Trojans edge Titans



Portsmouth senior Deandre Berry (34) poured in a game-high 24 points as part of the Trojans’ 40-39 non-league boys basketball victory over Notre Dame on Friday night at Portsmouth High School’s Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Joann Waugh

PORTSMOUTH — Truth be told, the pace probably wasn’t part of Portsmouth’s plans for Friday night.

But, senior Deandre Berry definitely was —and will be for the Trojans all season.

That’s because Berry poured in a game-high 24 points, and the Trojans erased a 21-15 halftime deficit, en route to edging Notre Dame 40-39 in a non-league boys basketball bout inside Portsmouth High’s Trojan Arena.

It was the season opener for Notre Dame, the Trojans’ second win in as many games this season with both being at home, and actually the first all-time meeting between the two Portsmouth-based schools.

The contest also resembled a rockfight — as Notre Dame dictated tempo and slowed the pace down to its liking, whereas the Trojans truly want to get up and down the floor at a fast pace, perhaps scoring in the 70s as they did in their season-opening triumph (74-60) over Lawrence County (Ky.).

But the Trojans not worry with style points, as it was a win over what should be a quality Titan team —and Southeast District Division IV runner-up from a year ago.

There were eight lead changes and four ties, as the Trojans took their final lead with three minutes and 48 seconds remaining —and never relinquished it.

Portsmouth scored the opening six points and led 10-2 with a minute and 52 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, but a 19-5 run over the remainder of the first half had Notre Dame in front for its largest margin of the game.

But Berry, a second-team all-Southeast District Division III (Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association) honoree who averaged 16.4 points per game last season, buoyed the Trojans to victory —with his 24-point performance on six two-pointers, three three-pointers and 3-of-6 from the free-throw line.

For the Trojans, according to first-year head coach and Portsmouth program legend Jeff Lisath, scoring only 40 points on Friday night “wasn’t in our gameplan.”

But, a win indeed was —and gritty if need be.

“We want to get up and down the floor and run and get fast-break points. But I told the kids we needed this kind of a game where we had to tough it out,” said Lisath. “We had to play a half-court game and I thought they (Titans) did a great job of slowing the tempo, got good looks and hit shots when they needed to. But we played great defense, and toughed it out at the end.”

The Trojans did lead 40-36, as Malachi Loper landed two free throws with 4.6 seconds left —before Notre Dame’s Connie Thomas splashed a three-pointer from the volleyball line, making it the 40-39 final.

Otherwise, the Titans scored just six points in the final period — and only two in the final five minutes and 33 seconds.

NDHS mentor Matt Mader, beginning his 13th season as the Titans’ bench boss, believed such a low-scoring defensive slugfest in which the first team to 40 would favor his charges.

“We knew we had to control tempo, and huge points of emphasis were getting back in defensive transition and keeping them off the glass. To keep those guys at 40 after they scored 70-some the other night, if you told me that before the game, then we’re very happy with our defensive performance,” said Mader. “It just came down to where their best player (Berry) hit some big-time shots, and we gave up offensive rebounds and extra possessions late.”

Two of those were on Trojan back-to-back fourth-period possessions, in which Berry scored his final five of his 24 points.

After eight in the opening half, including a second-stanza corner-pocket three-pointer which made it 13-11 in favor of PHS, Berry bucketed four field goals in the third frame —followed by a pair of free throws that made it 32-30 Trojans only a minute and 36 seconds into the fourth.

Berry’s biggest baskets were a rebound tipback that tied it at 34-34, then a three-ball from the top of the key that made it 37-34.

That was with 3:48 to play, as the Titans’ only other points before Thomas’ game-ending trey was an Aaryn Bradford basket at the two-minute mark.

Berry both opened, and closed, the deal for the Trojans —scoring the game’s first four points, before a pretty behind-the-back assist pass to Loper on the baseline for a jumper.

He was also instrumental in the third-quarter comeback, as he first made a pair of baskets for a 25-24 deficit —then assisted on Noah Livingston’s old-fashioned three-point play for the third Trojan lead.

Portsmouth senior Noah Livingston (23) looks to pass the ball during the Trojans’ non-league boys basketball game against Notre Dame on Friday night at Portsmouth High School’s Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Joann Waugh

Berry was the first player Lisath mentioned on an individual basis — when discussing this season’s Trojans during his Media Day interview.

Of course, he was the first player Lisath was asked about during Friday night’s postgame chat.

“We rely heavily on him to get us going offensively. We’re still working on our offensive sets, being the second game, being new, and trying to introduce a new system to them. It’s going to take us a little bit to really generate some half-court offense, but we’re getting there. But a couple times Deandre did bail us out hitting some big shots,” said the coach. “Very pleased with that.”

