred a solid shooting night. Portsmouth shot 41 percent from the field in the first three quarters, including a 6-for-12 third quarter. Working the ball around the perimeter, the Trojans got open looks, and made enough to lead by as many as five in the second quarter. Johnson canned four 3s himself, finishing with 16 points. Doll finished with 13.
“I thought we played really well in the first three quarters. We got a lot of open shots. We got good shots,” said Hopkins. “We played better defense.
“And then the fourth quarter started and, like I said, I've never seen anything like it.”
The Trojans made six 3-pointers in the game, but couldn't shake the Golden Eagles' duo of Jordan Thornhill and Brad Loyland. Thornhill scored seven of his 18 points in the fourth and the 6-foot-5 Loyland provided Belpre with an inside presence against the smaller Trojans. Loyland finished with 13 points, eight coming off putbacks.
“We wanted to run,” Ewing said. “That's what we like to do and that's our style. Our kids are at their best when the get out and run with it.”
Belpre had a 30-29 lead at halftime, but two 3s by Johnson allowed the Trojans to get as much as a four-point lead in the third. Johnson's final 3 was the second-to last basket before the team went cold.
The Trojans will be on the road Tuesday at Chillicothe.
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.
Belpre 10 20 14 19 - 63
Portsmouth 14 15 15 3 - 47
Belpre - Loveland 5 3 13, Earley 1 4 6, Thornhill 7 3 18, Adams 5 2 12, Pittenger 3 0 6, Crites 3 2 8. Totals 24 14 63.
Portsmouth - Johnson 6 0 16, Taylor 2 0 5, Porter 1 0 2, Doll 6 0 13, Chabot 1 2 4, Farney 3 0 6. Totals 19 2 47.
3-pointers - Belpre 1 (Thornhill) Portsmouth 6 (Johnson 4, Doll, Taylor)
Records - Belpre 8-2. Portsmouth 3-9.