Trojans top Rock Hill in thriller


PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth’s Deandre Berry first threw the basketball down the floor as far as he could.

That’s only after Berry threw caution to the wind.

That’s because Berry, the Trojans’ six-foot and one-inch up-and-coming junior, bucketed back-to-back baskets in daring fashion for two Trojan leads in the final 35 seconds on Friday night.

He then stole the Rock Hill Redmen’s inbounds pass with a mere four-and-a-half seconds left, and let the ball fly the other way with time running out.

As a result, Portsmouth prevailed in another close Ohio Valley Conference encounter inside Trojan Arena —winning over visiting Rock Hill by a 76-75 count, and avoiding a possible third home buzzer-beater by an OVC club.

Perhaps indeed the third time was the Trojans’ charm —as Coal Grove in the season opener and conference champion South Point in overtime already dealt Portsmouth stunning setbacks with last-second shots.

The Redmen, trailing 76-75, had the ball at midcourt with four-and-a-half tics to play — but PHS head coach Gene Collins called timeout, following Rock Hill’s initial look on the out-of-bounds attempt.

The Trojans defended it well, and when the Redmen went closer to the inbounder, Portsmouth players — particularly Berry — went with them.

Berry made the steal amid a crowd of bodies, and heaved it downcourt to let the clock run out, put Portsmouth into the win column once again, and complete the season sweep of the game and determined Redmen.

The Trojans raised their records to 6-10 and 4-8, while Rock Hill dipped to 8-9 and 2-9 in the rugged OVC.

Collins first explained the PHS defensive stand at the end, and avoiding another heartbreaker of a close battle.

“We got an opportunity to see the play they wanted to run, so we used our last timeout to adjust to what we thought they were going to do. We took that away, and Deandre was able to come up with a big steal,” said Collins. “I was afraid if they got it (ball) in and got it up, if they got a shot off they are going to make it. Our goal was to keep them from getting off a shot and we were fortunate enough to do that.”

Unfortunately for the Trojans, they haven’t been able to get that defensive stop sometimes —and have been snake-bitten by buzzer-beating three-pointers courtesy of Coal Grove (72-71) and South Point (56-53 in overtime).

Portsmouth won at Rock Hill 52-48 in early January, but other slim margins of defeat include at Ironton (77-71 in overtime) on Jan. 10 and at Coal Grove (64-60) again on Jan. 13.

The Trojans triumphed 58-57 in comeback fashion over Wesley Christian (Ky) at Ironton’s Classic four days before Christmas, but they sure didn’t need another outcome in the 60s, 70s or even 80s go against them.

Berry — who was saddled with three first-half fouls — made sure it didn’t happen this time.

The back-and-forth break-neck basketball bout turned track meet for Friday night featured 11 lead changes and six ties —with all but two lead changes occurring in the final four-and-a-half minutes.

Portsmouth posted a pair of eight point first-half advantages (25-17 and 29-21), but the Redmen rallied back from a 23-17 first-stop deficit to post a 38-32 halftime lead of their own.

Rock Hill held its largest lead at 46-37 with five minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but by the end of the frame, it was all wiped out — as the Trojans trailed just 58-56.

Then Berry’s baskets, the first with 35 seconds left, made it 74-73 in favor of Portsmouth —prior to Izzak Cox immediately answering for Rock Hill nine seconds later.

But Berry, bound and determined and arguably with reckless offensive abandon, once again connected on a tough mid-range make —this one making it 76-75 and with only eight seconds to play.

Berry finished with 16 points on eight field goals —four in the first quarter and the final five in the last.

In fact, his first three of the fateful final quarter came in the opening three-and-a-half minutes —a drive for the 58-58 tie, a rebound putback to tie it at 60-all, and finally to make it 62-60, which was the first of the nine fourth-quarter lead changes.

He punctuated his performance with his last-second steal, drawing the praise from his veteran PHS coach.

“Deandre (Berry) kind of struggled early with fouls and just wasn’t into it. We took him out, got his head cleared, he came back in the fourth quarter and he was big for us,” said Collins. “We really needed him when Devon (Lattimore) fouled out. Deandre stepped up.”