And, Lisath had to be pleased with the way his Trojans overcame a sluggish second quarter —more specifically the final 9:12 of the first half.

Myles Phillips, Cody Metzler and Thomas tallied Titan three-point goals —good enough for nine unanswered and Notre Dame’s first lead at 11-10, and only a minute and five seconds gone by in the second quarter.

Portsmouth’s only other second-period points, besides Berry’s trifecta, was a Donnovan Breech (six points) basket at the 1:16 mark that made it 18-15.

But Phillips fired away and answered on the next possession, making another triple —and giving the Titans their 21-15 advantage.

For the game, Notre Dame drained seven twos and seven threes — as Landon Barbarits bagged a pair of second-half treys towards a team-high nine points.

Notre Dame’s Landon Barbarits (1) drives to the basket against Portsmouth’s Donnovan Breech during Friday night’s non-league boys basketball game at Portsmouth High School’s Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Joann Waugh

Metzler and Phillips finished with eight apiece, as Thomas’ two threes and Brady Davis’ second-quarter field goal rounded out the Titans’ scoring.

But the Titans couldn’t get to the foul line, shooting only six and making four —including 3-of-4 by Metzler.

Barbarits, who had a second-quarter deuce, split a pair of fourth-quarter freebies to make it 34-32.

The Trojans, on the other hand, made 16 trips and converted seven — including a solid 5-of-6 in the decisive fourth.

With 30 seconds to play, Isaiah Lewis split a pair of free throws for a 38-36 lead —then the Titans’ likely last intended possession resulted in a turnover and a jump ball, but the alternating possession arrow favored the Trojans.

Loper (six points) made his two free throws for the 40-36 advantage, and good thing he did —because Thomas nailed the buzzer-beater from over 25-feet out.

Notre Dame did graduate good size inside —in six-foot three-inch Carter Campbell and even more so six-foot and seven-inch all-district second-teamer Dominic Sparks.

Mader was proud of how hard his Titans battled.

“Heck of a performance by our kids and super proud of them and how hard they played and execution of the gameplan and taking care of the ball for the most part. We controlled tempo and did exactly what we wanted to do. Just came down to a couple of shots and a couple of offensive rebounds,” he said. “And Berry is a heck of a player and one of the better passers that I’ve seen. He took over a couple stretches there, but he’s really unselfish and does a nice job of setting up his teammates. I thought our kids, for the first game of the year, came out in this environment despite being undersized and put forth a really good effort. It was a rough start and we didn’t hit some shots, but once we saw a couple go through, it gave our defense some energy. We switched over from man to zone and did a nice job of making a comeback and controlling the tempo. We definitely wanted to win the game, but there are plenty of positives we can take from it.”

The Titans may have controlled the pace, but the Trojans scored the most points —and we’re not talking style points either.

“I don’t believe in that you HAVE to beat somebody by 20 or 30 points. You just have to get the win, however you can do that,” said Lisath. “You learn from all your mistakes and you challenge your kids. Again, we toughed it out. We were a little down at halftime, but I told them it was only a six-point (21-15) game. It’s good win for us, and hats off to Notre Dame. They played extremely well and I think they are going to win a lot of ballgames this year. But I was proud that our guys came out in the second half, got back into it, and finished it out.”

The Titans return home, and return to non-league action, against Symmes Valley on Friday night —as Notre Dame and the visiting Vikings no longer reside in the same Southern Ohio Conference division.

The Trojans, conversely, hit the road twice this week with Ohio Valley Conference openers —at Rock Hill on Tuesday night (Dec. 12) and at Gallia Academy on Friday night (Dec. 15).

* * *

Notre Dame 8 13 9 9 —39

Portsmouth 10 5 15 10 —40

NOTRE DAME 39 (0-1)

Landon Barbarits 3 1-2 9, Connie Thomas 2 0-0 6, Aaryn Bradford 3 0-0 6, Cody Metzler 2 3-4 8, Marcellous Woods 0 0-0 0, Bryce McGraw 0 0-0 0, Myles Phillips 3 0-0 8, Brady Davis 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 14 4-6 39; Three-point goals: 7 (Landon Barbarits, Connie Thomas and Myles Phillips 2 apiece, Cody Metzler 1)


Isaiah Lewis 0 1-2 1, Donnovan Breech 3 0-0 6, Malachi Loper 2 2-2 6, Noah Livingston 1 1-3 3, Levaughn Cobb 0 0-0 0, Luke Stine 0 0-2 0, Deandre Berry 9 3-6 24; TOTALS 16 7-16 40; Three-point goals: 3 (Deandre Berry 3)

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

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