Even in losses, you have to admire a team that overcomes the losses from the prior season and finds a way to put together yet another strong effort out on the court over the duration of the year.
The Portsmouth Trojans walked into the Convocation Center ready to show the South Point Pointers that continued improvement. Unfortunately, the Trojans didn’t accomplish all they had hoped, ending their season at the Convo with a 59-42 loss to the South Point Pointers in the Division III, Athens I Bracket District Semifinals on the campus of Ohio University.
Following the game, Eugene Collins explained that the Trojans were expected to play an aggressive opponent.
“We were playing a league opponent for the third time,” Collins said. “We knew it would be tough. We beat them the first two times. The second time at their place was an overtime game, and they had been playing better. So, we knew we were playing an opponent that was getting better, and that it was going to be a tough game for us.”
The Trojans started several experienced hands on the court, and it worked to their advantage. Junior Reese Johnson started the game by getting a layup past the Pointers. South Point’s Elijah Adams responded with his own two point shot. Then Trojans Daniel Jordan, Kendall
Junior Reese Johnson started the game with a layup, and fellow Portsmouth hands Daniel Jordan, Kendall Reynolds and Mike Malone got hot behind Johnson’s fast start to the affair. Malone nailed three big treys in the first quarter. Jordan added two field goals with Kendall Reynolds on the assist for both. The Trojans finished the first quarter leading 15-11.
The Pointers stepped up their game going into the second quarter with Jared Whitt hitting a big three from the arc. With 3:25 remaining in the second, the two teams tied at 21-21. The fast feet of Junior Trojan D.J. Eley helped Portsmouth regain the lead as he drove laps around the court. In the second, Portsmouth was able to outscore South Point again, scoring 13 points and giving up 10. At the half, Jordan led all scorers with 10 points and the Trojans held the lead at 28-21.
Portsmouth started the third with possession of the ball but couldn’t do anything with it, handing the ball over to the Pointers. Logan Wade took advantage, putting the ball up for two. Tayshaun Fox immediately added another two for the Pointers. Wade and Fox helped cut into the Trojans’ until Douglas Shaffer came out with a three, putting South Point in the lead with under a minute left in the third. Wade and Adams made sure to close the period with a gap as South Point ended the quarter with a five-point lead. The Pointers had an impressive 19 points in the third to the Trojans’ seven.
This turning point is what sealed the fate of the Trojans.
“At the end of the third quarter, we had some costly turnovers,” Collins said. “After the initial 15-3 start, it was kind of rough sledding for us. They (South Point) played really well. We didn’t play so well.”
The Pointers kept hitting with Adams hitting three and Cade Brandt hitting two in the first minute of the fourth. The Trojans had the right approach, putting the ball in the hands of a very capable shooter. Malone added another three, but that wasn’t enough as the Pointers had players shooting from all over the court as South Point opened up the gap.
Halfway through the fourth, South Point was leading 50-38. The Pointers could taste a big convo win, but the Trojans weren’t giving up. They played with aggression until the very end. There were only two minutes in the game, and South Point was leading by 13. Reynolds tried to chip away at that lead with a field goal, but the Trojans couldn’t shut down Fox, who kept racking up the points and securing the win for the Pointers.
Reynolds ended his career with a great game, leading the Trojans with 13 points. He was one point away from being the top scorer of the game. Adams led all scorers with 14 points.
Portsmouth has been hot as of late. Six games into the season, these athletes hit a major winning streak, taking 15 of their last 20 games. The Trojans entered into sectionals with 15 wins total. They gained and additional two sectional wins against Valley and North Adams for a season record of 17-7.
The Pointers entered the Convocation Center with a record of 15-9. Unlike the Trojans, the South Point started the season fierce and plateaued later in the season just to pick up some pep again in sectionals, beating Wellston and Wheelersburg.
Despite the loss, Collins is pleased with season his Trojans have had and looks forward to working with those players who will return next season.
“This group has been a really, really good group. We got 17 wins out of a group that most thought would only win four or five games,” Collins said. “Hats off to Mike Malone, Kendall Reynolds, Ty Oliver, AJ Jones, Jahmir King. All those guys are seniors. They’ve really worked hard. I’m proud of this group. It’s been a fun group to have. Like I told them, sometimes you just come up short in a game. South Point was the better team tonight.”
Though losing those seniors will present a challenge, the Trojans have several underclassman that will have an opportunity to prove themselves next year.
“I talked to our returning players about stepping up, making a concerted effort to get in the gym and get better,” Collins said. “We have guys that can step up and take over the roles that Mike Malone and Kendall Reynolds are leaving behind, and hopefully they will.”
Both Eley and Jordan will step on the Portsmouth court as seniors next year. Though the players have made a lot of strides this year, Collins says anything could happen between now and next season.
“It’s still quite a ways between now and then, and we’ll just have to see who steps up,” Collins said..
Reach Nikki Blankenship at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930