Berry was key in the Trojans’ fourth quarter —as their only other period field goals were threes by Donovan Breech (65-64 Portsmouth) and Devon Lattimore (68-66 Portsmouth), and a pair of freebies from Kenny Sanderlin (70-66 Portsmouth).

All of the Trojans which played on Friday night gave productive minutes, and pitched in for points at various junctures.

Sanderlin scored six in the first quarter, then made an old-fashioned three-point play in the third for a 47-43 deficit.

Levaughn Cobb chipped in four first-period points on a three and a free throw, Noah Livingston landed three deuces in the third, and senior shooter Tyler Duncan dialed up all three of his trifectas in that same canto.

Breech added eight points, while all the while the six-foot junior Lattimore landed 10 total field goals —including nine twos through the opening three quarters and a split of second-stanza foul shots.

All but seven of Lattimore’s team-high 22 points came in the first half, as he fouled out with only a minute to go.

“We’ve got multiple guys who can knock it in and score. What Devon did for us tonight, what Deandre did for us tonight, and Tyler Duncan had a good night with three threes for us. If you take one guy away, we have somebody else who can step up for us,” said Collins. “Donovan Breech made his second start and he gives us a different look. Five guys on the floor who can all shoot the ball and handle the ball. It makes us tough to guard.”

The Trojans couldn’t guard Rock Hill junior Blake Porter, who erupted for a game-high 31 points on 10 twos, three threes, and two splits of free throws.

“Porter is the real deal, we knew it, and we didn’t have an answer for him all night. He beat us off the bounce, he shot it well from three, and he got other people involved,” said Collins. “He is an all-conference player, and we mixed up our defenses to try and slow him down. But we really struggled to stay in front of him.”

The Redmen also got 16 points from Noah Doddridge (six field goals and 4-of-4 free throws), and a dozen points apiece from Brayden Adams (five field goals) and Cox (six two-point goals).

Adams added the Redmen’s other pair of threes besides Porter’s trio, but if there was a silver lining for Portsmouth’s defensive cloud, it was that Porter only scored four fourth-quarter points.

Rock Hill tried to get him the ball for the final shot, but Berry threw caution to the wind, made the game-saving steal, and began the celebration with a toss towards the other end.

Indeed, the Trojans’ win followed up their Tuesday triumph at Fairland —as Portsmouth had dropped 16 consecutive meetings against the Dragons.

“We’ve had ups and downs all season, and I was afraid coming into this game tonight that our guys didn’t realize how tough of a game this was going to be. But our guys didn’t give in, and everybody gave us big minutes,” said Collins. “Playing in all these close games gives us a chance to evaluate what we’re doing right and what we’re not doing right as we get ready for tournament. I thought our attention to detail at the end of the game tonight was about as good as it has been. It allowed us to make one big defensive stop with the game on the line and to come up with a win.”

* * *

Rock Hill 17 21 20 17—75

Portsmouth 23 9 24 20— 76

ROCK HILL 75 (8-9, 2-9 OVC)

Noah Doddridge 6 4-4 16, Dylan Griffith 0 0-0 0, Brayden Adams 5 0-0 12, Izzak Cox 6 0-0 12, Victor Day 2 0-0 4, Blake Porter 13 2-4 31; TOTALS 32 6-8 75; Three-point field goals: 5 (Blake Porter 3, Brayden Adams 2)

PORTSMOUTH 76 (6-10, 4-8 OVC)

Donovan Breech 3 0-0 8, Devin Lattimore 10 1-2 22, Tyler Duncan 3 0-0 9, Kenny Sanderlin 3 5-5 11, Noah Livingston 3 0-0 6, Levaughn Cobb 1 1-2 4, Isaiah Lewis 0 0-0 0, Luke Stine 0 0-0 0, Deandre Berry 8 0-2 16; TOTALS 31 7-11 76; Three-point field goals: 7 (Tyler Duncan 3, Donovan Breech 2, Devon Lattimore and Levaughn Cobb 1 apiece)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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